Friday Froth: No End To This Summer

James Gribbon

Imagine yourself in a favorite summer spot. You might be slowly swinging in a hammock in the cool, green shade of sunlight filtered through leaves. Maybe you're rolling through the waves in a kayak, putting a final coat of wax on your car, or clustered with friends in a horseshoe of beach chairs, pushing sand beneath your feet and turning your face up: squinting your eyes closed in the welcome glare. Keep that feeling. Hold onto the details of it, because fall's on the way, and we want to make this summer last as long as we can. Let's take a look at a few more seasonals to keep within our reach as we hold onto the summer.

The Widmer Brothers have appeared in this space before using an experimental hop variety whose "X-114" code name makes it sound like it belongs in Groom Lake more than in your beer. They've taken a relaxed approach more fitting to a summer ale, and have used a friendlier sounding name for said hop in their Citra Blonde Summer Brew. The hops are very prevalent in the aroma as you bring the glass under your nose - pine, lemon and fresh cut grass tingle their way through your olfactory senses - but the hops are somehow quite subdued in the flavor, imparting more of their citrus character than any bitterness. This light amber beer with its pale malts and citrusy aroma is exceptionally refreshing - the word "beverage" really does apply here. Super smooth and enjoyable, it's the perfect drink for hot days and warm nights. The low bitterness with only 4.5% alcohol by volume makes it less threatening than Justin Bieber, and very sessionable for whiling away hours in your favorite spot. 

Pawcatuck, CT is about as far from Fairfield County as one can get, being just across the river from Westerly, RI, but Cottrell Brewing Company still counts as local, and I was excited to try a new Connecticut Yankee brew. Cottrell Summer Ale looks like a new offering from the 13 year old brewer (it's not even on their web site), and it may be an example of an expansion into seasonals. There's not much to the color, and the aroma brought forth an image in my head of a white can with the word "Beer" on it in black letters, but the freshness of the beer was detectable, and free from any chemical smell like you get with certain mass market generics. Light malts, Pilsner maybe, and yeast are the prevailing gustatory characteristics of this brew. At 5.3%ABV, it's right about average for a full strength beer which hasn't been subjected to the aqueous indignities of the dreaded "Lite" label. Cottrell's is more of an afternoon of grilling or busting knuckles under a car's hood kind of summer beer than the toes-in-the-sand Widmer. 

Summer beers come in many different varieties, and so does the salt water around which we may find ourselves drinking it. American sculptor Robert Smithson felt the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah needed to look less Mad Max and more Dr. Seuss, I guess, because in 1970 he used mud, salt crystals and basalt to create his most famous work, the Spiral Jetty. I recently found myself in Salt Lake City. (Who knows? These things happen.)  I was at a roadhouse with a surprisingly beautifully landscaped patio lit by the gas flares from the refinery just across the fence and lightening from an approaching storm, and was pleased to be clutching a 220z. bomber of Epic Brewing Spiral Jetty IPA at the time. It was pleasantly weird sitting there next to a water feature with tanned, fit people crunching across pea gravel to stylish lawn furniture and tens of steam-, smoke- and flamestacks spiking the view. It was good to be upwind, not the least reason why being because it allowed me to experience the aroma of pine resin and citrus as I poured Epic's offering into my glass. Utah's theocracy relented in 2008 and allowed beers over 4%ABV in the Beehive State, which is what allowed upscale craft brewers like Epic to plant their flag. Semi-filtered with yeast particles held in suspension, this 6.6% IPA was absolutely delicious in the dry, high desert air. Keep an eye out for it if you wake up one day in the Wasatch. Go on out and make some memories this summer to take with you into the approaching fall.