Beermakers offer light, fruity warm-weather brews

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



Find your favorite beer

Wheat beers

Pelican Pub & Brewery Winema Wit (Pacific City, Ore.)

Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss (Wisconsin)

Silver City Bavarian Style Hefeweizen (Silverdale)

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis (California)

Snoqualmie Falls Haystack Hefeweizen (Snoqualmie)

Lager and kölsch

Caldera Brewing Lawnmower Lager (Ashland, Ore.)

Silver City Ziggy Zoggy Summer Lager (Silverdale)

Reissdorf Kölsch (Germany)

Ice Harbor Columbia Kölsch (Kennewick)

Specialty beers

Newcastle Summer Ale (England)

Oakshire Brewing Line Dry Rye (Eugene, Ore.)

Stone Smoked Porter Chipotle (California)

Big Sky Summer Honey Ale (Montana)

Ninkasi Made in the Shade (Eugene, Ore.)

Fruit beers

Laht Neppur Peach Hefeweizen (Waitsburg)

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy (Wisconsin)

St. Peter’s Fruit Beer - Grapefruit (England)

Samuel Smith’s Organic Apricot Ale (England)

Farmers markets aren't the only places you'll find peaches, apricots and marionberries this time of year. If you visit your local brewery, you'll also find many fruits of the summer harvest in the beer.

This season, with its long lazy days, barbecues and picnics, calls for beers that are light, crisp and refreshing. Many summer styles include a hint of lemon and perhaps a dash of honey.

If you go

What: Vancouver Brewfest.

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Aug. 10; noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 11.

Where: Esther Short Park, Sixth and Esther streets in downtown Vancouver.

What: Beer festival featuring 24 brewers from Washington, Oregon and across the U.S. Includes live music, a brewers’ tent and home-brewing classes.

Cost: $16 in advance online, $21 at the gate, includes eight tasting tickets and a souvenir glass.

Information: Event website.

"Honey and fruit are big summer flavors," said Arlene Nuñez, owner of By the Bottle in downtown Vancouver. "Nice, crisp lagers, pilsners, kölsh and hefeweizen beers get more attention this time of year."

Fruit beers are extremely popular, with brewers often adding things like raspberries, blueberries and cherries or extracts of those flavors to their recipes during the fermentation process.

There may be a stereotype of fruit beers being a "girl drink," but don't be fooled. Men order them just as much if not more than women, said Peter Wallace, owner of Northwest Liquid Gold in Orchards.

"I've sold a lot more of our Widmer Marionberry Hibiscus Gose (farmhouse ale) to guys than to girls," Wallace said. "It's a crisp light beer that's subtle and not too sweet."

Nuñez also sells a lot of fruit beers to men, even though they sometimes seem embarrassed when they buy them.

"They're just as equally liked by men and women," Nuñez said with a laugh. "But I still get the occasional male customer that says 'This isn't for me, it's for my wife.' Uh-huh. Sure it is."

Possibly the most popular summer style are wheat beers, also called hefeweizens, wit beers or weiss beers.

The beers are brewed with wheat and malted barley, without much of a bitter hops flavor. Overall, they fall into two main groups: Hefeweizen, an unfiltered style that looks cloudy due to the yeast suspended in the beer, and filtered styles like weiss or kristall weiss that look light and clear.

"The filtered weizens are more the American style, they don't have as much spice, no overtones of clove or banana like you'll find in the unfiltered," Nuñez said. "The unfiltered wheat beers, like Silver City Hefeweizen and Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, they're beers that

you swirl around in your glass and it stirs up this immense fluffy head that is typical of the style."

In America, bars often serve wheat beers with slices of lemon, but in Germany, where the style originated, the beers are more commonly served with orange slices.

If you're looking for something a bit more unusual, one German summer custom is to mix beer and lemonade together, Nuñez said.

An American brewer, Leinenkugel's, has a version of that drink called Summer Shandy that's popular at her store, she said.

"People use it as a quick refreshing beer before they go out," Nuñez said. "It's light, but it's a good little prefunc."

For something a little more rich and bitter, hoppy India pale ales, or IPAs, tend to dominate sales in summer, although they are also popular year-round, Wallace said.

"Everybody likes the really dark IPAs, no matter what season it is," Wallace said. "Around here it's just IPA city. We've got seven of them on tap right now. I don't know what people will do when hop season really comes around in the fall."

Pilsners and kölsch beers are a little less intense than IPAs, but more intense than wheat or fruit beers. They're summer styles that are light-straw colored but with more hops than you'll find in wheat beers. They're often warm fermented first during the brewing process, then cold conditioned, which makes them a cross between an ale and a lager.

"It's kind of a half-ale, half-lager, but with a kind of crispness," Nuñez said. "Some brewers around here go crazy with them though and add lots of hops to provide even more bitterness."

Lightening up

Summer is also a time to find unusual varieties of beers that are more common in other seasons. For example, Ice Harbor Sternwheeler Stout is a lighter, less intense version of the thick dark stouts that people usually drink in winter, she said.

"It has a little more carbonation, so it lifts more off your palate to give a more refreshing, crisp, clean sensation," Nuñez said. "It's not as lingering as some of the winter styles."

One of her new favorite summer styles is Newcastle Summer Ale, which was only recently released from the well-known English brewery.

"I love this beer -- it's a pale ale and it has perfect balance," Nuñez said. "In all styles right now, I think brewers tend to put more hops in than ever. I like this beer because it doesn't do that. It's refreshing, the hops aren't overpowering and it has a beautiful mouth feel."

For something strange, but perfect around the barbecue grill, Nuñez also likes Stone's Smoked Porter Chipotle.

"Smoked beers in general, people like to pair those with barbecue or a big juicy hamburger," Nuñez said. "The Stone Smoked Porter, it has a mild chipotle flavor and slight heat. It's very tasty."

If you're not sure what style you might enjoy most and you're going to be downtown next weekend, there's an opportunity to find out. The Vancouver Brewfest is a two-day beer festival Friday and Saturday at Esther Short Park with 24 brewers and a host of styles to sample -- including some from brewers right here in Clark County, said Cody Gray, the lead organizer.

"We're expecting 10,000 people and we keep securing more breweries," Gray said. "I believe (Vancouver's) West Highland Brewing is making a mango beer for the event, McMenamins will have a citrusy beer and (Vancouver's) Loowit will have their first beer ready to go and on tap at the event and I know Salmon Creek Brewpub (which is preparing to reopen under new management) is planning to have something, too."