Seasonal beers are one of those things that brewers all do. Thus, right now you can go to the store and find 50 different summer beers to choose from. Some of them try to set their summer beers apart in a variety of different ways, but you can almost always expect certain things to play a part in the end product. I think that’s why I appreciate it when I stumble on a beer that does something you really didn’t expect. My friend John attempted to do something like that with his summer ale. He brewed his summer ale at the same time that I brewed my saison. We ended up using a lot of the same ingredients; therefore, he put in a bunch of ginger as well. It is slightly more overwhelming in his brew, but it is something different and welcoming in the end.
Anderson Valley has decided to take a similar stance with their summer beer. A lot of summer beers go out there with what you would expect. You open something that says summer and expect it to have some citrus, refreshing crispness, moderate carbonation, and an overall light quality. Anderson Valley said let’s do something different. They decided to make a cream summer ale. I know some people out there will think that sounds awful for summer, but they were really smart in how they approached it. It’s essentially a summer session beer. The alcoholic content is only 5% and the hops only come in at a meager 4 IBUs. It’s a somewhat strange approach to a summer ale, and I doubt I would have tried it had someone described it to me, but I had it at a bar before I ever brought it into my house. It struck me as something so different that I had to go pick up a six pack of it.
This one pours out a rich reddish copper color. The head that comes off the pour is certainly plentiful with a bountiful amount of off white head. The head leaves a lot of bubbles left over, but you really don’t get any real lacing or sticky residue. I think it may have something to do with the light alcohol content. The beer certainly has some great clarity to it, but you still can’t see much of any clarity in it at all. The one really striking visual quality of this summer ale is that you wouldn’t think it’s a summer ale if you were handed it.
The aroma once again doesn’t quite match up to something you would expect when you get a summer ale. The big malts really come off as the most prominent part of the smell. There is certainly a fruity aroma that combines with a much bigger citrus smell as well. A slightly spicy quality comes off. It isn’t like spicy hot; it’s much closer to the sort of spice you get out of a lot of fall beers. It may seem out of place to some, but I kind of like how it they use it sparingly. There also seems to be a little light vanilla in here too.
This somewhat unique summer brew immediately hits your tongue with the rich malty flavors that dominate the tasting. Interestingly, it manages to be malt forward without being overly sweet or thick. Even with it being considered a cream beer! Though the beer starts sweet and malty, it has some rich orangey citrus flavors that comes in. From there you get some of that spice flavoring that transitions you to some really surprising vanilla near the finish. The beer has a slightly fruity finish to it. This combines with a little remaining malt and citrus to make a quite pleasant and different summer ale.
The mouth has some really light carbonation to it, but it is certainly more dominated by a sweet malty syrupy nature. Interestingly it manages to stay fairly crisp and clean despite a very malty nature. This seems more like a summer ale based on the fact that it seems like a session beer and not overly light and hoppy.
I haven’t really looked into a lot of different summer ales. I know the ones that I’ve had, and I tend to like them, but they all follow a similar taste. Thus it’s really nice to see Anderson Valley doing something different here. Despite being called a cream ale, it’s not too thick and creamy to make it difficult to drink on a hot summer day. It’s really just a good session beer I would certain recommend.
Teacher Grade: B+