A seasonal beer could be based on the structure of the beer itself. For instance, summer beers are light and refreshing, winter beers are dark and complex, while autumn and spring beers fall somewhere in between. It could also be the flavours that dominate a particular brew.
Seasonal beers will often incorporate holiday-specific flavours or designed to be paired with particular seasonal foods. Regardless of the reason, seeking seasonal brews is a perfect way to force yourself to try new things while also providing you with a broad knowledge concerning the ever-expanding world of craft beer. With that in mind, we have put together this handy list for seasonal beer drinking, including the flavours and styles that are indicative of each season.
Obviously, summer conjures up images of beaches, warm weather and long days. The preferred beers of summer reflect this mood. They are light and drinkable, perfect for the kiwi BBQ or cooling off after going 5 sets with your mate who thinks he’s Roger Federer. With that in mind, here are some of the best flavours summer beers have to offer.
Fruit — Summer is a great time for fruit beers, especially when included in lighter, crisp beers. Fruit is refreshing and sweet, making it go down easy. Citrus is a common element with lemon and lime added to balance the flavours. Many brewers are also experimenting with beer made with fruits other than citrus, cherry or even banana add’s more variety to an already diverse offering.
Wheat — Wheat beer and fruit go hand in hand. Wheat beers, such as Belgian wits and hefeweizens, have a hazy spiciness that is full of flavour but never heavy. Plus, they are often served with a slice of citrus, adding another refreshing taste. Needless to say, wheat beers go down easy on a hot summer day.
Pale and Hoppy — If you’re a hop monster, you’ll want to make sure you choose a hoppy beer that is also pale with a light malt body. Pale beers and their hoppy cousins, India Pale Ales, come in a lot of different varieties, not all of which are the perfect pairing for summer.
Classic Pilsner — In many ways, the classic pilsner beers your grandfather loves are great in the summer. They’re light, not overly hoppy, and very refreshing. However, if you’re an adventurous beer drinker, don’t let the term “pilsner” turn you off. There are a lot of fun pilsners out there that experiment with the classic flavour profile of this Czech style. So don’t be afraid to go with an old standby every once in a while, especially if you’re having a lot of friends over while you fire up the BBQ.
Things start to cool down come autumn. Fittingly, the beers of the season are less concerned with being refreshing — as such, many will start to play with a heavier body and more autumnal spiciness. Obviously, the flavours of Thanksgiving also come into play as well as seasonal ingredients. In fact, in many ways, autumn beers were the first seasonal beers to gain popularity.
Amber — Amber beers, whether they are ales or lagers, are slightly darker than pale beers. This slightly heavier maltiness is perfect for the fall, especially if you’re spending the day watching football. Supremely drinkable, they come in a lot of different varieties, so you can cater your amber beer to your specific tastes.
Belgian — Belgium is famed for its unique European-Style Ales. These beers have long been hailed as the best in the world. They tend to be spicy and boozy. If you want to spend some time sipping on one beer and really exploring its flavour profile, Belgian style ales are perfect come autumn.
German Lagers — Autumn is also the time when Germany style lager’s the type you will find at the famed Oktober fest during the European Autumn make their way to the shelves.
Winter is cold and, understandably, a time to head inside, tune into the rugby season and settle in with your mates. To mimic the extended nights of winter, winter beers tend to be heavy and dark.
Stouts and Porters — These two styles have a lot in common. Dark as night with a roasted flavour, they’re the heaviest of beers and leave you with a warm fullness that is perfect for hibernation, a perfect match for a pot of lamb shanks. Plus, they come complete with a lot of different variations, so you can search for the best stout or porter for your particular tastes.
Chocolate and Coffee — Stouts and porters already have subtle coffee and chocolate notes. Many brewers play on these subtle flavours by actually adding chocolate and coffee to their brews. These heavy, dark flavours are perfect for the kinds of dessert beers that scream winter, or for those cool May mornings in the Mai Mai.
Ah, the doldrums of the dark winter have ended, the smell of freshly cut green grass and trees in full bloom explodes our senses! And even though much of the springtime is still chilly, most spring beer drinkers are eager to start thinking about sunshine and the outdoors. Unsurprisingly, the perfect beers for the season follow suit.
Pale Ale — Winter beers are sweet and heavy. Spring beers are the opposite. Although they aren’t as light as summer beers, they tend to be dryer, meaning more of the sugars have been fermented. This means the beer will be crisper and less rich than typical winter styles.
Fresh Hops — Spring is the start of the new hop season. As such, many breweries use this as an opportunity to start throwing some fresh hops in their brews. Flavours like American Pale Ale take classic pilsner flavour and turn up the hops providing a huge burst of delightfully bitter beer. Not unlike a fine Pinot Noir, these flavoursome beers are best consumed with your early season steak on the BBQ.
Once you buy or brew your own seasonal beer, the next step is making sure it tastes its best. There are several ways to ensure you’re maximising the potential of your perfectly selected beer.
Written by: David Nation