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Beer of the Week: Fun for the Fourth

Beer of the Week: Fun for the Fourth

In case you hadn’t noticed, it is hot outside. Big-time hot. Triple-digit hot. Gimme-another-cold-one hot. And it probably won’t get any cooler by the time the Fourth of July rolls around.

The American craft brew scene is also hot, and brewers in this country are creating  some of the best beers in the world today. Some are complex, layered treats worthy of great contemplation. But more than a few just settle for simple excellence. The best thing  to find out how exciting these bottlings are is to go out and pop a few caps.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started, five American beers that’ll make you feel all patriotic because of how good they are.

Fat Tire Amber Ale —Remember the aroma of Mom’s homemade biscuits when they were served with honey on the side? That memory will flash past when you smell this beaut. The finish lingers long in a gratifying way.

Real Ale Firemans #4 Blonde Ale — Brewed up the road in Blanco, this American blonde is a light treat with a great lemony edge that adds to its refreshing qualities in the summer heat. It goes down so easy. Who could want anything more?

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — Treat your nose to an intoxicating bouquet of floral hops blended to perfection with sweet malt, an apple dipped in caramel and a touch of citrus. Then drink all that down in a well-rounded brew that finishes on a pleasantly hoppy note. Pure liquid joy.

Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter — The name lets you know to expect some smokiness, but that’s not all you’ll find when you pour this San Antonio brew. There’s a mellow quality with a sweet, smooth chocolate quality that adds a richness that’s perfect for barbecue or whatever you’re having at a picnic.

Dogfish 60 Minute IPA — When you see the IPA on a label, your first thought, of course, is of hops, all floral and bitter. They’re quite evident here, but that’s not all that makes this beer special. You get a good citrus quality as well as a piney note that just adds to the burn as it goes down.

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Beer of the Week: Alaskan Summer

Beer of the Week: Alaskan Summer

Alaskan Summer

Alaskan beer is actually from Alaska. It’s not some marketing name or gimmick designed to make you think of a drink that’s cold and frosty.

The brewery, opened in the late 1980s by beer lovers Marci and Geoff Larson, was the first in Juneau since Prohibition, according to the website.

Over the years, it has developed a lengthy lineup of brews, including a kolsch-style ale called Summer that is a real charmer, especially when you get it iced down.

Kolsch ales are made in the style of a German brew noted for its harmony of flavors in a light style that’s refreshing in the heat — and Alaskan certainly gets that down pat.

Alaskan Summer

Pop the cap on a bottle, pour it into a pint glass and you notice a golden ale that shimmers in the light. The head is decent, about 1 to 2 fingers, but it dissipates fairly quickly into a lacy ring around the edge.

Aromas of apple, caramel, hoppy flowers and malt are all swirling about together, none more dominant than any other. That carries over into the flavor, which is pleasantly bitter and sweet with all of those aromas carrying over to the palate.

What you’ll notice most is how clean it all, from the fine fizz on the tongue to the finish. That makes it so easy to have a couple.

When pairing this with food, remember to keep it light. Spicy Mexican food would likely overpower it, but grilled sausages or bratwurst, a four-cheese pizza or a cold Italian sub would all be great.

So, if you can’t get to Alaska this summer to chill off, just grab an Alaskan Summer. It’ll take the edge off the heat, at least for a while.

I found it at H-E-B for $1.49 a bottle.

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Beer of the Week: Leinie’s Summer Shandy

Beer of the Week: Leinie’s Summer Shandy

Beer is good. Lemon is good. Beer and lemon together? Well, it depends.

Cultures throughout the world have long mixed citrus drinks and beer, sometimes to good effect. In Germany, some people will mix their beer with a lemon soda to create what they call a Radler. The first time I had this, I thought it was a joke, with the sweet fighting the bitter, but my sister drank it up — and she never touches a beer otherwise.

The Brits use lemonade and beer to create what they call a shandy.

That works better, especially when you let the brewer do the mixing for you. Why? Because the end result is less like a soft drink than a style of beer in which all of the ingredients work together to create a refreshing drink. (Think of a hefeweissen complete with a spritz of orange, only much lighter.)

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company out of Wisconsin has introduced Leinie’s Summer Shandy, which is more than a novelty brew.

Pop the top on a bottle and let the lemon aroma leap out. Pour it into a glass and a decent foam builds up before settling into a nice lacy foam at the rim. The beer itself is cloudy yet boasts a yellow color that promises a touch of sunshine.

As you admire the look, that dominant lemon aroma begins to take on wheat aromas in a blend that is both tart and sweet. Both carry over into the flavor, with the lemon ranging from zest to candied lemon drops. Together, they create a drink that is uncomplicated, light and fun. The addition of citrus has also dropped the alcohol content to a lower level, meaning you could pound a couple of these after mowing the lawn and not lose the rest of your afternoon.

But once again, this combination is not for everyone. You have to like the idea of lemon invading your beer — or even beer invading your lemonade — for it to work. Don’t try this if the idea has no appeal.

Leinie’s Summer Shandy will pair with just about any food, from burgers off the grill to lemon meringue pie. Spicy foods, fried foods, salads all would get a lift from tart, bright lemon. The brewery offers a recipe for Summer Shandy Grilled Shrimp Tacos, which sounds like just the antidote to summer heat.

 

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Beer of the Week: Fat Tire Amber Ale

Beer of the Week: Fat Tire Amber Ale

The first beer of vacation is always the most enjoyable. The promise of adventures to come is loaded into each sip as its bubbles happily pop on their way down your throat, urging you on to new frontiers.

And happy is just how I feel as I sit in the Alamo City Microbrewery & Grill at the San Antonio International Airport with a pint in front of me.

The copper color gleams in the dim room and I have to hold it up to my laptop screen to get a good look at its deep, rich beauty.

There isn’t much of a head, and only the tiniest ring of lacey foam around the top edge. It was probably the way the beer was siphoned from the tap, slow and steady against the glass to avoid as much head as possible. At $6.75 a pint (airport prices, remember), the customers are  sure to want every last drop that will fit in the glass.

A sniff doesn’t reveal much  beyond a touch of hops, malt and the tiniest bit of fruit. But a sip, followed by a big gulp, reminds me of why this beer from the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo., is such a pleasure, especially when nothing else is pressing for the rest of the day. The hops and malt, with a pleasant touch of caramel, become much more robust, with the bitterness from the hops disappearing mid-palate into a refreshing, almost water-like flavor, as if it were tapping into some Colorado mountain spring. (It’s not watery, mind you; but it is clean and, to someone as tired as I am, revivifying.)

The finish is odd, yet in a good way. A pleasant hoppy bitterness mixed with a coolly metalic element isn’t readily apparent, yet it makes itself known after a bit and lingers long after the first pint is finished.

You could pair this beer with plenty of foods, from Buffalo wings and chips with salsa, even a habanero salsa, to a mixed grill platter. The New Belgium website offers a recipe for ColoRouge Beer Cheese Soup that would be great any time of year.

Well, one escape has led to another. It’s almost time to board …

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Beer of the Week: Grilling and Swilling Some Great Brews

Beer of the Week: Grilling and Swilling Some Great Brews

Memorial Day weekend is a perfect chance to put a few six-packs on ice, light up the charcoal and relax.

But what beers go best with grilled or smoked meat? The easy answer is whatever you like, of course. A light treat like a Pacifico will go great while you’re sweating over a fire. But is it the best choice for the burgers you’re cooking up or the brisket you’re smoking?

My thought is always to have some fun, go for something new, something that adds to the party. Here are three choices to bear in mind when you’re at the store.

With burgers, one option would be Shiner’s new Wild Hare Pale Ale, which is floral and nicely hoppy, certainly bold enough to stand up to the beef. Or pork. Or even rabbit, as Jeff Balfour of Citrus demonstrated recently when he was drinking the Wild Hare while making cheese-stuffed rabbit burgers.

I asked Mark McDavid of Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling for a recommendation from his lineup. “Our Mesquite Smoked Porter is perfect for a barbecue,” he says. “It’s not the beer you’ll drink while you’re grilling. It really shines as an ingredient/marinade, so you can drizzle some on your burgers while grilling or marinate your sausages in it. It’s also a great beer to drink with your food. The roasty, smokey, dark chocolate flavors from the beer pair well with grilled red meats and can bring out new dimensions of flavor in food. Plus, our Mesquite Smoked Porter is a beer made for Texans, and grilling is also made for Texans, so enjoying both together can make you feel like a very proud Texan!”

A third choice would be the Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, which I like to pair with a big slab of blue cheese or aged cheddar on that burger. The beer has a certain creaminess that matches the cheese, while the bitterness, with flavors of coffee  and chocolate, provides a rewarding contrast.

All three would add life and more than a little flavor to your weekend.

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Beer Week Bubbles with Plenty of Activity

Beer Week Bubbles with Plenty of Activity

What's on tap for San Antonio Beer Week?

Editor’s note: Instead of a Beer of the Week, we offer news of San Antonio Beer Week, which begins Saturday.

The second annual San Antonio Beer Week gets under way Saturday with plenty of chances for beer lovers to try some new brews as well as an array of tasty pairings with food.

Brewers from Blue Star, the Faust and Freetail will be serving up an SA IPA in honor of the event.

Saturday is also the date that Luke, 125 E. Houston St., is hosting its monthly beer dinner. All of the beers will be from Texas breweries, including Ranger Creek, Real Ale, Alamo, 512, Independence, Franconia and No Label.

Steven McHugh’s menu includes first of the season heirloom tomatoes, crabmeat, basil and balsamic vinegar will be followed by BBQ Texas quail and smoked tasso spoonbread. Pork belly and fried pickles with summer succotash will be served before blackberry buckle and root “beer” float.

Grab icy brew or two during San Antonio Beer Week.

The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $65 a person. For reservations, call (210) 227-5853 or email jsolomon@chefjohnbesh.com.

Ranger Creek’s Rob Landerman is partnering with Cruzan Catering at Bake, Boil and Brew, 1508 Guadalupe St., for a beer dinner at 7 p.m. May 19. The dinner will benefit Open The Taps, a grassroots, non-profit consumer advocacy group for craft beer enthusiasts.

The courses include La Bestia Aimable with sausage ravioli with basil pesto and Pecorino Romano;  Strawberry Milk Stout with Seared Salmon with Strawberry glaze;  SA IPA with Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad with an IPA-Orange Vinaigrette;  Lucky Ol’ Sun with Jalapeño Citrus Chicken with a pineapple salsa;  OPA with Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin Roulade;  and Mesquite Smoked Porter with Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake.  Extras include Ranger Creek .36 Texas Bourbon and Special .36 Bourbon Gelato from Brindles with Bourbon Truffle.

Cost is  $50. Click here for reservations.

Other Beer Week events include the Independence Brewing Brewluminati seventh anniversary and the tapping of their latest Brouwers Dubbel on May 17 and a Sierra Nevada party on May 18, both at the Friendly Spot Ice House, 943  S. Alamo St.

For more information on San Antonio Beer Week, click here.

 

 

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Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

Beer of the Week: Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

 

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

 

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

There are some weeks when nothing but the best will do. When you get  in that frame of mind and you want a brown ale, then reach for Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. It’s that good.

This British beer from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire has long been a favorite, but I hadn’t tried it for awhile  until recently. The first was so good I couldn’t resist having a second.

The first thing you notice as you pour it into you pint glass is that the color is a little browner than you might except, with the beer giving off more of a tea color than the hints of deep reddish-brown you might have expected. The head certainly rises, a healthy two or three fingers deep and only dissipates slightly in the glass over time.

As the name makes plain, a nutty aroma arises from the beer (think just-roasted hazelnuts), and it is matched by a sweet toffee or caramel scent mixed with yeast.

You’ll pick up on flavors of each of those foods, but this beer doesn’t stop there. There’s a touch of citrus, some roasted malt and a even a hint of something peaty, like scotch, before you notice the great schemes of balance and contrast the brewer seems to having fun with. The nuts and caramel are perfect complements, making you think of an adult candy, while the sweet is met full on by the bitter elements, down to the finish. Complex, rewarding and ultimately refreshing.

This is the kind of brew that loves beef. At the Lion and Rose, that could mean anything from Sidekick Sliders, any of the pub burgers, the sirloin steak sandwich or the Roast Beast with its cheddar and horseradish.

Grab yourself a four-pack and treat yourself to a complex ale that will make the rest of the week fade into a welcome glass of hazelnut and caramel richness.

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Beer of the Week: Peroni Nastro Azzurro

Beer of the Week: Peroni Nastro Azzurro

 

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

 

Peroni Nastro Azzuro

I’m headed to Italy in a few weeks, so I’ve decided to learn a few important words. I felt lucky to have found the website “Ordering Beer in Italian,” which offers a few key phrases, such as “Dove posso ottenere una buoa birra?” (Where can I order a good beer?)

Or I could just remember to ask for a Peroni Nastro Azzuro. Un Peroni  should do it.

Peroni is one of Italy’s top lagers, and it’s quite refreshing in the summer with seafood or just a good hunk of bread with butter and maybe some salami and cheese. Simple, but effective. Just the way the Italians like their food.

The beer pours a clear hay or straw color into the glass, with a nose that releases a yeasty quality mixed with a grassy tone and floral hops. I have had bottles with an odd aroma underlying those scents, but it was missing on a recent tasting.

There is a sweetness mixed in with the flavors of bread, grass and bitter hops before leaving on a clean note.

It’s not complex, just enjoyable. Just what il dottore ordered.

At the Lion and Rose, pair this beauty with fish and chips, Dockland’s shrimp and chips, Langostino Tilapia or a Portsmouth Po’boy overstuffed with fried clam strips.

And, ciao.

 

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Beer of the Week: Five for Fiesta

Beer of the Week: Five for Fiesta

 

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

 

Let’s face it, Fiesta is not just a party for one day. It’s a party that tests endurance as well as wallet, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, here are five beers that won’t tax your wallet. They also taste great without taxing your attention too much. Plus, some of them are light enough to enjoy if the temperatures get hot, which they have been known to do this time of year.

As always, remember to drink responsibly, during Fiesta and any time. Have a designated driver or call a cab if you’ve had to much, whether it’s at a friend’s house or NIOSA.

Red Stripe — This Jamaican beer adds life to the party. It’s a great sipper and it’s perfect with street food, such as overstuffed gorditas sizzling hot out of the fryer.

Real Ale Firemens #4 Blonde Ale — This local favorite would work with pretty much any dish you might set out. Or you could just enjoy a few by themselves. Your mouth will enjoy the treat.

Harp Lager — Good ol’ fried food, whether it’s chicken on a stick like they serve at the Oyster Bake, fried mushrooms or calf fries, goes down much easier with a clean, cold brew. Simple yet full of flavor, Harp fills the bill.

Pilsner Urquell — Add a little Czech touch with this brew from the town where pilsners originated. One sip will make you want to enjoy many more.

Dogfish 60 Minute IPA — Grilling up some sizzling anticuchos at your home to share with friends? Or a ceviche with plenty of serrano to give it an extra kick? Then reach for this hoppy treat, with a pleasant bitterness that stands up to the heat.

 

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Beer of the Week: Blanche de Bruxelles

Beer of the Week: Blanche de Bruxelles

 

 

Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

 

Blanche de Bruxelles

It’s a good thing Carly Simon wasn’t a Blanche de Bruxelles drinker back when she wrote “You’re So Vain,” or we might all have been singing, “I had some dreams, they were clouds in my beer.”

There certainly are clouds in this beer, clouds of yeast that swirl around with each sip.

The unfiltered brew from Belgium, a white or weiss beer (or “Witteke,” according to the beer’s website), can be had on tap at the Lion and Rose or you might be able to find it in the bottle. I had a pint with dinner the other night. When the glass arrived at the table, the head had already settled into a nice lace at the top, which also boasted a slice of lemon.

That spritz of lemon added to the lively orange peel and coriander aromas mixed with wheat and a touch of hops and a faint sense of clove.

The hoppy element becomes more prominent on the palate, as a bitterness with a twinge of freshly mown grass is evident, along with the same notes of orange, spice and wheat. Nothing is particularly strong, everything seems to work together in harmony as it slides down easily to a clean, dry finish.

In other words, waitress, bring another.

If you want to pair this with food, think of dishes as light as the beer. At the Lion and Rose, bangers and mash would work well, with the nutmeg of the sausages sidling up nicely to that hint of clove. Begger’s Pouches, pasta with four types of cheese, would also be perfect, as would the King William’s Turkey BLT or the Vegetarian Pita.

Whatever you choose, be sure to welcome the clouds in your beer. You’ll love the rustic texture that comes with the flavor.

 

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