Summer is a notoriously thin season for fans of interesting beer. There are just too many competing interests: sun, heat, the need for really cold beer, the desire for sessionability. The season really lends itself to simple, refreshing beers. My personal favorite of these is Modelo Especial with a slice of lime, but, while tasty and refreshing, it’s not what one would call interesting.
For as long as I’ve been legal to drink, your basic summer options were Sam Adams Summer Ale, and a lot of second rate beers trying to taste like Sam Adams Summer Ale. There are other options now, but too few, and they’re all thin, low in alcohol, and relatively straight-forward.
So, I went on a little expedition to my local store. I bought a selection of seasonal beers from breweries I know and trust. For the most part, I was immensely disappointed. There were attempts at kolsch, weak Belgian blondes, thin lagers with a hint of fruit. Boring, poorly executed, and predictable. And then I tried Great Lakes Brewing’s Chillwave Double IPA. I am no longer disappointed.
Great Lakes pitches Chillwave as a Spring seasonal, releasing it in March. But, there were still plenty of bottles available in the late Spring at my local shop. This is ridiculous, considering how delicious this beer is. It’s a double IPA, so it’s big (9.5%abv) and rich with a creamy viscosity and a golden amber color. It smells of hops, but also smells sweet, and that’s where its genius lies.
The usual double IPA is not a warm weather drink. They’re heavy beers for when you need an extra layer or two. I always think of double IPAs around Thanksgiving. But this one is decidedly not a fall beer. The hops are certainly there, but they’re tempered with sweet, which makes them bright and grapefruity. It kind of tastes like sunshine.
The only downside to this beer in the summer is that you wouldn’t want to drink it all day, or on a hot beach, or while you’re grilling. It’s just too big, with too much intensity of flavor. However, during a summer sunset, while the air is starting to cool off, this beer would always fit the bill. Or paired with the food you cooked on your grill, once you come back inside.
Unfortunately, even this very fine beer is not a real summer brew. It’s a Spring beer, and will certainly be gone by the time the real heat kicks in. So, the summer beer gap remains. Everybody’s making beers to drink in the heat. But let’s make a beer for summer nights lounging on the patio. If you did, it would taste like Chillwave.