DULUTH, Minn. — Hello all! The past few months, I’ve strayed a bit from covering just beer to focus more on life and humanity during the pandemic. As we slowly head toward reopening segments of the region, it’s time to get back to beer, and especially summer beers, now that summer is officially here.
Many of our local breweries spent the last three months doing curbside pickup, takeout and delivery to liquor stores. Now, as places are opening their doors, we’re seeing creative and safe solutions, such as outdoor tents and socially distanced seating becoming the norm.
Last weekend, I attended two fun outdoor gatherings — a graduation party picnic lunch and my first barbecue dinner — my first outings in a long time. It got me thinking about all of the fun beers that are the rock stars of summertime.
As we get out more (with masks and/or social distancing, of course) to all the summer activities we look forward to, like the grad parties, backyard barbecues, driveway beer drinking, gardening and lawn mowing, I wanted to give a few ideas for beer styles to enjoy during these precious summer days.
My No. 1 rule: If you like a certain beer, wine, cider or cocktail, then that is the best choice for your pairing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever: Drink what you like.
The pillars of grilling in my mind are beef, fish, chicken and pork. That being said, I have grilled breakfast, pizza and veggies such as corn and potatoes many times, so nothing is off limits here. Let’s talk about pairing.
Burgers. Seriously the granddaddy of grilling. I am a big fan of Pale Ale with my cheeseburger. The balanced hop and malt notes truly accentuate the ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomatoes on your classic burger. It makes me hungry just writing this.
Steak. With steak, I like a nice lager beer. Pilsener is my go-to, but a helles lager or Vienna lager are also great choices. A crisp and dry lager beer cleans the palate and says, "give me another bite of steak" perfectly. Cream ale is also a great choice here.
Fish. I’m thinking about walleye, as it’s my favorite, or crappies if you’re really lucky. An amber ale or brown ale is the ticket. Slightly sweet, malty and just perfect with the buttery lightness of the fish slightly charred.
Pork. This meat is sweet and succulent, so the beer needs to be dry and full bodied. My choice is a stout, ideally an Irish stout. Porter is also a good choice for pork, but if you’re a hop lover, go with an IPA. They never disappoint.
Chicken. Grilled chicken is a family staple in our home, and I prefer Hefeweizen with chicken. Belgian wit and American wheats are also great compliments to the flavors of fowl.
If you’re serving appetizers, I highly recommend fruit beers or sours for the pre-game snacks at your party. These beers are the wine/wine cooler category of beer-drinking. There are so many great fruit beers: apricot, raspberry, mango and cherry, to name just a few.
And let’s talk mowing and gardening. Many a folk like to have a beer while they’re mowing the lawn or digging in the garden. Try any one of our great American light lagers for this. Classic! Just keep it moderate so the lines are straight.
The last few months have been long. I realized that it was our whole spring that we have been worried about the pandemic. I’ve learned a number of things about myself, family and human beings in general. But mostly, how I yearned for summer, and now it’s here. And one real hope I have is that I can go to a baseball game and have a hot dog and a cold beer.
On that note, happy summer to you all! And I hope to see you out and about as we continue to figure out the next months.
Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.