Just ahead of the solstice (which is comin' on Tuesday), there's a new batch of beers for the summer.
Now that the capricious rains of spring are on their way out, we should have plenty of dry nights by the grill or under the pergola. Late June is honestly the best drinking weather of the year. The humidity isn't oppressive yet, nor have the mosquitos spawned in their millions.
The heat is still refreshing. The end of every workday still feels like a kiss on the lips. Beer pairs best with that feeling. So, it is with the hope of your ultimate refreshment that we make these five recommendations for June.
Lakes & Legends Spring Harvest
Malted cider, 4.1% ABV, 1 IBU
What exactly is a malted cider? It's basically beer made with apple juice added. It contains hops, malt, and yeast, so it's technically a beer (and, importantly, unlike most ciders, not gluten free), but it's a really unique way to blend the richness of a beer and the citrusy freshness of a cider.
That's what Loring Park newcomers Lakes & Legends have done with their Spring Harvest. Though the brewery's Belgian roots often dictate spicy, big-bodied beer (like their Dark Heart Belgian strong, which released in late May), Spring Harvest is formulated for unlimited repeat refreshment. At a single IBU and 4.1% ABV, it's almost too easy to drink. But brass at Lakes & Legends assure it should be on tap long through the muggy nights of July and August.
Urban Growler Sticky Rice
Wheat ales, 5.5% ABV, 20 IBU
Lots of beers like to claim that they pair well with Thai food, everything from saisons to double IPAs. For the most part, it's garbage. Thai food is tricky, but St. Paul's Urban Growler has taken the initiative, incorporating the flavors of Saigon's most delicious dessert, sticky rice, to make a wheat ale that integrates perfectly with pad see ew and chicken satay.
Sticky Rice is brewed with real jasmine rice and ginger, flavors that sync with the beer's wheaty body playfully. Then, there's the coconut and mango flavors that erupt on the back of the swallow. The beer was made during a brew-off with Tin Whiskers, and even though Urban Growler's Sticky Rice ale didn't win (they tied), it was popular enough to earn a spot on the brewer's tap lines for a limited time.
Bemidji Summer IPA
American IPA, 6.8% ABV, 70 IBU
If you've spent the afternoon mowing the lawn, you might think twice about reaching for a big, grassy IPA to quench your thirst. But Bemidji Brewing has made a big, verdant Summer IPA that gives hopheads the biting elixir they need.
Pouring a caramel orange that goes ombré from bottom to top, Summer IPA pops out of the glass with pine hops and roasted malt. The amber roast from the white wheat malts gives a sweet undercurrent that's countered by a lemon fruitiness in the swallow. It's a brilliant beer in any season, but for the summer, it's everything a beer lover could want after a couple hours of sweating in the sun.
Summit Zingiber Cream Ale
Cream ale, 5.3% ABV, 35 IBU
The Unchained Series continues to give the tried-and-true Summit Brewing new life on a quarterly basis. With their 21st entry — the dual strand Us & Them IPAs — they experimented with brewing twin batches. The 22nd, Zingiber Cream Ale, has a similar ambition. Brewer Christian Dixon blended an ale and a lager — brewed separately but identically — to create a cream ale that bursts with ginger and finishes clean as you'd expect from Summit.
There's even a hint of lemongrass in the nose, making it another legitimate pairing for Thai food this summer; then again, it's tough to imagine a situation in which you wouldn't want a Zingiber. With a delicate floral (think elderflower) flavor and a creamy head, it's another outstanding innovation in a series that won't return until the leaves change this September.
Farmhouse ale, 5% ABV, 12 IBU
Though the lead image in this post may look more like the preparations for a crab boil than the ingredients of a beer, Big Lake's Lupulin Brewing has taken the signifier "farmhouse ale" to new ends with the Spudfest beer. They've thrown locally produced Big Lake potatoes right into the brew.
Though it sells itself as a cream ale, Spudfest (brewed for the Big Lake festival of the same name) incorporates oats and flaked corn along with the taters, making it a really ambitious turn on the Belgian style, which usually includes miscellaneous grains and spices. It does have a creaminess to it, but there's so much at work in the glass that it's hard to pin it to any one style. The corn gives it the paleness of a lager, the hops give it the bite of a pale ale, and the potatoes... well, they give it an earthiness you don't often taste in beer.
Spudfest debuts today at the brewery in Big Lake. Spud Fest doesn't kick off until June 23.