Samuel Adams rolled out quite a few new and familiar brands for summer 2017 – so many so, that I barely know where to begin.
But for my money, it’s hard to beat Sam Adams Summer Ale, which has a new branding look. Why Summer Ale? First, it’s familiar, now in its 21st year. Second, it’s a no-frills beer in a world where more and more beers are being laced with flavors as breweries try to grab for their piece of market share.
In fact, the Session IPA from Sam and Golden Hour Lager aren’t far behind in this area.
The Summer Ale brings a classic wheat ale aroma and flavor, with just a hint of lemon. That’s it – nothing overwhelming or fancy, just an easy-drinking, light-ish (5.3 percent ABV) beer that is always accessible, whether you’re paddling downstream or piddling around the backyard. You can also pair this easy-drinker with seafood or barbecue, as it never gets in the way. Made with Hallertau and Saaz Noble hops, this one comes on like an old friend.
I’m also a fan of Sam Adams’ Session IPA. In a hit-and-miss category that brewers seem to slowly be bringing under control, this is one of the more balanced versions I’ve tried so far. All Day IPA by Founders has been the standard-bearer of the category, but Samuel Adams, who have consistently won top awards in the NY International Beer Competition each year, makes a case here with a beer that is nicely balanced – with enough of the desired hop citrus quality and piney bite to please an IPA-craving palate, at least to an extent. While some of the session IPAs I’ve had come across more as hop water, this one has a delicate malt sweetness and a little earthiness. It has body, yet focuses on the quality of the hops. It isn’t my favorite session IPA, but it makes a case, and is just 4.5 percent ABV while still delivering on flavor.
Golden Hour Helles Lager is one that sneaked up on me, with its gentle, grassy aroma, hint of citrus, soft, creamy body and hazy golden color. This is one smooth helles (which is the German word for “bright”), slightly sweet, and is yet another summer porch-sipper in the Sam Adams seasonal lineup. It’s a great thirst-quencher on a hot day.
Other releases include a Berliner Weisse, which is crisp, tart, and quaffable; Porch Rocker, a blend of beer and lemonade that has an odd, too-sweet flavor for my palate; a solid hefeweizen, and Tropic of Yuzu, which is like an ultra-fruity version of the Summer Ale in which the added flavors overtake the base product.
All in all, a solid summer lineup by Samuel Adams that offers up at least one or two brews for pretty much any palate.
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.