The summer is upon us with the fervor of tourists on Commercial Street. The warm air culls us to beaches, sailboats, golf courses and backyard lobster bakes. And the arrival of the solstice means luscious summertime beers from Maine brewers.
Here’s what I want in a summer beer: bright citrus hop and yeast flavors, a golden hue, and a reasonable alcohol content that won’t leave me face down on Crescent Beach. And I want this golden beer to come in a can so it is portable, un-smashable, and allowed at beaches and parks where bottles are prohibited.
This year, my picks for summer beers are heavy on session ales. A session ale is a low alcohol ale or IPA. It’s a ‘session’ beer, because you can haul down quite a few in a session of drinking without falling down. Session beers are in vogue these days partly because brewers en masse have perfected recipes for this style of beer, and also because craft beer lovers want massive hop flavor without the massive hangover associated with double IPA’s.
Without further adieu, here are my picks for Maine beers perfect for summer days and summer nights.
Simmer Down gushes with tropical fruit aroma and flavor. This session ale is packed with El Dorado, Mosaic, and Ahtanum hops, resulting in a hop profile that is all refreshing citrus and mango fruits and no bitter pine bite. As soon as you crack a Simmer Down, hold the can up to your nose and breathe in the glorious Jolly Rancher aroma. Weighing in at a manageable 4.9 percent ABV this beer won’t leave you staggering off the golf course. And for the price point on Sebago beers, it’s hard to beat this as a summer beer of choice.
Sebago Brewing Company
STYLE: Session Ale
TASTING NOTES: Big fruity flavors
ABV: 4.9 percent
AVAILABILITY: Sold in six packs in most stores
A two-time winner of the Maine Madness Beer Tournament, Maine Island Trail Ale shines the brightest in the dreamy summer months. MITA is brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops that impart a seductive bouquet of citrus fruits and grassy pine. This beer is accessible to hop heads looking for a boldly hopped session ale as well as to beer drinkers with slightly less daring palates. The clean, crisp aroma and flavor of MITA is what summer beer drinking is all about. The big flavor and low 4.3 percent ABV make MITA a model session ale.
Maine Island Trail Ale
Rising Tide Brewing Company
STYLE: American Session Ale
TASTING NOTES: Vibrant citrus and grassy pine flavors
ABV: 4.3 percent
AVAILABILITY: Sold in four packs in many beverage stores
Baby Genius wins the ‘Most Artistic Label Design’ award for its 90’s-hip-hop-graffiti-art inspired can. But most importantly, it’s what’s in the can that draws me to this beer. Baby Genius has the flavor profile indicative of Bissell Brothers’ ales: heavy on earthy citrus hop flavors with a sharp, dry finish. It pours a gorgeous hazy appearance. I’ve heard it referred to as ‘The Substance Light.’ What is remarkable about Baby Genius is its full-bodied mouth feel, which is irrationally big for a beer that measures 4.0% ABV.
Bissell Brothers Brewing Company
STYLE: American Blonde Ale
TASTING NOTES: Earthy citrus flavors with a dry finish
ABV: 4.0 percent
AVAILABILITY: Brewery and select beverage stores. Next release July 4 from 12-5 p.m.
Straying from the traditional American style session ales above, Wanderlust is a perfect example of what it claims to be: a hoppy farmhouse ale. If I’m going to fall in love with a farmhouse ale, the funky flavors that come with farmhouse yeast had better be subtle and refined. Remember, farmhouse ales are slapped with descriptors like barnyard funk, horse blanket, and even moose urine. (Yeah, I said it again.) Wanderlust has a delicate farmhouse funk that plays brilliantly with the cornucopia of American citrus hops used in the boil. The interplay of funky yeast and fruity hops is near perfect. If you’ve yet to venture into farmhouse ale territory, this is a great introduction. And at 4.5 percent ABV, it is a sessionable beach brew.
Foundation Brewing Company
STYLE: Hoppy Farmhouse Ale
TASTING NOTES: Subtle barnyard funk balanced with strong citrus hop flavor
ABV: 4.5 percent
AVAILABILITY: Purchase all summer in growlers at the brewery, next can release August 8.
With Fourth of July celebrations looming just days away, these are four beers guaranteed to make the sun shine brighter this Independence Day. These four session ales will slake your desire for delicious Maine beer without landing the knockout punch while you revel with friends and family all day and long into the evening as fireworks boom and spark in the night sky.
#1: Did you know that Maine Island Trail Ale is named after the Maine Island Trail Association? A portion of the proceeds of this beer goes to the non-profit organization and helps ensure Mainers have access to 375 miles of Maine coast.
#2: The name Simmer Down is in part a nod to the iconic Saturday Night Live skit where cast member Cheri Oteri plays Na Deen, a Castle Burger cashier who urges customers to ‘Simmer Down Now.’ You be sure to ‘Simmer Down Now’ as you drink this tropical fruit session ale.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS NEAR YOU
Growler Bus Coming to Bangor Area
If you’ve had the pleasure of riding on the two Portland based brew buses, you know how much fun it is to let knowledgeable, engaging tour guides take you to local breweries. As the Bangor area brewing scene grows it’s only natural that a bus that takes patrons to local breweries opens for business. As a former guide on the Maine Brew Bus, I can attest to the thrill of taking a bus tour of breweries. This will also be a great way for curious craft beer lovers to get a handle on the bourgeoning brewing landscape of Bangor. FMI: www.facebook.com/thegrowlerbus