Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Drinks, You Gotta Love 'Em

I've never lived anywhere that didn't have hot summers. Even Boone, NC, at 3600', frequently has 85-90 degree days....and God forbid you come down the mountain into the Carolina foothills, to be welcomed by 110 degree heat, 100% humidity, and some nice smog coming over from Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Baltimore's not much different - a mild summer day is one that doesn't reach 92 or so degrees. We hit 106 with 80% humidity (a 112 degree heat index) last week.  Here at our house, we eat and drink very seasonally, and we are definitely eating and drinking like summer is here for real.

My (real life and blogging) friend Denny over at DennFinn did a little post recently on her favorite warm weather refreshments.  I can't get it out of my head - they all seemed so delicious!  So I'm literally going to copy her post concept and give you my own:
Lime Drinks: First of all, you can't have a hot summer without lemonade, limeade, and margaritas.  How you make all three, or what brands you prefer to buy, are up to a huge range of individual tastes.  But for us, one thing we keep on hand all summer is Simply Limeade.  Limes and cane sugar. That's it.  It tastes amazing on its own in a glass of ice, and you can't come up with a better margarita base that doesn't involve you squeezing your own limes.  The lime tastes fresh and tart, and the cane sugar is extra sweet.  It's good.  Runner up: El Paso Chile Company's Natural Margarita Mixer.

Ginger Brews. Ginger beer and ginger ale can be enjoyed any time of year, but the best ginger beers are great summer drinks because they aren't overwhelming with a mediciny-ginger aura.  The absolute best I've found is Maine Root Ginger Brew.  This is a light and lemony ginger beer with a pronounced ginger bite.  Unlike some of the other famous brands, they don't try to kill you with ginger while strangling you with syrup.  Runners up: Barritts (Bermuda) and Reed's Premium (NYC?).

Wheat Beers - Over the last 10 years, the number of traditional style summer wheat beers has definitely exploded.  My pick for best of the bunch? UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen Unfiltered, brewed by Harpoon (MA).  While nowhere near the best wheat beer on the market, this is a special summer beer.  The raspberry sticks with you through the whole bottle....without getting sweet.  It's a wonderful recipe for hot afternoon cookouts.   Runners Up: So many!....Southern Tier (NY) Heavy Weizen and how about Flying Fish (NJ) Exit 11.  Both are technically better wheat beers, but not quite as summery.

Pale Ales
Pale ales, often coming in at 7, 8, and 9% alcohol, require special circumstances to be enjoyed in the summer.  Air conditioning (or a bonfire), lack of dogsitting or babysitting duty, lots of friends, and a totally free evening are minimal requirements in my opinion.  My pick? Southern Tier (NY) Unearthly IPA.  It's not for the faint of heart, but the bitterness doesn't try to asphyxiate you the way that some of today's most popular IPAs do.  It's extra hoppy of course, but the fact that the ale is aged in oak barrels makes for a complex taste that won't knock you over after just one drink.  Runners Up: Dogfish Head (DE) Shelter Pale Ale - their least bitter pale ale, and Bells (MI) Two Hearted Ale.

Cheap Lagers/Ales
So, you're mowing the lawn or spending the day on a hot, sunny beach.  What you need is a good old fashioned light beer.  The main problem with light beers, especially American lagers, is that they taste (and smell) like old, wet shoe leather unless they are absolutely ice cold. My pick? Rolling Rock (PA).  I love this beer for the summer, and always have.  It actually tastes decent, comes in cans and bottles, and (I recall) is only about 4% ABV.  Runners up: doesn't matter as long as they are really, really cold.

Whatever you choose to drink this summer, please do it responsibly.   If you're planning to drink a lot, do what I've done for years now - designate a driver AND show up at your destination with a sleeping bag in the car.  Whatever consequences you may face at work or at home for staying out all night, it'll mean nothing compared to the anger and sadness your family will feel if you pick up a $5,000 DUI, kill yourself on the road, or worse, kill somebody else.  Please think ahead!


Freewheel said...

If you're in Baltimore, I think you're obligated to keep some cold cans of Clipper City on hand.

Unknown said...

wonderful selection! I've been taking dow a lot of anrie Palmers lately. For beer, Yuengling, and Leinekugel Summer Shandy.

Have fun and stay safe!

e.m.b. said...

Maine Root is amazing. Love the stuff...and their root beer is great too!

Justin said...

I'm going to have to second the Yuengling and Leinekugel Summer Shandy as well as their Honey Weiss.. But I've been partial to some good ole Sierra Nevada Pale Ale more than anything else lately..

Kirk Mantay said...

Clipper City in cans is a great call! Surprised you didn't say Natty Boh!

I remember my first keg of Yuengling - Va Tech, 1996 - I had never heard of it - it's still a great beer but it's gotta be ICE COLD!

Maine Root is SCARY GOOD! Especially compared to that crappy brew by The Ginger People (everything else they make is great, why does their brew suck)?

I've had the Leiny Honey Weiss many times. I think if I was more tied to the beer (memories, etc), I'd love it. I will try the Summer Shandy - I'm trusting y'all!

Sierra Nevada - my hunting buddy's favorite. Like 500 calories per bottle! Have you had their Torpedo? Good Lord...bitter and lots of alcohol.

tugboatdude said...

Wing Walker pale ale and Flying Dog tire bite,two of my Summer favorites.They also must be enjoyed with very little on the to do list as you will feel the effects

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