One deck, one dock, one cottage, plenty of beer. Does anything say summer like a selection of fresh local craft beers?
While many equate craft beer with bitter IPAs or thick and heavy stouts, it’s not necessarily so. Increasingly, Southwestern Ontario’s impressive craft breweries are producing small batch easy-to-drink lagers, malty golden ales, and wheat beer seasonals with unexpected flavours guaranteed to quench thirsts on hot summer days. Here are some great choices — all widely available at the brewery itself and at the LCBO, select grocery stores, or The Beer Store — to fill your cooler and impress guests.
Orange Creamsic Ale — Railway City Brewery, St. Thomas. Available until August, Orange Creamsic takes inspiration for its name and its taste from the classic orange and vanilla ice cream bar. Creamy with a vanilla flavour, it’s light enough in alcohol (4.8 per cent) to be sessionable. It also makes a great dessert beer.
Flashback Rhubarb Wheat Beer — Forked River Brewing, London. Brewed every spring for the past four years, Flashback has been known as Mojo until now. Forked River has swapped names for the beer, and the lava lamp label artwork has given way to an hourglass, but you’ll spot the 473 mL cans quickly thanks to their familiar and distinctive yellow colour. The rhubarb content gives a punch of tartness, but not so much as to ruin the wheat beer quaffability. Try pairing it with a bowl of summer fruit.
El Buscador Cerveza — Descendants Brewery, Kitchener. What says heat relief better than a Mexican-style lager? As a deviation from the macro-brewed Corona, El Buscador Cerveza is a suitable choice. It’s only 4 per cent alcohol, making it sessionable even if the Day of the Dead-inspired artwork hints at something more potent.
1857 Kolsch — Abe Erb Brewery, Waterloo. This style of beer originated in Cologne, German, and is between a lager and ale. It’s alternatively known as a cream ale, particularly in the U.S. Abe Erb’s kolsch hits the mark as a versatile and solid choice to pair with thick hamburgers or ribs. Many will prefer it as a beverage with a meal rather than a sessionable beer round the campfire. It’s 4.8 per cent alcohol.
Cream Ale — Anderson Craft Ales, London. If there’s a craft beer for cottage guests who think they don’t like craft beer, this is it. One of three breweries in London’s intriguing Old East Village, Anderson brews a number of delightful year-round beers, one-offs, and seasonals. But it’s Anderson Cream Ale, sold in six-packs of 355 mL cans, which serves as the gateway. Medium in body, malty in taste, it’s a stellar cream ale which has quickly found a loyal fan base.
Backpaddle Blonde — Upper Thames Brewing, Woodstock. What’s summer without a blonde in the crowd? Upper Thames’ Backpaddle Blonde is the two-year-old brewery’s best selling beer, and for good reason. It has broad appeal among all beer drinkers. It’s malty with a hint of citrus flavour derived from Cascade hops grown by the Tavistock Hop Company. Blondes — or golden ales — are close in flavour to the popular macro brews. Freshness is the key to enjoying a craft blonde. Backpaddle is in a limited number of local Beer Stores.
Helles Lager — Wellington Brewery, Guelph. Available at the Beer Store in 355 mL cans, Helles is Wellington’s take on a traditional German light lager. It’s a brave attempt to sway fans of big multinational brands. For the patriots, it uses all-Canadian barley and wheat malt. As a 4.5 per cent lager, it works in pretty much all situations, from campfire gatherings to grilled food.
Suburban Menace — Refined Fool Brewing, Sarnia. This intriguing beer moves people along the craft beer tasting chart. It’s a little stronger in alcohol (5.7 per cent) and a little more bitter without treading into IPA territory. Red in colour, Suburban Menace comes in shareable 650 mL bottles, ideal for pouring summer tasters for the unconverted. Its complex tastes — can you pick up the caramel, blueberry, and bubblegum? — make it a great conversation starter.
Wild Child — Black Swan Brewing Company. Wild Child is a sour ale, in the Berliner Weisse style. Light and very bubbly, it’s tart without being puckering and could serve as a great gateway beer for wine drinkers or those turned off by the traditional bitterness in many beer styles. Variations are available at times, with additions such as seasonal fruit. Wild Chid is an excellent thirst quencher as a stand alone on a hot summer day or would pair wonderfully with a pan-fried fish or salad. Available in 1-litre and 2-litre growlers at the brewery.
And finally, three variations on a theme in one convenient six-pack.
Summer Radler Pack — Waterloo Brewing, Kitchener. Waterloo Brewing packages its three summer seasonal radlers in a six-pack box. A radler is a mix of lager and fruit juice, with the result being more refreshing flavour and less alcohol. Waterloo’s pack includes grapefruit, citrus, and raspberry versions, each at 3.1 per cent alcohol. Waterloo’s radlers pair with light summer fare off the grill — grapefruit with shrimp, raspberry with whitefish and tossed salad, citrus with steak. Waterloo Citrus Radler has appeal as a reward after an afternoon of summer yard work.