Hot nights, cold beer and plenty of choices from local breweries
Have you ever thought about what it means to drink seasonally? That’s when your beverage choice directly relates to the time of year. Pumpkin ale in the fall feels right. Just like a big, bold Imperial stout tastes perfect in the dead of a brutal Syracuse winter. And we can’t forget summer, when warm nights just cry out for a light, sudsy cool down.
Crisp refreshing beers go right along with blistering hot days. Barbecues in the sun are often joined by the ubiquitous light American lager. In addition to that type of beer, there are many other styles that you can try at your next cookout, many of them produced right here in New York state.
At Empire Brewing Company, our Summer Ale has quickly become a hit. Inspired by a German pilsner, this beer is a varietal using all German Hallataur hops, which give the beer a distinct earthy flavor and a crisp, clean finish. German pilsner malt is also used in this beer, but we ferment the brew with our clean, American house ale yeast to give it a unique flavor. It is then finished with a touch of dried lemon peel, lending the beer a citrus quality that screams summer to your taste buds. I like to pair this beer with a nice grilled burger, or a bowl of steamed clams or mussels.
Another beer we make at Empire, which is produced yearround but definitely perfect for the summertime, is our White Aphro. It is a Belgian-style white ale, spiced with ginger, lavender and lemon peel. This spicing schedule marks a twist from the traditional white ale spices which generally include coriander and orange peel. This beer drinks very smooth and refreshing, and is perfect for a hot summer day.
Two other local breweries brew this style of beer as well. Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang makes a Belgian Wit that is a classic example of the style using the traditional spices of coriander and orange peel.
Some people like to squeeze an orange slice directly into the pint for an even more refreshing citrus flavor.
Swallow Wit, made by Syracuse brewery Middle Ages Brewing Co., is another example of this style. This beer slightly varies on the style, however, because it is brewed with English malts and an English yeast strain, as opposed to Belgian ingredients.
Brooklyn Summer Ale, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery, has also recently hit the shelves and taps in Syracuse. This beer is English in style, and made with the combination of English and American hops. A “light dinner ale” is the way the beer was described to me by Rich Jarvis, Brooklyn Brewery’s upstate New York representative. It’s a great beer with a lot of flavor, and not too much alcohol.
In fact, most of the beers I have discussed are between 5 percent to 6 percent alcohol by volume. They are great with steamed shellfish, salads and other summer fare such as hamburgers and hot dogs. All the beers mentioned are produced right here in New York state and can be found either at grocery stores or on tap at your favorite you break a sweat cutti ng pub. Next time you break a sweat cutting the grass or gardening, reach for a fresh, locally made summer beer.
Tim Butler is director of Brewing Operations at Empire Brewing Company, 120 Walton St.