THE BVDs are officially sticking down there. It must be time to break out the light stuff.
Unfortunately for most beer drinkers, that means switching from Bud to Bud Light.
Look, if you’re that thirsty, grab it. But if you can make it past your friendly distributor’s 12-foot-high pyramid of discount 30-packs, I have a list for you:
You’re headed to a barbecue and you gotta grab something quick. You don’t want to blow out the party with a heavy, hop-filled ale – but you still want something with flavor.
Bring Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale (Cherry Hill, N.J.). Full of taste, but easy to drink in large quantities, this ale is a summer classic. It holds its own against even the spiciest barbecue, and will even cool off the cook.
If you can’t find the Fish, look for Samuel Adams Summer Ale. But be warned: Don’t let this stuff get warm. It goes funky fast.
Celis White, R.I.P.
Forget about it, Pierre Celis’ Austin, Texas, brewery is gone forever, and so is its summertime favorite, Celis White. There’s talk that Michigan Brewing, which bought the abandoned equipment, might revive the classic Belgian-style wheat beer. But don’t hold your breath.
A lot of you already have moved over to Celis’ older brother, Hoegaarden. Do yourself a favor: skip the lemon. Or look for another white – there’s a bunch of ’em, including two excellent versions from our neighborhood: Victory Whirlwind Wit from Downingtown and Blanche des Deux Fleures from Easton. Also on area shelves: Allagash White Beer (Portland, Maine), and Blanche de Bruges, (Belgium). Coors’ Blue Moon Belgian White – one of the few unfiltered beers from an American megabrewery – is drinkable, too.
A true pilsner
Pilsner might be the classic beer cooler, but forget about that dopey Miller Lite campaign that claims its dreck bears some resemblance to the original Czech brew. A true pilsner has a crisp, malt character balanced with an almost flowery hop presence – not a watery character balanced by a dismal hop absence.
Lucky for us, Pennsylvania micros are putting out an excellent variety of homegrown pilsners. Hopheads should reach for Victory Prima Pils, with its heavily aromatic Saaz hops. Stoudt’s Pils, a world classic, goes a little lighter on the Saaz. And Troegs, from Harrisburg, gives us a nice touch of bitterness with its new Sunshine Pils.
Sierra Nevada’s contribution to the cause is Summerfest, spiced with Perle and Hallertauer hops. Unfiltered Tuppers Hop Pocket Pils (Ashburn, Va.) gets its hoppiness from both the traditional Saaz and Mt. Hoods varieties.
Properly gulped out of a tall glass, Bavarian wheat beers cool the belly and coat the nose with a creamy, white froth.
Thanks to Paulaner, you can find authentic hefeweizen on tap in at least 50 area taverns. Harder to find but worth the hunt are the excellent versions from Hacker-Pschoor, Schneider, Ayinger and Weihenstephan. All of them have that banana-and-clove aroma from the healthy yeast.
A great place to enjoy them all is dark-and-comfy Ludwig’s Garten (1315 Sansom St., Center City), where two dozen taps help wash down the excellent $7 buffet lunch.
Nippon’s beers are largely forgettable – it’s sake territory, after all. But if you enjoy Germany’s best, you can thoroughly bury the WWII hatchet and try the newcomers from Japan’s Kiuchi brewery.
The two I’ve tasted so far: Hitachino Nest White and Hitachino Nest Weizen. Both go down nicely on the beach.
On Michelob Ultra, a low-carb, high-protein brew. You should see bottles of the 96-calorie premium on shelves this summer.
Victory is at hand
OK, I keep mentioning Victory’s beers, so here’s a chance to try ’em all.
On June 5, the brewery will host a summer seafood beer dinner. It’s five courses, six beers, including Mad King’s Weiss, Sunrise Weissbier and St. Boisterous Hellerbock. Starts: 6 p.m. Tix: $40. Reservations required. Info: 610-873-0881, ext. 115.
If any country should be producing a decent summertime beer, it’s Mexico. Unfortunately, the only thing that gives Mexican beers any taste is the silly lime you stick in the neck.
If you can find it, grab a bottle of Negra Modelo. It’s from the same industrial brewery (owned partly by Anheuser-Busch) that produces the thoroughly disemboweled Corona line.
Negra Modelo is a Vienna-style lager, which makes it perfect for washing down grilled hot dogs and burgers.
For the Stoudt-hearted
Stout is for those frosty nights, when you shake off the shivers and huddle up at the pub.
Stoudt’s, on the other hand, is for the dog days of summer, when you roll down the windows and head west on the Turnpike. Get off at Exit 21, and – after she’s done shopping at the flea market – cool off at Stoudt’s intoxicating beer garden.
Better yet, visit during the Great Eastern Invitational Microbrewer’s Festival, now in its 11th year. Each year, Stoudt’s invites 20 area craft breweries to pour their finest. Owner Ed Stoudt dishes up his “Best of the Wurst ” German-style buffet while the Daisy Jug Band dishes up rock, bluegrass, sing-a-long anthems.
This year’s dates: June 8, Aug. 3, Oct. 19, two sessions each day at noon and 7 p.m. Tix: $23. Info: 717-484-4386. Free round-trip shuttles to select local hotels.
When it’s 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, you can’t beat the heat no matter how much you drink. Time to pull out the heavy-duty stuff and melt into your Adirondack.
Belgian golden ales, chilled to below 45 degrees, do the trick for me. Val Dieu Blond, from the only non-Trappist brewing abbey in Belgium, is among the lightest at just 6 percent alcohol. Hapkin is as golden as Coors, but at 8.5 percent, it has the punch of Duvel. At 9 percent, Urthel Hibernus Quentum Ale will have you seeing its namesakes – bald, little men with beards called Erthels.
Next door to Belgium, Amsterdam’s Brouwerji ‘t IJ produces Columbus, a strong pale ale that I’d compare to Victory’s Golden Monkey. Look also for dry-hopped Avery Salvation, the third of the Boulder, Col., brewery’s heavy-duty trinity (with Hog Heaven and The Reverend).
Pale ales are perfect with chirping crickets on a long, close night underneath the ceiling fan on the front porch. They don’t pack too hard a punch, and they won’t lose their taste even when chilled in an ice bucket.
Ever-present Sierra Nevada Pale Ale defines the American version of this brew. Its refreshing fruitiness comes from the Cascade hops. Making a local resurgence is its San Francisco brother, Anchor Liberty Ale.
Bell’s Pale Ale of Kalamazoo, Mich., is finally showing up in Pennsylvania. It’s spicy but light. Geary’s Pale Ale (Portland, Maine) is supposedly an English-style version, but I still detect the familiar aroma of northwest Cascade and Mount Hood hops. For a few bucks less, try F.X. Matt’s Saranac Pale Ale. Its hops are properly English – Fuggles and East Kent Goldings. For a few bucks more, it’s Fuller’s London Pride.
At just 3.9 percent alcohol, you can drink Three Floyds Pride and Joy Mild Ale till the sun comes up and bakes you again. With its noseful of Cascade hops, call it pale ale light.
Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Young’s Waggledance.