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Refreshing 2007 brews for summer

By Kurt Wolff

Light and refreshing does not mean watery and tasteless. Here are the CHOW team’s 10 favorite 2007 brews fit for summer heat. Some are meant for easy quaffing; others are good for pairing with snappy summer dishes at your next backyard barbecue. As there’s no official summer beer style, our list ranges from lagers to hefeweizens to tangy Belgian witbiers.

1. Warsteiner Premium Verum. This pale German beer is a crisp, clean-cut favorite. It’s a lager, like the big-brand beers from Heineken to Budweiser, but Warsteiner is not your average backyard party brew. It’s soft around the edges, boasts a hint of bitterness in the middle, yet overall remains unflashy.

2. Pilsner Urquell. This deservedly famous Czech beer was first brewed in the city of Plzen in 1842. Based on Bavarian-style lagering (cold storage) techniques, it has a golden color and a smooth, balanced flavor that soon came to define pilsners and pale lagers worldwide. It’s slightly richer than your average American beer, but it goes down plenty easy, making it an almost universally likable brew.

3. Schneider Weisse. Don’t let the murky brown color fool you: This fantastic beer goes down easy. An old-school classic, Schneider’s the brand that started the hefeweizen (literally yeast wheat beer) resurgence in Germany. Pabst fans will likely balk at its tangy assertiveness, but those wanting more to their summer beer than cold fizz just might fall in love.

4. Bohemia. This Mexican classic is a clean golden lager that stands a cut above popular fellow countrymen like Tecate and Corona. It’s smooth, straightforward, and absolutely refreshing, perfect when the mercury’s pushing 90 and you know you’ll want more than one.

5. Full Sail Session Lager. Bring a sixer of Session to your next picnic, and everyone will ooh and aah over the squat brown bottles with the red, stylishly retro labels. The beer inside (another pale lager) is deliberately laid-back, simple, and built to be enjoyed in quantity—it’s not called a “session” beer for nothing.

6. Blanche de Chambly. An edge of citrus and a touch of coriander give this traditional Belgian-style witbier (white beer) its refreshing zing. At the same time, being light in body and full of little bubbles, it’s vibrant without being overly filling. If you like Hoegaarden, this beer (from masterful Canadian brewer Unibroue) is the natural next step.

7. New Belgium Sunshine Wheat. An American-made example of a Belgian witbier, this tasty Colorado concoction (from the makers of Fat Tire) has the pronounced tang of a classic hefeweizen, along with the hint of citrus typical of witbiers. It’s light-bodied and filtered, too, which adds to its refreshment quotient.

8. Anchor Summer Beer. Microbrew fans owe a lot to Anchor, which kick-started the craft-brew revolution and still reigns supreme with its deservedly famous Steam beer. This seasonal offering is actually a wheat beer, light enough to refresh but sturdy enough to keep Anchor stalwarts happy. The flavor profile’s more about malt than hops, meaning it tastes like amber waves of grain.

9. Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold. The only true pale ale of this summertime bunch comes from Northern California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Lighter than its more famous cousin, the superb Boont Amber, Poleeko Gold is a perfect hot-weather choice for those who like an assertive hop bitterness in a crisp, clean brew.

10. Saison Dupont. Belgian ales aren’t for everybody, but if you’ve fallen for their rich, complex flavors, it’s hard to go back. Dupont makes several classic ales, including this superb saison, which marries fruity, yeasty flavors in a lighter-bodied brew. It may not quench in the same way as Bohemia, but a bright beer like this still makes sense in warm weather.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Kurt Wolff is editor/manager of Download.com and MP3.com, and author of The Rough Guide to Country Music. He’s written about food, drink, and travel for various publishers including Zagat Surveys, Lonely Planet, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He also wrote a beer column for the Guardian called Hopped Up.