People often sing the praises of beer for its social qualities, with good reason. After all, it’s brought people together for good times and good conversation for centuries.
Socializing is indeed a perfectly good excuse for having a beer — but, when the weather turns hot, I’m usually grabbing one for much more basic reasons: to quench my thirst and cool off. That usually means choosing beers that are lighter-bodied and more straightforward. Here are a few suggestions for beating the heat.
The reason mass-produced lagers are called “lawnmower beers” is because they go down so easily after working up a sweat. There’s nothing wrong with them and I’m not here to lecture anyone who enjoys them. Personally, I avoid them because I find the ingredients big breweries use to cut corners on malted barley — corn or corn syrup — give the beers a cloying sweetness. There are craft-brewed lagers made locally with all the refreshment of the big boys and a little more character, too. Here in Edmonton, Campio Brewing’s Premium Lager has a mild hop bite and a nice bready malt quality. Ale Architect’s Lil’ Crispy has a bit more hop bitterness but delivers on its name with a clean and refreshing finish.
A more recent addition to my warm-weather repertoire is the simply named BEER! by Rebellion Brewing in Regina. It markets BEER! as an easy-drinking “beer-flavoured beer,” which is an accurate description that doesn’t entirely do it justice. The beer is brewed like a kolsch — a style native to Cologne, Germany, made with ale yeast but matured longer and at cooler temperatures, like a lager. The result is a beer with mild fruity esters from the ale yeast that finishes crisply like a lager. It’s the best of both worlds.
If the heat has you feeling like even lagers and kolsches are a bit much, consider reaching for a radler. Radlers, which originated in Germany, are mixes of beer and fruit juices — typically lemon or grapefruit — and usually lower in alcohol. Fittingly, Alberta’s German specialist, Fahr Beer, makes a lemon radler that clocks in at three per cent alcohol and retains a lot of beer flavour alongside the lemon. Yukon Brewing’s Lemon Lavender Radler is perfume-y and tastes much more like lemonade, but it’s nicely done if you’re looking for something sweet. Of the grape-fruit-flavoured options, Schöfferhofer from Germany is my favourite.
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One reason I’ve been sticking mainly to traditional beer styles lately is because I’m finding more and more hazy IPAs and pale ales are producing “hop burn,” an excessive astringency caused by excessive hop additions to the beer. However, there are still plenty of balanced, bright and citric hazies out there — and done right, they remain a beautiful thing. My go-to hazy on a hot day is Super Saturation from Cabin Brewing. The hops bring out all kinds of tropical fruit flavours without the burn: mango, honeydew, orange and a bit of passionfruit. The Wolf from Sea Change Brewing is also a reliable thirst-quencher, bursting with mango and pineapple.
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