On Saturday the Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society met at Kybecca for a "Summer Beer" exploration. Instead of picking a specific beer style, this month we looked at a variety of beers; Helles, Pilseners, Saisons, Wheat Ales, Hefeweizens, Witbier, anything that a brewer tagged as their Summer seasonal was fair game. There were about a dozen folks attending, and I was glad my friend Frank was able to attend as well. I've been trying to get him to a meeting for awhile and the schedule finally worked out. I know Frank isn't a fan of wheat beers so I was hoping his first meeting wouldn't be his last.
We started out with the Classic Lager from Fredericksburg's Blue & Gray Brewery. While this Municher Helles is not a seasonal offering, it certainly is fitting as a Summer beer. Adding to the interest, the brewery recently changed the recipe and they now use a true lager yeast. The beer has nice sweet malt and bitter hop balance. I had not had the Classic Lager since the change, but will surely be enjoying it again this Summer.
Moving on, we next tried Honey Moon Summer Ale from the Coors Brewing Company, part of the brewery's Blue Moon "craft" family of beers. Not many offerings from macro-breweries show up at FABTS meetings. The Blue Moon beers developed at Coors' Sandlot Brewpub in Denver are good "intro" beers for drinkers starting to discover craft beers. The Honey Moon had a light citrus flavor. We moved through several more American Pale Wheat Ales including Saranac Pomegranate Wheat, Smuttynose Summer Weizen, and Magic Hat Circus Boy. All of these are decent beers, if somewhat uninspiring for my tastes. I don't drink too many wheat beers myself, though many folks do enjoy them as Summer beers. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)
Next another Blue & Gray beer, as a growler of Virginia Hefeweizen was passed around. This Summer release is a nice American Hefeweizen with prominent banana notes and a slightly spicy finish. New Holland Zoomer Wit was a nice witbier with some citrusy notes. New Holland beers are fairly new to our area and I look forward to trying more from this brewery. Rogue Mom Hefeweizen (an alias for their Half-E-Weizen Witbier) was up next. There were some ginger and coriander notes in the beer, though it was fairly non-descript otherwise. Dogfish Head Festina Pêche brought an abrupt flavor change to the table. A Berliner Weissbier brewed with peach concentrate, this tart beer seemed to shock many of the tasters. I've often enjoyed Festina Pêche after a day of working in the hot sun and it's quite refreshing.
Mendocino Summer Ale was an interesting beer. The label describes the beer simply as "Ale Brewed With Spices." I found this one to be very flavorful with a unique spice profile. It may seem strange but it brought to mind the taste of sweet steamed crab meat with a spicy seasoning. It was not mouth-burning red pepper, but I was struck with the memory of the many steamed crab meals I grew up with in Baltimore. I definitely need to revisit this beer.
Moving away from "wheat beers", we next tried Brooklyn Summer Ale. This English Pale Ale is a nice Summer session beer at 4.5% ABV. Tröegs Sunshine Pils was one of two Pilseners that made appearances. Sunshine Pils is one I look forward to each Summer. It's a crisp refresher with a prominent hop bitterness. The next Pilsener was Old Dominion Beach House Golden Pilsener. This was one of my contributions, and a beer that I featured on this blog recently. This new seasonal from Old Dominion Brewery got high ratings from the tasters. Next up, and slightly out of sequence was another American Pale Wheat Ale, Southern Tier Hop Sun.
Two Saisons wrapped up the commercial beers for the afternoon. First, Clipper City Red Sky At Night. This Saison is part of the brewery's Heavy Seas line of imperial beers and another beer I featured here recently. A more traditional Saison was Saison De L'Epeautre from Brasserie de Blaugies in Belgium. This beer is truly alive. The cage had been removed from the bottle when just a few seconds later, a loud POP was heard and the cork flew out and hit the ceiling, leaving a small dent in the acoustic tile. A champagne-like foam issued forth from the bottle. Fortunately it settled quickly without the loss of too much of the contents. This was a pleasant, smooth, just slightly spicy beer. The two interpretations of the style were quite disparate.
Finally we moved on to the always anticipated homebrew portion of the meeting. Readers will remember that several Fredericksburg area homebrewers recently made good showings in the first round of the ongoing American Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition. This afternoon we were treated to some of these awarded beers from two of the local winners. We enjoyed two meads from Lyle Brown, first his Blackberry Mead and then his Fireweed Honey Mead. The Blackberry Mead was quite an exceptional drink and garnered much praise from the folks in the room. The second offering was more a traditional, sweet honey mead.
Just in the nick of time, Aaron Zaccagnino (Zacc) popped in with a bottle of his Wee Heavy that was awarded in the Scottish and Irish Ale category. Only small samples were available but I very much enjoyed the dark caramel and roasted notes. I noted a hint of smokiness in the finish. I look forward to wheedling another taste of this one from Zacc in the future.
This was a very enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed 16 commercial beers, three award-winning homebrews, and plenty of fun conversation. As I said earlier, I don't drink a lot of these "traditional" Summer beers so it was a great chance to try out beers that I may not have otherwise. As they so often do, Angela and James supplied quite a few cheeses, along with humus and crackers, for us to enjoy while we sampled the beers. Thanks also go out to our hosts at Kybecca, who in addition to supplying the meeting room and glassware, also donated a number of the beers we enjoyed.
And Frank? In case you're wondering, I think he'll be back. :-)