Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

June 19, 2008

Beer Diary:

Summer Beer Conundrums

Asking a beer dork what brews to get for a summer cookout could turn into a loaded question.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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“So, what craft beers would you like at my cookout?”

Sounds like a pretty innocuous—you might even say “thoughtful”—question, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more. That innocuous question was preceded by the sentence, “I’ve got a half-barrel of Bud Light.” Now that question has officially moved from “innocuous” to “loaded,” or, at the very least, “complex.” It’s a loaded one if the asker was openly hostile to the idea of anything other than over-marketed swill, but merely complex if the asker was only a bit uneducated in the world of good beer.

Fortunately, the question in, um … question came from a person who has yet to discover the great wonders of craft beer (explaning that first, giant, qualifying preceding statement). One reason why such a question is so complex is because we beer dorks—especially those with a beer fridge—are a bit spoiled when it comes to craft beer selection. Even when my fridge is at “low tide,” I have no fewer than 10 different beers to choose from. So if for some weird reason I felt like having an imperial bourbon barrel-aged stout on a 95° summer afternoon, I easily could.

(Incidentally, if such a mood were to strike me, right now I’d have to choose between my last Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Poor me.)

Therefore, asking me what beer I’d like to have at a cookout that is taking place a month into the future would require some considerable mental energy on my part, due to a large number of missing variables. The first being, what is the weather going to be like? If it’s going to be hot and muggy, I’d counter the weather with something light and crisp, like Atwater Hell, Great Lakes Moondog ESB, or New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat. If it’s one of those damp, 60° days we get at least once or twice in a Midwest summer, I’d probably want something a bit heartier than your typical summer fare. Perhaps some Bock from Lakefront, Sprecher Black Bavarian, or Founders weather-appropriate Dirty Bastard. I might even like something stronger, but we don’t want it to overpower the food.

Ah, yes, the food, another key missing variable. What kind of food we’ll be having at the cookout is a huge factor in what kind of beer to have on hand. Brats or polish sausage? Then definitely an amber, like Capital Wisconsin Amber or Dark Horse Amber Ale. Is lighter fare on the menu, like grilled asparagus and salmon? Then I’d order up Dragonmead Final Absolution or Three Floyds Gumballhead. And don’t even get me started on cheese.

And if more craft beer afficiandos were planning to attend, the question gets even that more complex. Suddenly I have the onus of picking beers that will satisfy a crowd as picky (or open-minded, depending on your perspective) as me. Will there be any hopheads in attendance? If so, pale ale and IPA can go great with grilled food, so I may ask for some Two Brothers Heavy Handed or Surly Furious. But if there’ll be some folks who like their summer crafts on the fruity side, I’d call for Founders Rübaeus or Sprecher Hefeweiss.

See what I mean by this seemingly simple question becoming a quagmire (giggity) of beer options? So how would you answer it, given the open-ended variables I laid out above? The possibilities are virtually (and thankfully) limitless, and if you stop and think about it too long, you could be trapped in an endless loop of IPAs and ambers, hefes and pale ales, staring slackly into space as your would-be host snaps her fingers in your face to get you back to what you normally call “reality.”

Or you could just answer, “Oberon” like I did and end it at that.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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