Lighten Up It’s Summer (Beer) Time!
Does your beer list reflect the change in seasons?
It’s time to raise a glass to summer and hopefully your beer program reflects the change in the season. As temperatures rise, so does the desire to drink something crisp and refreshing, and that’s where summer beers come into play.
During winter, your guests are usually looking for something rich, dark and hoppy. Those types of beers, like stouts, porters and IPAs, are perfect for cold winter evenings and heartier fare like roasts and stews. But summer? Lighten things up.
“Most people want to drink lighter, easy-drinking beers in the summer when it’s warm,” said Chris Quinn, owner of boutique beer shop the Beer Temple in Chicago. “They want a refreshing beer they can drink in moderation.”
In summer, your menu likely starts to showcase more seasonal ingredients, more produce and lighter fare. You’ll want to pair those with hefeweizens, Belgian wits, saisons, sour beers, radlers and other similar lighter style beers that fit with the food you’re serving.
“Many people forget their role when it comes to designing the beer menu,” said Gary Valentine, director of beer for chef Stephanie Izard’s restaurants, including Girl & The Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat. “My job is to design a beer menu that pairs as much across the board with a food menu that rotates often. Everything won’t necessarily pair perfectly, but they won’t take away from the food. Beer is made to heighten the experience.”
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, a low-alcohol, slightly effervescent light and bright German wheat beer with some fruity and spice notes, for example, pairs well with salads and seafood, Quinn said. He added that a saison, or farmhouse ale, called De Glazen Toren Saison d’Erpe-Mere from Belgium is effervescent and light on the palate with low bitterness and nice spicy, fruity yeast characteristics. It pairs well with grilled or roasted chicken, or something fattier like a burger. “All those bubbles will help cleanse your palate,” Quinn said.
“My job is to design a beer menu that pairs as much across the board with a food menu that rotates often. Everything won’t necessarily pair perfectly, but they won’t take away from the food.” – Gary Valentine
Offering seasonal summer beer is a good way to help showcase offerings from local breweries. At Farmhaus Restaurant in St. Louis, wine and beverage director Myles Cameron taps into a variety of local Missouri breweries like Perennial Artisan Ales to support chef/owner Kevin Willmann’s seasonal menu.
“In my mind, the best ways to promote summer beers are to showcase them with seasonal food offerings, which highlight the flavors and nuances of the season,” Cameron said. One of his favorite summer beers is one that Perennial brews specifically for Farmhaus: the Brew for the Crew. He said this Munich-style lager, which comes in a 750ml large-bottle format, “embodies summer” as it is light in weight, but full in flavor and great for sharing over a charcuterie plate.
Not everyone is familiar with the variety of beers you can serve in the summer, so for that reason, it’s important to educate your staff. If you aren’t sure about all the styles yourself, partner with a local brewery, Valentine said.
“Have them come in and train your staff, and talk to your guests,” he said. “If you have an outdoor space, you can have a cookout and have the brewery set up a tent with a tasting area.”
And, you’ll want to let your guests know you have specific beers for your summer menu. You can offer flights that highlight the new beers so people can try different beers over the course of their meal. Or you can have beer dinners to promote different styles and breweries, and your chef can create a menu that highlights the flavors of the beers and how they help round out the food.
Everyone loves to get outside during summer and that means coming into your restaurant or bar to eat and drink. Why not offer them something special to help them celebrate the season? It’ll keep them coming back for more.
Deciphering Different Summer Beer Styles
You know lagers and pale ales, but how do you know what will work for summer? Gary Valentine from Chicago’s Girl & The Goat and the event director for the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, explains.
Has nice, light zest, a little frothy on the mouthfeel. It leaves you with a little clove and banana. It’s refreshing.
This Belgian wheat ale is one of my favorite styles. They add orange peel and coriander.
It’s a farmhouse ale, beers that are unique to the brewery. The yeast produces white pepper notes and breweries use locally sourced ingredients like honey or molasses.
This is the newest thing you’ll start seeing in 2016. It’s when a brewery takes their base IPA, instead of making it hoppier for more flavor and aroma, breweries are starting to add fruit. We can use a pale ale yeast strain and add fruit to it. That’s the new frontier of beer we’ve seen about six months ago. Fruit is added post fermentation.
Is the radler a beer? It’s kind of like a shandy. It’s an old Germanic style that’s a 50/50 mix of beer and lemonade, which is delicious in itself. I think the Radler is the original summer beer.
It’s a beer mixed with a soft drink. There’s the real foundational difference between this and a radler. It’s carbonated through the beverage. Oftentimes it’s lemonade.
It’s kind of a hydrid of a sour beer and a Belgian Wit. They kettle sour the beer and add lactic acid during fermentation that gives it a lactic taste.
The addition of wild yeast makes it sour. You have three types of yeast: lager, ale and wild. These are more sour or tart. EX: Lambics. With these, they’re all made differently.