beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn:

You may have noticed advertisements around town for summer beers.  Those ads are mostly for mainstream beers, but they do bring to mind that it is time to be sipping beer on a patio.

The official start of summer is still the better part of a month away.  Are breweries rushing the season?

I think there's always a bit of wanting to be first out of the gate that inspires brewers to have their seasonal beers to hit the shelves in advance of a season.  With summer ales though, the weather is already warmer, the days are just getting longer and it sure feels like summer out there some days!  I can't fault anyone for wanting to get their summer beers on the shelves in the spring.  Plus don't Canadians consider summer to start on the May long weekend?  I certainly spent part of my long weekend enjoying beers outside in the sun.

Summer beers tend to be lighter beers - lighter in colour, lighter in feel and in a trend that I am very happy to see continuing this year, often lighter in alcohol as well.  Summer is the traditional season of hefeweisens, fruit ales and crisp lagers.

Wheat beers come under several names.  If it is called a wit or weisse or weizen, it's a wheat beer (wit and weisse mean white in Dutch and German respectively; weizen means wheat and hefe means yeast in German)

As the weather continues to warm up you'll see more hefeweisens around town - a German-style yeasty wheat beer with a banana-y flavour and sometimes served with a lemon or orange slice.  The hefes will join the wit beers - Belgian and Netherland style wheat beers with spiced flavours like clove and coriander - that have become year-round beers for some local breweries (Driftwood's White Bark ale, Strange Fellows Jongleur wit, Stanley Park wit).

White IPAs also make their presence felt in the summer.  These are a hybrid of beer styles - wit beers crossed with india pale ales for a spiced hoppy melding into a very refreshing and flavourful beer.

Fruit additions to wheat beers are also very popular in the summer.  Raspberries in particular are very nice in a wheat ale.

Lagers are enjoyed year round, but truly shine in the summer.  They tend to be crisp and refreshing, just what people are looking for in hotter weather. Although stouts and porters can be every bit as light in body and alcohol as a lager, and crisp on the finish too, there's just something about drinking a lighter coloured beer that makes it feel lighter and more refreshing. 

Also very popular in the warmer weather are radlers - which are blends of lagers and fruit juices.  The original German radlers are made with lemonade and lager.  In Canada grapefruit radlers are the popular choice.  I'll start my list of summer beer suggestions off with two locally made grapefruit radlers:

- Parallel 49 Tricycle Radler - half beer half grapefruit juice makes this 3.5% radler incredibly thirst-quenching.  Available in six-packs of cans at liquor stores and the tasting room.

- Tree Brewing Grapefruit Radler - an even lighter grapefruit radler at a mere 2.5%.  Available in 4 packs of 500 ml cans at liquor stores.

Some suggestions for sessionable summer beers:

New this year:  

Fernie Slingshot Session Ale - 4.5% of full-bodied india pale ale with those delicious mosaic hops.  Available in six packs of cans at liquor stores.

Bomber Brewing's Park Life  - 4.5% passionfruit ale available in six-packs at private stores and the tasting room - this beer is so popular that they're sold out of it at the tasting room until Thursday.

Bridge Brewing's - 3.8% raspberry ISA. Pale pink, brewed with 150 pounds of Fraser Valley raspberries, with citrusy and floral notes from the hops.  Available on tap at the brewery.

Back again for the summer:

Parallel 49's Seedspitter wit beer - 5% belgian-style wit beer with watermelon - available in six packs of bottles at liquor stores and the tasting room.

Moon Under Water's Light side of the moon - a nice light lager that's perfect for patio sipping. Made with rice malt and orange peel, it's dry and refreshing.  4.2%, available in 473ml tallcans at private liquor stores.

This year there are a great number of sour beers making their debut just in time for patio weather.  These tend to be much higher alcohol beers, so maybe you had best share them with friends:

Four Winds Sovereign saison - A dry-hopped sour saison with elderflower notes - available in 650 ml bottles at private liquor stores. 8.5%

Brasserie dieu du Ciel from Montreal has exported their Disco Soleil to Vancouver - it is a citrusy IPA made with Kumquats. Available at private liquor stores in six packs of bottles. 

Parallel 49 Sour White Ale - aging for a year in chardonnay barrels gives this sour a lot of plum, pear and apple notes on top of acidity that will cut through bbq'd foods really nicely. Available in 650ml bottles at private liquor stores and the tasting room. 7%

Parallel 49 kindly gave me a bottle of the sour white to taste in studio with Stephen.

And don't forget Vancouver Craft Beer Week begins on Friday night.  There are still tickets available for some of the events, so if you've been meaning to buy some and haven't yet, you're in luck. has all the details and ticket information.  

For the wine lovers out there I suggest checking out "Cicerone vs. Sommelier" where a cicerone (the beer equivalent to a sommelier) and a sommelier go head-to-head pairing beer and wine with food in a battle to see whose pairing is the tastiest.  The cicerone, Don Farion, has won this the past few years... can he do it again this year against sommelier Emily Walker?  Either way, you get a fabulous meal paired with some tasty beverages. Tickets are $80.

Saturday and Sunday afternoons, June 5 and 6 at the pne grounds there is the VCBW tasting festival - the largest craft beer tasting festival in Canada as a matter of fact, with 100 breweries serving over 400 different beers.  There will be djs and also lumberjack shows to entertain you while you sip away.  Tickets are $35.

And if you're a hop-head, I suggest getting a ticket to Brothers in Hops at the Butcher and Bullock.  Four Pacific Northwest brewers bring their hoppy beers to taste with yummy food in a night of hop-appreciation.  Tickets are $60.


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