Every summer the breweries release their light and refreshing summer seasonals that they think the public wants, but in recent years craft beer drinkers’ tastes have changed and broadened from lagers and cream ales to hops, fruit juice, sour beers, and ciders. This year brings a fresh batch of brand new and relaunched brands, each vying to be your next favorite seasonal, and it’s a very diverse batch that can be hard to keep up with. I spent the last few weeks trying as many of these new beers and ciders as possible to find the 10 best must try new beers (and a cider) that you should seek out to try this summer. Our only requirements are that they are available in package (cans, bottles, or even plastic) and are available right now in Oregon bottleshops.
Oakshire Brewing: Hopollo 7
Oakshire drafted its usual summer seasonal Line Dry Rye up to the majors this year by upgrading it from a Rye Pale Ale to a Rye IPA and making it year-round. That’s actually great news, but even better news is the Eugene-based brewery is now wrapping cans for seasonal specials, and this year’s new summer seasonal Hopollo 7 NW IPA is a hophead’s delight, available in 12oz cans of 4-packs. Hopollo 7 pours a copper gold in color with a perfect one finger head and a fruit-forward aroma of sweet and citrusy baby oranges and nectarines with a floral hop fragrance. A full but not heavy mouthfeel lends a creamy body and slightly pungent hop bitterness. Hopollo has a bold hop bitterness and the fullness of body to suggest a Double IPA but doesn’t quite go all out, as if there was a line drawn in the sand between single and double and this beer is dancing a jig all over it.
Cider Riot: Lemmy’s Summer Camp (Meyer Lemon Cider)
The only cider to make the list is from Portland’s nano ciderhouse Cider Riot, and it’s the most fun package on the list. Available right now in 2-liter plastic bottles, you might expect to get a Pepsi or Coke in, but even better, you get a refreshingly citrusy 6% apple cider that be shared with friends. Pours a hazy very light yellow color with fizzy bubbles that quickly dissipate and a classic English apple cider aroma with a whole lot of lemon on top of earthy apple. Light-bodied with a tart lemon bite that finishes with a buttery tannic note, like a sugar-less apple pie. Like all Cider Riot’s stuff, it’s not sweet and finishes dry, but unlike most of the company’s offerings, it’s much more tart due to the addition of meyer lemon peel. Somehow they have managed to get the juicy acidic bite of the lemon without making the whole cider sour and not picking up any pithy bitterness of rind either. I love the 1,2,3 transition of flavors in this cider, it’s soft dry apple juice up front that builds to a quick tart bite that quickly dissappears into a creamy overripe butterscotch tannic flavor as it goes down. It also gets the session summer seal of approval for its uber-refreshing qualities you might enjoy in a Radler or Shandy, but without the cloying sweetness.
Crooked Stave: Petit Sour Grapefruit Radler
Pours like unfiltered Grapefruit juice with a pink and orange opaque skin color and a head that quickly fizzles out. A few bubbles and a slick remain suggesting it’s “live” yeast and bacteria and an aroma of overly ripe fruit and fresh squeezed grapefruit is strong. The flavor is much like what I was expecting with a distinct brettanamyoces funkiness and lactic tartness upfront that transitions into clear juicy grapefruit flavors, unmistakable with that extra edgy bite and bitter citrus rind. Mouth puckeringly tart but fresh grapefruit sweetness and natural bitterness give a full range of flavors and a fine finish. My only complaint is there is almost no carbonation which may be intended to give it a more natural juice flavor but I miss the spritziness. Overall this is my favorite interpretation of a Radler ever and a delightful marriage of fruit, funk, sour and citrus that blurs the line.
Saison DuPont: Cuvee Dry Hopping 2015
You can’t improve on a classic, or can you? Saison DuPont is the prototypical and possibly still best saison in the world but for the 3rd year in a row the brewery has released a special dry-hopped version in 750ml caged and corked bottles. This year it’s hopped with famous English hop Minstrel, a blend of Cascade and Sovereign hops and it could not be tastier.
Saison Dupont Cuvee Dry Hopping 2015 from the bottle makes a satisfying loud pop of the cork before it’s huge frothy head is unleashed in the glass. Wonderful smells of hay, spring breeze, lemon, pepper, apricot, pineapple get your moth watering. My glass is filled with a pleasing opaque yellow beer that glows in the light. Each drink of Cuvee Dry Hop has hop flavor on the front and middle of the tongue with a classic farmhouse yeast spiciness and soft apricot and pineapple flavors. Frothy mouthfeel is light but coating and tingly. Mild grassy bitterness adds to the suggestion of summertime and spring flavors, sitting on a fresh cut grass lawn, a cool forest breeze and a beer in hand. Hops accentuate pepper and hay flavors.
Buoy Beer Co: Czech-style Pilsner
One of 2014’s hottest new Oregon breweries is Buoy Beer Co. on the coast in Astoria. Buoy has just begun packaging their beer in 22oz bottles and distributing wider through Maletis, hands down their best beer is this classic Czech-style Pilsner. If your looking for a traditional light refreshing lager this summer you should give this one a try.
Buoy Czech-style Pilsner pours a perfect yellow clear glassiness with a 2 finger white head that quickly dissolves. A fresh breadiness greets the nose with sweet pale malts. Full bodied but not heavy for a pilsner, creamy but crisp with a very light malty nuttiness makes this one of the most accomplished and tasty lagers made in Oregon. Finishes with a classic spicy-floral hop flavor and light bitterness that is milder than many NW-style versions and pleasing for traditionalists. However you feel about hop levels this beer is full of flavor yet light enough to make for a classic lawnmower beer. 6.2% ABV and 35 IBUs.
Lagunitas Brewing: Citrusinensis Pale Ale
Lagunitas Brewing has a new version of their Pale Ale in the 2015 OneHitter series and it’s a welcome new change of pace from one of America’s largest brewers. They have taken a Pale Ale and added Blood Orange juice, its nothing like a Radler if thats what your expecting but instead the fruit plays off the hops like a lower ABV and more quaffable citrus IPA.
Citrusinensis Pale Ale has a soft creamy orange kissed aroma like a sugar-free creamcicle with a gold color that’s almost clear but for hundreds of particles of hop flesh tossing around like the pebbles in the sea. The flavors of this Pale Ale are sweet and bitter fruit right up front with a dry and crisp body that cools on your tongue quickly leaving a pithy bitterness. It’s a bone dry Pale Ale with sweet citrus fruit flavors and the crispness of a Pilsner that refreshes like a lawnmower lager but with the bitterness of a Pale Ale that will leave you needing another.
Widmer Brothers: Summer Shandy
Taking their classic American-style Hefeweizen out for some new rims, paint job and engine the Widmer Brothers have created the most quaffable take on a summer Radler yet. While a traditional Radler would be made with a light German lager this one uses the Hefe wheat which adds a little fuller but still light body with the addition of lemonade and Lemon Drop hops. The resulting beer has the lemon and juiciness of other interpretations but a much toned town sweetness and just a prick of pithy and bitter hops. This more balanced beer is eminently drinkable for two, maybe even three 12oz bottles and won’t give you a sugar rush.
Hopworks: Non-Stop Hef Hop
Now available year round in 16oz cans, Non-Stop Hef Hop from Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland is still fresh and summer appropriate especially for those not leaving hops behind on hot summer days. Non-Stop Hefe pours only a slightly hazy orangish-yellow with big head as well as a large fruity and pungent floral hop aroma like a bright citrus IPA. The body is light and flaky like toasting wheat on a hot summer day. Dont expect or look for any classic wheat beer flavors like banana or clove, all you will fine is wheat huskiness and hops. The beer almost has a woodiness to it’s core and is truly a Session IPA at it’s heart and a very low abv one at only 3.9% Abv that you would never be able to tell. Available now in 16oz cans and 4-packs.
Breakside Post Time Kolsch
Returning from last year is Breakside’s only canned beer, Post-Time Kolsch which is a mostly accurate, slightly tweaked version of a classic German Kolsch that was originally brewed for Portland Meadows. Post Time Kolsch is available in 16oz cans and 4-packs in Oregon. A whiff of lagered, bready and slightly nutty malts for a cool summer smell. Hazy pilsner color with a slightly maltier than expected flavor with a medium body and crispy finish with but a hint of spicy hops. Super drinkable, poundable, crushable as they call it and a great slightly more flavored and full alternative to a Pilsner.
Not Your Father’s Root Beer
Alright so it may not even be a craft beer or made by a real local brewery but Not Your Father’s Root Beer is without a doubt the most interesting new entry on this list. No longer is Root beer just for kids, this one is 5.9% and you can even pour it over ice, just make sure dont to leave it out when kids are around. Not Your Father’s Root Beer pours and smells like a fine microbrewed Root Beer but perhaps even darker, dark brown, nearly black and opaque with a nose full of vanilla, licorice, anise and cherry bark. The flavor is exactly what you would expect our of an expensive bottled or brewery made root beer, sweet and creamy with a lot of vanilla and notes of…cinnamon and nutmeg? Certainly molasses and brown sugar. Lots of fine small bubble carbonation keeps its very thick and slick mouthfeel from becoming too syrupy. Some say they can taste the alcohol or get a warmth from it, I disagree, I find no traces of alcohol in it’s taste or warmth which makes it a dangerous drinker at a respectable 5.9%. I would like to sneak this into a movie theater or drive-in, bring it to children’s birthday parties and sip it at the outdoor public pool.