Summer is here. And what could be better than sitting in the early evening summer sun with a beautiful summer ale in hand to quench one's thirst?
One problem: Our local breweries tend to lack in really good summer ales.
Monteith's Summer Ale is probably the most well known of those available on the kiwi market. Strong honey and ginger flavours on a crisp malt base, but lacking in any real BEER flavours. My best friend recently tried her first Monteith's Summer Ale on a scorching hot day in Taupo, and loved it because "It tastes like Ginger Beer!" Another gentleman once remarked it was a fantastic summer beverage if one ignored the fact it was supposed to be beer.
Beer is supposed to beer, so I cannot bring myself to really enjoy it. Perhaps with some ice and a squeeze of lemon I could trick myself into thinking it was just a sweet summer thirst-quencher...
Mac's Sundance is a more recent addition to the summer ale market. A slight ginger-like sweetness, but the citrus and lemon-grass are the prominent flavours, and this beer even has a bit of hop! However, unless it is consumed fresh from the tap on a hot day, it really fails to deliver anything remarkable. Mac's seem scared to really make the lemongrass jump out, which might have been achieved with a smoother malt base, and could have achieved a more notable beer.
Speights Summer Harvest Wheat Beer is the most recent Summer beer to make it to the beer chiller in our favourite liquor stores. A filtered apricot-flavoured wheat beer, it really fails to deliver on, well everything. Except of course the apricot flavour. The aroma is pure apricot. All you can taste, despite a hint of malt and hop at the very beginning, is apricot. And at the end of the glass, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just had a glass of watered-down apricots. Not only that, but the flavour is so sweet it almost tastes artificial. Perhaps with more emphasis on the malt and wheat character, it could have been a good beer. Unfortunately, we're just left with, well, apricot.
Lion and DB Breweries really need to re-think their summer ale ranges. Yeastie Boys, an up-and-coming brewing company with a cult following, produced a fantastic limited brew Summer Ale called Golden Boy. The strong malt and floral hop flavours created an incredibly very smooth and palatable beer. The flavours are incredibly complex, with subtle, sweet honey and spiced ginger flavours and a beautiful herb finish. The beer never loses its complexity and is incredibly refreshing and drinkable. The fact that it is not as sweet as the other summer beers really works in its favour, and the bigger brewing companies really need to take notice.
Unfortunately, the 08/09 summer stock of Golden Boy ran out pretty quickly, so we'll have to wait until next summer for another dose of the only notable summer ale of the season.