Summer Beers

June 12, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Brewer: Goose Island, Brewer: Surly, Country: America, Grade: B regular, Grade: B-/C+, Style: ESB, Style: Wheat (Hefeweizen).

One of the most detestable arguments a craft beer enthusiast can have with a macro swilling moron is when it comes to warm weather tippling.  We’ve heard them all.  “You don’t want one of yer fancy beers while out there on the golf course.  Ya need a frosty Bud Light.”  “Can’t have one of those dark brews you drink on the beach, ya need a chilled Corona.”  “You really wanna sit on a patio with those expensive bombers you like, ya need an ice cold can of Coors.”

Ugh.  Just because the weather’s hot I need to drink shit?!  There’s plenty of flavorful beers out there that also manage to be “refreshing” and even lower-ABV, stuff like Three Floyds Gumballhead, countless saisons, and even some of the bigger microbreweries’ boringly labeled for the mainstream “summer” beers are quite nice, notably Sam Adams’ offering.

I’m the kind of man who has no problem drinking a snifter of 20% stout even in 100 degree heat–oh, the looks at get at the nudist beach!–but there will be times in the next three months or so that I need something a little lighter, so it was with great enthusiasm that I tried two summer, but not “summer,” offerings from two of my favorite breweries.

Surly Bitter Brewer

4% ABV canned

Oh, my beloved brewery.  The Minnesota cans-only brewery that’s instantly become one of my favorites.  I don’t get to have it often because its current distribution reach is super-limited, but every time The Captain hooks me up with a new offering I am eternally grateful…and then floored.  There’s their awesome IPA Furious (A-), gorgeous brown Bender (A-), inventive farmhouse Cynic (A-), infused Coffee Bender (A-) and of course their wax dipped and rare Darkness, perhaps the best stout on planet earth (A+).  Thus, it is always with much excitement when I hear a new release from them is on the market.  Unfortunately, Bitter Brewer is the first Surly I haven’t unequivocally loved.  It undoubtedly smells great with a nice floral and citrus aroma, but the taste just isn’t there.  It’s really watery.  Like a slightly off homebrew.  Having said that, they go down easy and I could drink a zillion of these.  It’s obviously a superior summer beer to anything in the BMC family or Corona, but it’s nothing special.  I hate to say this, but the fact that this bordering-on-“near”-beer offering gets an A- on Beer Advocate is nothing but Surly fanboyism.  I gotta think if this was a macro offering it would be absolutely skewered by the geek community.


Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

4.2% ABV bottled

Goose Island is yet another brewery I much adore with their glorious A pluses Bourbon County Stout and Night Stalker.  This brew is completely on the other end of the dark and kick-your-ass spectrum, but I was still excited to try it and it didn’t disappoint.  I don’t typically like American wheat beers but 312 is solid.  A lemony crispness and…well, wheat.  Wheat and lemon, that’s about it.  Nicely put together, not complex in the least, but still quite tasty.  Refreshing but boring.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.  A mild success, a good summer offering.


5 Responses to “Summer Beers”

  1. settlesdown says:

    I cannot agree with you more. Heat is no reason to consume feces you are correct. I love nothing more than a Wit or a Hefe when its hot outside and I have had my fair share of 312 and Schlafly Hefe/American Wheat or whatever they’re calling it this year. I don’t think I could handle a 10% stout in the heat though. I’d probably pass out and end up with a sunburn on one side of my face like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters.

  2. Andy says:

    You hit it right on the head here, both on the Bitter Brewer as well as summer’s false requirement for shit beers. Bitter Brewer smells and looks so good, but tastes so watered down. It also costs as much as their other offerings, which boggles my mind.

  3. Bitter Brewer is one of my bigger disappointments of the beer year so far. I hate to have to rip on a Surly offering, but it simply didn’t deliver like they usually do.

  4. Ben says:

    Totally disagree with your Bitter Brewer review. It’s light and flavorful and at 4% you can drink it all day long in the hot summer sun. There’s a reason they have a hard time keeping it on the shelves.

  5. Ben, I recognize I might be in the minority here. BB gets stellar reviews and, you’re right, continues to be highly sought after and good trading fodder. Having said that, I just thought it was incredibly watery and am missing what its boosters seem to like about it.

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