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Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: It's safe to start sampling summer brews

It appears to be safe to say that the warm weather is here to stay — at least I hope it is because I planted a garden this past weekend and will look with an evil eye on anything remotely resembling frost.

Now we’ve had Memorial Day Weekend, summer is officially in swing — if you don’t believe me, head north on I-93 on any Friday afternoon.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at some of the lighter beers and brews designed (and marketed) for summer, so let’s get started.

• Shipyard Brewing Summer Ale, Portland Maine, 5.1% abv. The dark beers of winter are past. Shipyard gives us gold in a glass, under a white head, frothy and inviting. The nose leans toward hops, but there is definitely a hint of malt there. On the palate it is bright and refreshing, with excellent hops bitterness, good acidity, balanced alcohol, and flavors of hops, citrus, hints of malt again, but in the background to give it some character, some smoky notes and a long refreshing finish.

• Angry Orchard Summer Honey Hard Cider, Cincinnati Ohio, 5% abv. Available from March through August, and made with American apples and a bit of honey mixed in — wildflower honey, to be exact, because it’s not an over-the-top sweet honey. First, it’s a pale gold, with apple aromas. The palate is where the honey comes in and it’s not overly sweet at all. It comes into its own in the back of your mouth with a smooth richness.

• Samuel Adams Crystal Pale Ale, Boston, 5.3% abv. It’s named after the Crystal hops in the bottle, from Corvallis, Ore. While paying homage to the traditional English Pale Ale, this one stands on that Crystal hops, which are a hybrid of German and American hops. Amber beer under a white frothy head, the aromas are both hoppy and floral. It’s a medium weight beer, and the flavor profile is complex – citrus, hops, grassiness, some hints of stone fruit, and malt in the background on the finish. Sam recommends pairing with aged, hard cheeses.

If, however, you prefer to be a curmudgeon, there is the Sam Adams Double Bock, dark amber with a tan head and aromas of bread, malt and caramel that is reflected on the palate of this medium-plus weight beer. Hefty, sweet from the caramel but not in an off-putting way.

And if you really, really want to be a curmudgeon and place yourself in opposition to all things summer — my friend Simon in England drinks this year round, regardless of the weather, the political situation, whether or not the Gulf Stream has made the journey across the Atlantic bringing milder weather, there’s Guinness Draught, a stout. Very dark brown, shades of black at the core, and a nose of burnt aromas, malt and smoke galore — loads of smoke, four-alarm fire smoke. The palate is hefty, with the burnt and smoky notes predominating.

So, whatever your disposition toward the warm weather, there’s something here for you. Stay tuned for more.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at


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