Summer is officially here and tis the season for backyard beer-fueled barbecues. Wether your planning a formal fete for the 4th of July or an impromptu party simply because it’s Saturday, one thing is certain: your ice chest should be stocked with the best beer around. Yes, PBR and Miller High Life are acceptable for certain occasions, but this June why not step up your hops game? To help you do so we spoke with cellar master Christian Albertson, who also happens to be one of the owners of San Francisco’s Monk’s Kettle. The Mission district gastropub offers over 200 rotating beers with 28 on draft, 1 on cask engine, and the other 180 or so in the bottle. Here, Christian shares the brews you should seek out.
Saisons are the most sippable summer beers. “Saisons have became a real thing over the last few years,” explains Albertson. “They have evolved from an esoteric style that not many people heard of to a style that seems like a pre-requisite these days. This is due to an advancement in taste. People still want ‘something light,’ but they want more than a wheat beer.” Saisons are light in color, but have a fuller flavor that is yeast driven with notes of black pepper spice and plenty of fruitiness. Saisons also pair well with food. Among highly available saisons, Albertson recommends Firestone Opal and Allagash Saison. More hard to find selections on his to-try list? Logsdon Seizoen, Commons Urban Farmhouse, and HenHouse Saison.
Photo Credit: Kelly PuleioBrown Ales
The ideal beer to pair with grilling and chilling is brown ale. “To match the caramelization of a grill,” says Albertson, “you will need something with roast.” One of the best styles for this is brown ale, but Albertson warns that “it needs to be the right one.” The most prevalent browns out there are watery and/or sweet. “It’s important to get a brown that has a good amount of roast and is rich with nuttiness,” advises Albertson. The best representatives of this style are Avery Ellie’s Brown, Alesmith Nut Brown, Off Color Scurry, and Alaskan Amber. If you want to step it up, you can also go with a Belgian Dubbel. “Getting one of these is going to be a bit more fool-proof,” explains Albertson as “they are better made across the board.” The Dubbels he likes are Achel Bruin, Westmalle Dubbel, and Lost Abbey Lost & Found. Want the best of all worlds? Look for a Black IPA like Deschutes’ Hop in the Dark.
Strongs and Sours
When gifting a good beer, for Father’s Day or graduation, Albertson suggests something that is special and that you may want to hold on to for awhile. For this, he says “go either strong or sour.” On the strong side, any of the Firestone specialty beers are perfect. Stickee Monkey is released in May and then Helldorado is released in July. Deschutes also has a top-notch reserve series: Butte XXVII will be released later this summer. On the sour side, “what is available depends on where you live, but around here Almanac sours are fairly widely available and solid selections,” Albertson recommends. Any true lambic is another great idea. Bottles he enjoys? Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Girardin, Beersel. Other noteworthy and giftable brews include any Allagash Sour, Crooked Stave, and Logsdon.
Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio