Being Minnesotan is all about adapting to the seasons. In the winter, we grit our teeth, layer up and ride snowmobiles to make do on our polar prairie. Come summer, we shed our clothing and flock to the lake to cope with crippling humidity.
Accordingly, the beers we throw in our fishing boats aren’t the same as those we sip at the ski lodge. Just as a domineering Russian imperial stout can’t quench a summertime thirst, so an easy-drinking lager lacks the heat to bite back at February’s frost.
A savvy Minnesota brewer must have a keen sense of our seasonally shifting drinking desires. When selecting liquid accompaniment for your cookouts, cabin trips or patio-affixed afternoons, look no further than these exceptional local summer seasonals.
Indeed Brewing Company: Shenanigans Summer Ale
This pale wheat ale is best enjoyed under blue skies, and since Indeed’s taproom patio can’t be open all the time, it’s a good thing the Nordeasters started canning the honey-hinted brew this year. Less bitter than many American pale ales, Shenanigans is neither overly hopped nor terribly wheat-forward.
While the wheat is prevalent on the nose and creeps back in on the aftertaste, floral notes and a mild tongue-teasing tang bridges the gap. It’s a crowd-pleasing show, but there is no leading role — just a cast of ingredients finding harmony in a glass.
Steel Toe Brewing: Sommer Vice
While the name Sommer Vice suits this habit-forming sunshine sipper, it easily could have been called the Ambassador. If only this tactfully smooth hefeweizen handled official diplomatic duties for its style, there might not be as many hefe haters out there.
This strikingly soft beer doesn’t wallop the tongue with wheat, and it glides to the finish line leaving traces of clove and banana. Its airy body and outright slug-ability could appeal to the craft-beer newcomer, but this thinly hazy, Bavarian hefeweizen is remarkably nuanced considering its light load.
Harriet Brewing: Saison Nourrice
Not all summer beers (or beer drinkers) are concerned with keeping skimpy swimsuit bodies. Thankfully, Harriet’s full-figured farmhouse ale isn’t. Saison Nourrice is the Queen Latifah of local summer beers — beautifully big-bodied for its style (curvy, not obese). But there’s no need to be shy about showing off a growler at a pool party; as long as you plan to share, anyway.
At a sturdy 6.7% ABV, this citrus-y, snifter-friendly beer isn’t an all-day refreshment. Don’t let that deter you from enjoying an occasional afternoon delight, as the Belgian-style ale’s yeasty and fruity flavors are a hit at any hour. But this orange-hued brew is sexiest at sunset.
Summit Brewing: Summer Ale
Last year papa Summit fathered a pair of new beers that had Twin Citians drooling: the year-round hop-head’s dream Saga IPA and the seasonal Summer Ale. While IPAs are all the rage, the sessionable Summer Ale was somewhat of a sleeper hit.
This killer Kolsch has a hefty floral aroma for such a light beer and finishes clean and dry. At a mere 4.9% ABV, it’s a steady go-to brew from daytime on the dock to campfire that neither gets old nor satiating. This year Summit upped Summer Ale production by 42 percent. Good thing, because this beer belongs in every cooler in Minnesota.
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars and nightlife.