A May beer roundup
The familiar and the salinated
As the scent of lilacs and linden fills the air and tulips open to extra sun, so are beer lists turning to brighter dispositions. Gone are the hefty drafts with more complex malts and residual sugars that can feel warm and toasty on a winter night. Enter the first run of summer beers; lighter, crisper brews, often with fruity twists that leave you refreshed and wanting more on these early days of the opened patio. They also have the benefit of lower alcohol by volume (ABV), so those extra daylight hours might allow an extra pint.
Familiar brews that fit this description and have begun to return to tap lists include Resurgence Brewing Company’s award-winning Cucumber Saison, which has hints of dill pickle and lemon. The renowned and delightful Belgian summer beer Rutherford B. Haze—which, according to Ethan Cox, president of Community Beer Works, is “not a beer about the hops”—will also be ready to pour as summer rolls in.
Big Ditch’s Squeezer, named for a boat that was nearly too large to fit down the Erie Canal and which recalls fresh squeezed juice, returned to taps in late April after a successful first run last year. A dry-hopped kettle-soured kolsch, Squeezer has a subtle mix of flavors that approach Sauvignon Blanc grapes, thanks to the style, hops, and souring process. This year’s recipe exchanges one winey hop variety for another, with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin being replaced in favor of German Hallertau Blanc, both known for their winey characteristics.
In addition to those, there are a number of fascinating new beers ready to placate palates eager for new takes on old recipes or looking to find another favorite. One of the most interesting releases comes from Thin Man Brewery in collaboration with brewers from Bar Hop in Toronto. They’ve put together a gose, which is a German-style sour wheat beer with a tartness approaching lemonade. Available beginning in the latter half of May, it will be brewed with New York State unmalted wheat and Ontario organic sumac. Thin Man brewmaster Rudy Watkins says it has “a delightful pink color, a nice light tartness, a little bit of salinity,” and relatively low alcohol, sure to make it easy drinking.
Messing with success can be nerve wracking, so it's no surprise that putting a citrus twist on cream ale had some of the Genesee brewery folks nervous. Brewmaster Dean Jones was undeterred. “I can’t even tell you how refreshing this is going to be,” he says. “I think it’s even more refreshing than cream ale, just because it has that little touch of citrus that everybody loves.” Brewed with sweet and sour orange peels, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper spices, and with Herkules hops for balance, Genesee’s Orange Honey cream ale was a hit in last year’s test batches. This year, the brewery is making it widely available as part of the Brew House Signature Series.
Another new addition to this spring’s lineup is Hamburg Brewing Company’s new summer selection called Summa This, which is a wheat beer that is decidedly about the hops and refreshingly crisp with some citrus notes to boot. Aside from that release, Hamburg Brewing will be hosting the annual Farm 2 Pint event on Sunday, May 14. In concert with the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association, the event showcases brews made with NYS-sourced ingredients, with those Western New York farmers, maltsters, and hop farmers on hand. For the past three years, the free event has been an enjoyable way to sample the local terroir, and a perfect opportunity to get a head start on summer, if you haven’t already started at your local pub or on your porch.
Joseph DiDomizio writes about beer and other topics for Spree.