What Makes a Good Summer Beer?

Ah, summer. Or as we know it in Houston, nine months of the year. So much of what makes a summer beer is the circumstances surrounding it – the sound of ice being poured into a cooler over freshly opened twelve packs of Summer Pils. The feeling of offering your hand as sacrifice to the icy depths and returning with a twelve ounce prize of glorious refreshment. Sharing the cooler with friends and family on the beach, river, patio, or around the campfire. You could almost get lost…

But, what happens if you reached into a cooler on a 100 degree day in Texas and threw your friend a 22 ounce bomber of imperial pumpkin stout? For some, that might work. But for most, summer calls for more refreshing styles. At Saint Arnold, we pride ourselves on producing some of the most refreshing beers around. In particular, our Lawnmower, Summer Pils, and Headliner offerings all take the heat to task and call you to take sip after sip. So, what makes styles like Kölsch, helles and blonde ale so dang refreshing?

For one, balance. We think enjoyable refreshment comes from striking that perfect balance between aroma, hop bitterness, and malt character. If you have too much of any, it can veer in the wrong direction and become overbearing.

Secondly, dryness, or the perception of dryness. Dryness is what brings the beer back to your lips to enjoy that refreshing sensation. In technical terms, attenuation is part of the fermentation process that converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The drier the beer, the less sugar it has. Other variables in the brewing process can help dry a beer out as well. Increased fermentation temperatures help yeast become more active. Malt selection and mash temperatures can help provide more fermentable sugars, leaving a drier beer.

Lastly, the mouthfeel of a beer is also a major attribute often overlooked. Mouthfeel can be broken down into carbonation, fullness, and aftertaste. Carbonation helps deliver aroma, as well as the familiar tingling sting on the palate. Too little, and the beer is considered flat, and often lifeless. Fullness helps describes the beer’s viscosity. Dry, refreshing beers tend to lean towards the lighter side, rather than something like a stout that coats your palate and lingers after consuming. Also important is the aftertaste, or the finish. Some IPAs will have a lingering bitterness. Barleywines may tend to have a slight cloying or sweet finish. Pilsner, Kölsch, helles and other similar styles provide crisp, refreshing carbonation that help deliver balanced bitterness, and leave a clean finish.

So next time you reach for your favorite summer beer, know that the art of producing a complex and flavorful beer that is also light and quenching is one that isn’t as easy as the summertime itself.

Published July 30, 2020