Warning: beer will not rehydrate you on those hot summer days. Here's a rundown of brews you'll want to drink anyway.
With bustling patios, warm and sunny evenings, and plenty of long weekends, summer is the season most conducive to putting one’s responsibilities aside, heading down to the pub or liquor store, and dedicating a few hours to the pursuit of flavour and fun at the bottom of a glass. And while it’s not generally considered a great time for robust beers (unless you’ve saved some in your cellar, you clever/forgetful drinker, you) there are plenty of tasty summer beers to keep you cool during those long, hot, sticky days. Here are a few.
New and Notable From Toronto
On LCBO shelves now is the first in what we hope will be many collaborations among the GTA’s ever-expanding roster of brewers: Amsterdam Brewery and Great Lakes Brewery’s Maverick & Gose. Brewed in the style of Gose beers from Leipzig, Germany (which flout that country’s purity laws by using coriander and salt in the brewing process), it’s a pleasant brew with notes of citrus and spice. And speaking of those two breweries, both have some great summery offerings of their own. Ever the fans of none-too-subtle pun titles, Great Lakes has released its suitably bitter My Bitter Wife IPA at the LCBO, while the super fruity and hoppy RoboHop imperial IPA can be picked up in cans at the brewery. Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s Framboise offers a nice tart flavour that tastes like raspberry without tasting only like raspberry.
Previously only available at the brewery’s retail store, 10 Bitter Years, the local fan favourite from Black Oak Brewing Company, can now be had at LCBOs across the city, which means there’s one less reason to head out to Etobicoke. It’s a finely balanced double IPA with plenty of hops, but also notes of pine and citrus and a bitter finish. Just a really solid beer. Although, if you do still plan to head to the west-end brewery, pick up a bottle or two of Black Oak’s summer Saison, which should be ready by the end of June.
The Mill Street Brewery seasonal sampler packs have long been a mixed blessing for beer fans, as they usually feature one or two interesting, limited-run beers that can only otherwise be found at the Mill Street brewpub, mixed in with a selection of the brewery’s more staid and common offerings. This summer’s sampler pack, though, is enticing, with the inclusion of the hoppy Curious Parrot blond ale and the fruity, supposedly “Chardonnay-like” Don Valley Bench Estates ale. And while some of the other selections in the pack—such as the ubiquitous Organic Lager and Stock Ale—might not be so bold, they do make for good thirst quenchers when served ice cold on a hot day.
Keep an eye out later in the summer for The Wayward Son (shouldn’t be too hard to miss, given the artwork), the newest brew from the Black Oak offshoot Radical Road Brewing. If this Belgian golden ale is anywhere near as good as the brewery’s previous offering, the crazily smokey Canny Man, it’ll be worth putting up with the ridiculous packaging, and then some.
Creemore Springs Brewery may have been bought out by booze giant Molson, but that doesn’t mean it’s going in the direction of the bland. On the contrary, the brewery, through its offshoot Mad & Noisy Brewing, will soon be putting out yet another offbeat creation: the Sunny & Share Citrus Saison. It’s the first of the brewery’s experimental beers to be released at the LCBO and Beer Store. So why not buy a can, if only to marvel at how a craft beer movement that was almost non-existent 10 years ago has now gotten even the big guys on board.
If you like a little novelty with your beer, pick up a bottle of Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery’s latest collaboration brew, the City and Colour Imperial Maple Wheat beer, brewed with the help of Dallas Green. Considering how good the brewery’s previous collaboration with Barenaked Ladies was, we’ll give it a try despite the zaniness. Meanwhile, over in the Ottawa Valley, Beau’s All Natural Brewing has been working with comedian Tom Green on a milk stout. We’re a little hesitant to try this one, given Green’s prank comedy history. But we also understand the options for Ottawa-native celebrity collaborations are somewhat limited. (In the future, look out for beers dedicated to Paul Anka, Norm McDonald, and Tom Cruise when he was a kid.) And if collaborations are your thing, you can taste a whole whack of them at this year’s Session Toronto festival, later in June.
Summer Suds From Around the World
Back in spring, Brasserie de l’Abbaye des Rocs brought its Grand Cru to liquor store shelves in Ontario to great acclaim and Hoover-like buying patterns. For summer, the Belgian brewer has brought over its Blanche des Honnelles wheat ale, a complex witbier with pepper, fruit, and oat notes. If this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between l’Abbaye des Rocs and the province, we’ll excitedly await what the future has in store.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that will catch the eye, freak out house guests, and funkify your entire apartment like some kind of cheap bacon air freshener, it’s tough to beat the Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale from Oregon’s normally stellar Rogue Brewery. With strong notes of bacon and something purporting to be maple on the nose (silly Americans), plus an intensely smokey taste, it might be fun to buy for the novelty, but make sure you’re with enough people that it can be shared without anyone having to drink too much.
Last time we checked, Hopfen-Weisse was a cheeky name given to a collaboration brew between the U.S.’s Brooklyn Brewery and Germany’s Schneider-Weisse. Apparently, now it’s become a style. Things sure do move fast in the beer world. If you missed that beer when it was here in years past, but you’re interested in a similar experience, you could do worse than Quebecois brewery Les Trois Mousquetaires’ Hopfenweisse, a German style wheat beer with spice and fruit flavours, complimented by a subtle hoppiness that becomes more pronounced as the beer sits.
It’s always fun to see how other cultures picture us, and now you can experience how Danish hipsters imagine us Canucks with the intensely hoppy Canadian Dream. If you’re in the mood for something with a bit more variety of flavour to go along with the hops, try the Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale from England’s Thornbridge Brewery. It’s a nice, light pale ale with notes of citrus, pine and caramel.