2006 | REVIEWS | BLIND BEER TASTINGS
CBN Session Beers & Summer Ales Blind Tastings
CBN Blind Tasting Panel
• Jay R. Brooks, Tasting Panel Director, CBN
• Bob Coleman, Reporter, CBN
• Tom Dalldorf, Editor / Publisher, CBN
• Paul Marshall, Beer Judge
• R.J. Trent, BevMo / Former Brewer
• Special thanks to Mike Long, BTP Tasting coordinator/head
SESSION BEERS & SUMMER ALES
Despite one prominent regional brewery having trademarked
the term session beer, it remains a colloquial expression
for a beer that is generally lower in alcohol and thus may
be enjoyed over a longer period of time or “session”
without the drinker becoming what the Brits call legless.
The term itself is thought to have originated in England.
Session beers are not a style per se but instead are classified
based on how they will or should be consumed. They can be
light or dark in color — it’s the body that is
most important. Guinness, for example, may be considered a
session beer. So generally are the English-style bitters and
mild ales. A session beer is one you take on picnics, to ball
games and on golf courses. They’re ideal for poker nights
because you won’t lose your ability to bluff effectively.
You may also mow your lawn without impairment, and it is for
this reason they are also sometimes known as lawnmower beers.
In short, session beers are ones you can drink a lot of without
filling up too quickly and without becoming too inebriated.
Of course, to our way of thinking, they should still taste
good. They should, at a bare minimum, still have flavor, even
if it may be delicate, appropriately muted or restrained.
Summer ales, likewise, include a broad range of styles that
are all generally lighter and more refreshing, especially
when chilled to a cool temperature and consumed on a hot,
sunny day. The most common styles for summer ales include
golden ale, pale ale, kölsch, saison and many fruit beers,
along with hefeweizen and other wheat beers. If you can imagine
drinking one on a blisteringly hot day, then it probably can
be considered a summer ale. Many breweries create lighter-style
beers as summer seasonals. Some actually call the beers summer
ales, while many others just make a style that is most appropriate
for the season. Some of these beers, like hefeweizens, may
be available year-round but receive special attention from
brewers during the summer months. Because there are many of
these sorts of beers, we have included only a small sampling
of those available. In addition, there is a style recognized
by the Brewers Association known as English summer ale, of
which Fuller’s Summer Ale is a prominent example.
Like holiday ales in winter, with which brewers show off
their skills with big, flavorful and sometimes spicy beers,
summer ales give brewers a similar though contrasting opportunity
to explore the more delicate flavors of these lighter beer
styles. In many ways they are more difficult to make than
the big, strong, hoppy beers because flaws are not so easily
masked and the margin for error separating the average from
the divine is so slight.
Rich, fruity nose of apples, pineapple and juicy-fruit. Cloudy
gold color with a gigantic, pillowy head. Very sweet and refreshing
with candied apple notes. There’s an underlying complexity,
but the strong, puckery, tart apple dominates with a bullwhip-cracking
persistence throughout, down to the long, lingering finish.
Signature banana and clove nose. Cloudy straw-gold color
and a huge, pillowy, white head. Long, rich flavors, refreshing
and cleansing. A classic, perhaps the classic, example of
Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, Germany
Bready nose with clove aromas. Dark amber color with a giant
white head. Creamy, rich, full flavors of clove and spices
along with citrus undertones. Very complex and warming, with
a slow, lingering finish.
21st Amendment Brewery, Restaurant and Bar, California
Sweet watermelon nose, bright golden color and a thick, white
head. Creamy, with great sweet melon flavor and a soft mouthfeel.
A real quaffer (in the positive sense). Delicious with a long,
Alaskan Brewing Company, Alaska
Subtle nose of bready malt and quiet hop notes. Bright gold
color with a thick, white head. Creamy, rich flavors with
soft, round malt and floral hop character. Finishes clean.
Drake’s Brewing Company, California
Clean, malty nose with pine and citrus notes. Straw-gold
in color with a white head. Creamy, with clean malt flavors
and spicy hop character. Well-balanced, with a lingering,
Bison Brewing Company, California
Herbal hop nose, bright amber color and a light tan head.
Good balance, with excellent malt flavor and a big hop blast.
Very drinkable, with a rich, long finish.
Augustiner Brewery, Germany
Soft, clean nose, light straw-gold color and a thin white
head. Creamy, with soft, rich flavors, great balance and a
Light herbal nose; cloudy, light amber color; and a huge,
light tan head. Creamy, with big, spicy flavors and a long,
Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, California
Perfumey herbal nose with hints of clove and lemon. Clear
golden color with a light tan head. Rich wit style, creamy
and tart; very zesty with huge follow-through.
Magnolia Pub & Brewery, California
Light malt nose, dull golden color and a white head. Sharp
herbal and malt flavors with good hop balance. Lemon-zesty
with a clean finish.
Light nose with hints of clove. Cloudy amber color with a
giant, light tan head. Rich and soft but full flavors. Creamy,
with lemony zest and a slight sweetness.
Adams White Ale
Boston Beer Company, Massachusetts
Big, hoppy nose, rich amber color and a thick, light tan
head. Creamy and tart with a big, rich blast of malty flavor.
Citrus hop character and woody smoked hints with a sweet finish.
Full Sail Brewing Company, Oregon
Clean nose with subtle hop and malt character. Clear, light
golden color with a thick, white head. Rich, clean flavors
with biscuity malt and fruit esters. Nice balance with a long,
Dip (f.k.a. Loft)
New Belgium Brewing, Colorado
Rich, toasty nose with spicy hop aromas. Very bright amber
color with a thick, light tan head. Light-bodied with soft
flavors, some creaminess and a subtle underlying hop spiciness.
Clean, with good balance and a quick finish.
Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont
Herbal nose of alfalfa and lychee with hints of tropical
fruit and ripe guava. Very bright gold color with a white
head. Light but creamy-soft with good malt flavors and lemony
citrus hop character.
Shipyard Brewing Company, Maine
Herbal nose, bright amber color and a thick, white head.
Creamy, with clean sweet malt, lemony citrus hop character
and a lingering finish.
Big Sky Brewing Company, Montana
Soft herbal aromas with hints of cola nuts. Golden color.
Creamy, with soft, supple malt flavors and a hint of lemon
in the hop character.
Solstice Cerveza Crema
Anderson Valley Brewing Company, California
Light nose of vanilla, dark copper color and a tan head.
Strong vanilla cream soda flavors with rich malt character,
though light on the palate.
Rye Summer Ale
Redhook Ale Brewery, Washington
Light nose of fruity esters and a touch of anise. Cloudy
yellow-gold color and a rich, white head. Big malty flavors
with fruity esters, especially berries. Great complexity with
a clean finish.
Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont
Bready nose with lemon citrus aromas. Bright golden-yellow
color. Excellent fruit flavors, almost juicy, with nice creaminess
and crisp, peppery hop character. Light and clean with a lingering
Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, California
Light nose, light golden color and a white head. Creamy,
light flavors with bready malt character and a long, soft
Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, California
Strong herbal aromas, clear straw-gold color and a modest
head. Thin-bodied but big-flavored, yet remains soft on the
Valley Brewing Company, California
Sweet nose with herbal hops and subtle spices. Deep amber
color with a light tan head. Light-bodied but tart and clean.
Malt-forward with a short, tart finish.