Beer Banter

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A Year in Beer

A Year in Beer
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The year 2017 has arrived and with it comes a plethora of drinking possibilities! Historically, certain styles of beer have been brewed during different times of the year based on traditions, available ingredients and flavor profiles. For example, the Helles Bock, formally known as Maibock, is a lighter version of the bock meant to be enjoyed during the spring or brewing fruit and vegetable beers that can only be concocted during harvest months.

Nowadays, technology and the need for innovation, has allowed brewers to craft any style during any season, thus abandoning the parameters of traditional brewing practices. However, beer has been made for thousands of years and there is still something to be enjoyed by following the ways of old. This year I plan to discover the benefits of following a seasonal drinking calendar for styles and here is my strategy:

JANUARY – Imperial Stout

Nothing declares the heart of winter like an Imperial Stout. They’re the strongest in alcohol and body of all the stouts and they taste great by a fire on a cold, snowy night. Being black in color, these beers typically have an extremely rich, malty flavor and aroma with full, sweet-malt character. The nice thing about this style is that you can find it in many different variations. Sometimes it’s blended with fruit or coffee and it’s also a popular style to barrel age. I plan to look for the newly limited release of Long Trail’s Barrel Aged Unearthed or Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal.

FEBRUARY – American Porter

February is the season of love! With it still being chilly outside, nothing better encourages snuggling up with your loved one than a rich American Porter. The malty sweetness, caramel and chocolate flavors will pair perfectly with a romantic evening on Valentine’s Day. Keep your eye out for Anchor Porter or Sierra Nevada Porter.

MARCH – Doppelbock

Doppelbock literally means double Bock(bier) in German and it’s one of their biggest beers with an alcohol content that can reach up to 13% ABV in strength. The Doppelbock emerged in the late eighteenth century as a powerful variant of the old monastic strong beer. Traditionally deemed “liquid bread,” monks would brew this style during Lenten season to sustain themselves while fasting. Since Lent, the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, starts on March 1st this year, I figured it would be most appropriate. I will be filling my fridge with the original Paulaner Salvator or Spaten Optimator for this month. Of course you have St. Patty’s day in the middle of March, so be Irish for a day and grab a Guinness Stout!

APRIL – Wheat Beers

April showers bring… wheat beers! Revitalized in the 1960’s, wheat beers are effervescent and full of character, making it hard to choose just one style. Whether it’s a German Weisbier, Belgian Witbier or an American Wheat, I plan to drink them all. With most interpretations being brewed with additions of spices and/or fruit, they’re ideal for ushering in the warm summer months. Making it to the top of my list is Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and Ommegang Witte.

MAY – Helles Bock

Developed by the Bavarians to hold them over between cold winters and hot summers, the Helles Bock is the perfect golden lager for spring. Mai, translating to May, is a lighter version of the traditional bock and is generally hopped in higher concentrations to add a refreshing bitterness. This is the perfect style to readjust your taste buds from the darker, more flavorful beers of winter to the bitter and refreshing beers of summer. My favorite example of this style is Genesee Maibock, which is released every spring.

JUNE – American India Pale Ale

It’s summer time… bring on the IPA’s! India Pale Ales were originally designed to withstand high temperatures and long journeys, so they have the ability to make summer taste that much better. American IPA’s are on the forefront of experimental hops and hopping techniques, turning them into citrus bombs of refreshment. Gone are the days when we only described these beers as “hoppy.” IPA’s will dose your pallet with a cavalcade of summertime flavors. I’m thinking the new Otter Creek Free Flow and New Belgium Voodoo Ranger are going to be a top priority for me this summer.

JULY – Gose

When hops are no longer cutting the heat, it’s time to enjoy the refreshing tartness of a Gose. Although this is a recently popular style, it was made in Germany centuries ago. Due to the Reinheitsgebot, or the German purity law, and other influences, this style all but disappeared until modern innovation in the American markets rediscovered it. This beer is made with pale malts, coriander and salt and allowed to ferment sour to give it a light and tart flavor. It’s perfect for a hot summer day on the boat or deck. Among my favorites are the Druthers The Dare Gose and Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, which has added grapefruit and prickly pear cactus.

AUGUST – Saison

Saison is a traditional style that was developed in the farmlands of Southern Belgium near the French border. Saisons are considered farmhouse ales and were originally brewed during the winter months to sustain farmers and work staff over the hot harvest season. Each farmstead brewed their own version of this beer, dependent on available ingredients, but generally it’s a very complex style with earthy yeast tones and moderate tartness. They have lots of spice and tend to be semi-dry with only a touch of sweetness. This style is going to pair perfectly with the final hot days of summer as the local farmers are harvesting their crops. My favorites this year are Boulevard Tank 7 and Ommegang Hennepin.

SEPTEMBER – American Brown Ale

Although September still has relatively warm days, it’s nights start to get a bit brisk. It’s time to start blending some roasted malts back into our flavor profiles; the American Brown Ale does this perfectly! Caramel and chocolate like characteristics combined with a moderate hop bitterness, this style lends perfectly to the enjoyment of fall. As you sit back and appreciate the changing of the foliage, make sure you’re in the company of an American Brown Ale. I plan to drink Brooklyn Brown Ale and Druthers Fist of Karma Brown during this part of the year.

OCTOBER – Marzen

Turning from summer quenchers to richer fall offerings, nothing fits October more appropriately than the Marzen. Originally brewed in March to be lagered in caves over the summer months, this style became a fall favorite in Bavaria where they used it to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig I and aptly named it Oktoberfest. The traditional Oktoberfest celebration still lives on and the style is a fall favorite all over the world. Modern attempts at crafting the traditional Oktoberfest beer have led to a lighter and hoppier version call Festbier, which is also very tasty. You will need to search hard for a traditional Marzen, some of the more well know examples are Spaten Oktoberfest and Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen.

NOVEMBER – Schwarzbier

As nights get longer and days grow colder, there is no better style to help with the adjustment than a Schwarzbier. Translating to “black beer” or “black lager” in German, this style has been crafted and perfected for centuries in Germany. They have the robustness of a porter or a stout with the smooth clean finish of a lager. It’s really a unique flavor experience. They’re currently growing in popularity in the United States, so you won’t need to hunt the beverage centers for an import. I see this style making waves in the year 2017 and some great American examples are New Belgium 1554 and Ithaca Midnight Sun.

DECEMBER – Winter Warmers

Tis the season for holiday parties and nothing complements them better than a delicious Winter Warmer. Brewed specifically by many breweries for this time of the year, these dark ales contain an assortment of “holiday” spices that are reminiscent to the season. Although they are a festive treat now, brewing with spices was common practice in previous centuries. Before the use of hops, spices were used as a bittering agent. Today, the spices are used thoughtfully to create the joys found in a winter warmer. Amongst my favorites are Anchor Christmas and Harpoon Winter Warmer.

POSTED IN: craft beer beer styles
Nate Reynolds
Nate Reynolds

Beer fanatic is quite the understatement when describing Nate Reynolds. From brands to home brews, Nate knows it all (or at least wants to). Obsessed since early college years, Nate dreamed to make a career for himself in the beer industry. Posts written by Nate will be packed full of information (seriously, gauntlets of information) because frankly… that’s what he’s all about; educating people about beer. When he’s not working, Nate can be found brewing up something funky in the Adirondacks with his beautiful wife and Aussies, or at an EQX concert!

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