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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: 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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