Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. Which means it’s time to start planning your warm-weather drinking list. And while rosé is all the rage, there are also a number of delicious and refreshing beers to add to the rotation.
Brian Strumke, founder of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, is here to help by offering his top brew picks. At Stillwater, Strumke is brewing up some varieties ideal for long spring and summer days, like the Dry Cry, a new dry-hopped sour ale brewed with Riesling grapes, and the Extra Dry, a low calorie, light and crisp sake-beer blend.
Spring is the season for Saison, says Strumke.
“Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” he says. “With all the fresh new life in the air, it’s only natural one should gravitate toward soft, delicately constructed beers with fresh aromatics.”
Saisons – also referred to as Farmhouse Ales – were originally produced in Wallonia (the French-speaking portion of Belgium), Strumke explains, and produced after a farm’s harvest.
“They were typically made with products already grown on the farm, and served to act as refreshment – and in some cases, a safer alternative to water – for seasonal workers (Saissoners). Some hallmarks of the Saison are: lively carbonation, bright aromas usually garnered from either hops, spices, yeast, or a combination therein; and a dry finish.”
Stillwater Artisanal Cellar Door
“One of the first Stillwater creations, and still one of the finest,” boasts Strumke. “This was our twist on a classic Belgian Witbier (wheat beer). We changed it up with the addition of Jordanian sage and a little dry-hopping, giving it an unmistakeable, albeit delicate character. This has become one of the definitive ‘food beers’ for chefs around the globe.”
“One of the all-time classics of the style, if not the benchmark,” says Strumke. “A lovely, soft body; hazy blond eye and aromas of cracked peppercorns and grass; tethered together for a malted yet dry finish.”
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
“The quintessential American farmhouse quaff from the OG master of funky beer, Ron Jefferies,” Strumke explains. “This extremely dry, low-ABV, off-beat crusher is a modern day classic; and Ron’s unique mixed-culture fermentation secures its place among the Saison Greats.”
Strobe Lights, Stillwater Artisanal
“This beer deftly surfs the current wave of hazy IPAs still gaining popularity around the world,” notes Strumke. “For this one we doubled the dry-hop with a citrus-forward combo of Citra, Galaxy and Amarillo hops – all laid upon a pillowy foundation of flaked oats, wheat, spelt and barley. At 7% ABV it may not be the all-day solution for summer, but it’s fresh, hoppy flavor and light body maintains its repeat drinkability.”
Machine Pilsner from Bunker Brewing
“This is one of my favorite modern takes on the style,” says Strumke. “With a perfect balance of pilsner malt and Saaz hops fermented perfectly with Czech lager yeast, it delivers a clean drink with a crisp finish. There’s not a lot of distribution for this outside of Maine, but it’s certainly worth seeking out.”
Old Pro Gose, Union Craft Brewing
“This version of the classic German sour beer is extremely well-balanced, using traditional Perle and Tettnanger hops, a touch of coriander and sea salt, and an additional lactic fermentation – which adds to its mouth-watering acidity,” explains Strumke. “It’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Since it’s launch in 2012, Union has remixed the beer into more than a dozen variations including different fruits, teas, and hops. Worth trying a few with some friends at your next BBQ!”
Extra Dry, Stillwater Artisanal
“This is our sake-inspired Saison, brewed with rice and pilsner malt, then accented with Citra and Hallertau Blanc hops,” Strumke says. “This beer is light and (obviously) dry, as its name suggests. It makes an excellent pairing component for an array of cuisines and at 4.2% it’s a perfect, refreshing go-to for beach days and dinner tables alike.”