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Your Beermonger: Holding On to the Summer

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

We’re into the first week of August, which of course means that fall seasonal beer releases are flooding the market whether we’re ready for them or not. After turning away a handful of Pumpkin Ales that hit the market in July, I’m giving in and taking some now (by the time this column runs, we should be getting our first 25 cases of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale at Arrowine, along with Pumpkin beers from AleWerks, Evolution, and Terrapin — not to mention Great Lakes’ Oktoberfest).

Autumn is often citied as the favorite season for beer fans, but over the past few years I’ve been increasingly won over by summer beers. Summer beach hangouts, cookouts, parties, and other get-togethers necessitate the light, flavorful character of Summer Ales, which are built to refresh and generally lower in ABV percentage. Yes, fall beers may be arriving early, but there are still some great summer beers for folks like me looking to hold onto the season just a little bit longer. Here are some summer seasonals that haven’t quite wrapped up their runs yet:

Bell’s Oberon: The venerable American Wheat Ale is still available in bottles and 16oz tallboy cans. Expect to see Oberon on shelves well into September, crossing over with Bell’s next seasonal beer, Best Brown Ale.

Three Brothers Drift: Unless I find a good excuse, don’t expect me to be writing about the Harrisonburg brewery’s summer Pale Session Ale again until my Best Beers of 2014 column at the end of the year. The second (and final) canning run of this 5 percent ABV treat is just hitting in NoVA now, so it’ll be available for a little while longer, though considering how much of it we’re going through at Arrowine, not for that much longer. Drift will return next summer for a longer production run; in the meantime, if you haven’t tried it yet, do so.

Anderson Valley The Kimmie, The Yink, And The Holy Gose: I keep expecting this to be gone every week when I try to order more, but no — there’s still a last little bit around. Not that I’m in any hurry to sell through it: at 4.2 percent ABV, with a hint of sourness not unlike the fabled Westbrook Gose that we can’t get in Virginia, Anderson Valley’s The Holy Gose has been one of my favorite beers this summer.

Sixpoint RAD: Radler — essentially a version of Shandy developed for bicyclists (the word radler translates as “cyclist”) in German-speaking countries by mixing beer and soda–isn’t for everyone, but I love it so I was intrigued when Brooklyn’s Sixpoint brewery announced they were going to put a version of its own on the market. Using a fruit juice blend instead of a soda, RAD is a unique take on a distinct style; one I appreciated as an alternative to a Light Lager or sugary soda.

21st Amendment Hell Or High Watermelon: I was pleasantly surprised this week to find out another run of Hell Or High Watermelon will be arriving soon (likely within the next week or two). With its light, clean, fresh mouthfeel, Hell Or High Watermelon would make for a great summer beer even without the fruit added. In this case, though, the fruit is present without being overbearing or cloying. Hell Or High Watermelon becomes more popular every year, with good reason.

Sly Fox Royal Weisse and Sly Fox Grisette: Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox has released some outstanding Wheat Ales this year, including these two seasonal beers. The supply on Royal Weisse appears to be down to whatever might be on retailer shelves, but it’s worth trying if you’re a fan of classic Hefeweisse. Sly Fox’s follow-up, Grisette, is a showcase for a forgotten Belgian style of Wheat Ale that is only beginning to be rediscovered by American brewers. Unlike most Belgian Ales, Grisette has a very straightforward yeast character. What Grisette lacks in punchy spicy notes it makes up for with more rustic, “grainy” malt flavors while remaining crisp and approachable.

Flying Dog Dead Rise: The “Old Bay Ale” has been a smash hit — enough that Flying Dog has had to pull distribution out of all of its markets save for Maryland, Virginia, and the District. Dead Rise features just enough Old Bay to notice it on the palate, and makes for a delicious pairing for all kinds of summer seafood dishes and just about anything off the grill. Though, of course, it goes great with a bushel of fresh crabs too.

Remember, just because “seasonal creep” shows no signs of stopping doesn’t mean you have to give in to it — most seasonal beers will cross over through the first releases of the next. Drink what you like; buy what you want. Until next time!   

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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