Everyone who’s spent a summer in Maine knows that there are times, despite how still you are and how much shade you are under, you just can’t help but be overwhelmed by the heat. It’s too hot for going outside, it’s too hot for working, and sometimes it is even too hot for drinking hoppy beer.
Despite the ability of hops to contribute juicy flavors, hop-forward beers hit their limit on the hottest of summer days. The pine-like tastes can come off as sticky, and the lingering bitterness – in other weather thought of as a positive – can leave you far from refreshed, if you’re looking for your thirst to be satisfied. On the hottest days of Maine’s summer weather, it is time to look to other styles to cool you down.
Baxter Brewing Co. makes several seasonal beers that I enjoy, and high on that list is Summer Swelter. What seems to be a simple concept – taking a light wheat beer and putting some citrus ingredients to it – is accomplished here in a way that rises above the typical lime-added beer or even the typical summer beverage. In Summer Swelter, the beer is brewed with lime and lemon peels, and then later lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are added. I think the key to Summer Swelter’s thirst-quenching success is that it stays far away from being sweet, but instead relies on the peels to give it a light and peppy bite. I’m not a huge fan of drinks that are overpowered by lemon or lime, but this one seems to defy the category. Summer Swelter is another one that’s easy for non-craft-beer drinkers to love because of its refreshing qualities and likable flavor profile.
If fruit isn’t your thing, how about something a tad salty? Barreled Souls Brewing recently started canning a few beers, and the first one to hit the big time was Space Gose. A gose is an old-world style of beer that is brewed with wheat, but traditionally also contains a bit of salt or salt water. The end taste is not like the sea, but closer to the finish of a margarita (without the tequila, of course). On a hot day, this one cuts through anything you might have eaten, and leaves your mouth feeling tart and refreshed. It is also very low in alcohol (4.9 percent), making it a great candidate for outdoor activities if you can stand to be out in the sun at all. Where I’m from, we’d call these low-alcohol beers “lawnmower beers,” but I’m certain I will be waiting a few days before I attempt that sweaty chore – refreshing beer in hand or not!
The third one on the list, and the one you might react to most strongly is Lone Pine Brewing’s Summer Stout. Now, before you suggest that I’ve lost my marbles for listing a stout, I’d like to offer you a chance to reconcile some misconceptions that surround the style. Yes, high-alcohol imperial stouts are quintessential for keeping you warm on a chilly night, and some stouts can feel heavy. But the first stouts were simply slightly more fortified versions of their lighter porter cousins and were regularly enjoyed by workers year -ound. Even Guinness, the most well-known stout, is low in alcohol at 4.1-4.3 percent.
Lone Pine’s stout has a great chocolatey malt bill, but doesn’t leave you feeling weighed down by such a heavy flavor. If anything, the malts are a refreshing break from beers that are very light or puckery, grounding you a bit in its flavor. The taste of this one finishes clean, so it is still refreshing despite its dark color, and would be an excellent paring for anything thrown on the grill.
All three of these IPA alternatives are available at their own breweries or in your favorite local bottle shop. Of the three, the Baxter is probably the easiest to find, but I haven’t had trouble locating Space Gose and Summer Stout in places that have a wide selection of beer. So feel free to go without the IPAs for a little while – at least until the temperature comes back down.
Carla Jean Lauter is a freelance beer writer and blogger who lives in Lisbon. Follow her beer adventures at: