Monday, August 21, 2006

THE GREAT SUMMER WHEAT-OFF

Throughout the summer of 2006 there have been barbeques, house parties and bars visits galore where the situation is just crying out for a wheat beer - or a "summer beer" of some kind -- to be consumed. OK, so I've only been to a few such events, but since I almost always appoint myself as the guy who'll bring (and therefore choose) the beer, I've been able to try a few things I thought I'd tell you about & see what you think. I'm not sure I'm really that crazy about beers that advertise themselves as "perfect for summer", since that usually implies a lighter taste and a dearth of the malty, chewy and deeper tastes I tend to crave, but hey, I did find a couple good ones. Let's check 'em out:

ANCHOR SUMMER BEER - One usually is getting quality with an Anchor product of any kind, and that's what I found here. Simple, unadorned, easy-drinking quality. This pale wheat ale was mildly lemon-ish in flavor (without an actual lemon) and I had no problem dipping into three of them over a BBQ during a 50-degree San Francisco summer night a couple weeks ago. 6.5/10.

ANDERSON VALLEY SUMMER SOLSTICE CERVEZA CREMA - Not too bad either, but not as good as Anchor's. More of a yeasty/orangey type of beer, not particularly "creamy" but it tasted fairly solid on draft a couple months ago. I just didn't get excited enough to write about it. 6/10.

DRAKE'S HEFE-WEIZEN - Rather than a summer beer per se, the good folks at Drake's (San Leandro, CA) are trying their hand at a true German hefeweizen. Unfortunately, even with a San Francisco Giants ballgame only steps away last Friday night, I couldn't muster much enthusiasm for this one. Chalky, light, and too boring to ever want to have it again. Refreshing, though - it did get my head straight for the Giants' 7-3 shellacking of the Dodgers a couple hours later. 5/10.

HARPOON SUMMER BEER - My pals Genese & Hank were kind enough to have me over to their New Brunswick, NJ home when I was visiting New York City on a work trip, and this East-Coast-only brew is what they were serving up. It's a Kolsch-style beer, and I think I can say I've never had that before - but it tasted crisp, bubbly and very smooth on the tongue, like everything you're looking for when you're guzzling straight from the bottle and not sitting down at a bar with your notepad. Wait, does anyone actually do that? Umm.... 7/10.

PYRAMID HEFEWEIZEN - This Seattle brewery has basically built their brand on the back of this beer, and it's been "old reliable" in my house for many years. Why the beer dorks over at Beer Advocate think so poorly of it, I don't know. This has tons more flavor that most American wheats and like McDonald's, you always know what you're getting, no matter where you buy it nor what year it is. 6.5/10.

WIDMER HEFEWEIZEN -- Another one that the "experts" are panning -- take a look at these comments -- and yet another one that I'm perfectly content with & have been for years. Would I prefer a more complex German hefe? Of course I would. But Widmer's formulation is more of a pale wheat ale than a deep hefe, but it's got a robust hop scent & taste, and a lemony taste as well that's perfect poured all over your BBQ chicken, down your throat, and over your head. What is wrong with you people? 7/10.

The winner of the great summer wheat-off is none of these beers but instead is the Blue Moon Belgian White, which is what I'll be buying if we can squeeze off a few more good weeks of barbeque weather (and if someone invites us over).

5 comments:

J said...

Of the beers that you reviewed I would choose Harpoon's Summer Beer. Although my favorite summer wheat is anything by Sea Dog Brewing.

Kyle said...

I've had the Blue Moon and the Anchor Steam and I agree with your comparative rankings, at least between those two. Enjoyed them both, but preferred the Blue Moon. Had it on tap in Colorado a couple of weeks ago - that was good stuff.

Wörtwurst said...

The Pyramid Apricot Weizen is real good if you haven't had it and surprisingly so is Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. Samuel Adams Summer Ale ain't so bad itself.

Have you ever tried Zommerfest by Schell? The name alone has been tempting me lately to try it.

Jens Dalsgaard said...

If I compiled a list like that, it would look wierd, because I have a lot of strong beers and not anything summer-like. Danish microbrew and craft brews would clear the score table. In fact i drank only my own beer yesterday. I had a Dark Czech Lager, a red ale, a porter and a couple of pale ales, none of which were real summer beers.

EVAN said...

Jay- you're right on with some of these. If we may, we're going to drop a link to a similar taste-off "Hot Knives" did for July 4th.

http://www.laalternative.com/hotknives/?cat=2

And although we missed it in our review as well, you should give Alaskan Summer a try.

h.k.