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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Summer's sizzle calls for brews

By Kim Karalovich

A glass of chilled beer served with cheese is a traditional pairing that's delicious anytime, in warm weather or cool.

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. via PRNewsFoto

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The sizzling summer months have suppressed my wine cravings and evoked a raving thirst for icy beer. As the seasons change, so do our thirst quenchers. That's why brewers create seasonal beers to accommodate that general shift in people's taste buds. Every summer, I look forward to the arrival of the fresh summer ales and lagers.

Summer brews are a breed apart from the autumn and winter beers. Summer ales and lagers are less hoppy, less malty, lower in alcohol and crisper. They quench our thirst because they are lighter on the palate. The stronger winter and autumn ales contain more hops and malt, and are higher in alcohol. They are heavier on the palate and are more filling than thirst quenching. Winter ales warm you up while summer ales cool you down. Summer ales also can serve to bridge the gap between the beer connoisseur and the light beer drinker: Budweiser, Miller, and Coors are examples of lighter beers. Though they have lots of flavor, they are not heavy.

You'll find summer ales on the market starting in May and continuing through August. Their numbers are limited, however. The Sierra Nevada Summer Ale is a must-try, while the Anchor Steam Summer Ale is very good but more difficult to find. There is also the more identifiable and easily available Samuel Adams Summer Lager that is quite tasty and refreshing, as well as Red Hook's Rye Summer Ale.

The season of summer ales will be gone before the summer heat, so you may want to look now for brews such as golden ale (Kona Brewing), blonde ale (Gordon Biersch and Kona Brewing), white ale (try Hitachino from Japan) and wheat ales such as the popular Erdinger Hefeweizen, or the crisp and clean Erdinger Crystal. These summer-style beers are available year-round.

Like wine, most beers pair nicely with specific foods. Food and beer pairings are similar to food and wine pairings. Think of lager as you would white wine (light body) and ales as you would red wine (medium to full body). Heavier, richer foods, such as grilled steak, will match best with bigger ales, while lighter dishes such as fish and chips pair best with lagers and lighter ales. When I lived in Alaska, one of my favorite summer meals was fresh halibut "fish and chips" with Alaskan Summer Ale. Yummy! Unfortunately, neither are available in Hawai'i.

Summer ales pair well with Thai foods and foods that are spicy but not extremely hot; these ales hold up better to complex flavors than a simple lager. When eating very spicy foods, such as some Korean or Mexican dishes, lagers are the better choice because they are light and will cool the mouth. Though the spice in the food may overpower the flavor of the beer, the beer will be refreshing and provide a good contrast. Pizza always pairs well with a lighter ale, such as amber or red ale, while a lighter white ale or wheat ale with a touch of citrus (a slice of lemon or orange ) goes extremely well with shellfish.

To learn more about the distinct flavors of summers ales and lagers, stop by The Wine Stop between 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday for a free tasting. Stay cool!

Kim Karalovich is a wine buyer and consultant at The Wine Stop. See www.thewinestophawaii.com.