Summertime is usually a slow time for the traditional home brewer. Mainly because it gets so hot outside, most of us don’t want to spend 6-8 hours over a boiling hot kettle. It can also become difficult to regulate your fermentation temperatures. If you’re a diehard brewer like we are, however, you might be deciding on what beers do best during the summer. A few of my favorite summer style beers include: Belgian pale ales, Kolsch, and Saisons. Today I want to give a little background behind each of these styles and why they are well suited for your summertime brewing.
Belgian pale ales were first brewed in the 1700s, with the rise in popularity of the German light beers. Belgian brewers wanted to create a crisp, light-style ale that didn’t have to be lagered in the caves during the spring time. They created this style ale by focusing on British bitters, using some of the same malts, and using the same noble hops as the German lagers. This created a lighter-colored ale with low hop bitterness but that still had a heavy hop aroma to it. Using a Belgian yeast helped to present notes of pear and orange esters with a slightly spicy phenol profile. I enjoy brewing this style because it doesn’t fit into your typical Pale ale or IPA profiles. It is still close to the same color, but has a lot less bitterness on those painful hot summer days.
The Kolsch is one of my more favorite styles to brew during the summer. It has a clean, crisp, finish with a slightly fruity ester in the finish. The Kolsch was first brewed in 1603 in Cologne, Germany. They actually passed a law during this time which stated only top fermenting ales could be brewed. This would eliminate the traditional lagers that had been brewed for centuries. In fact, the Kolsch is actually an ale that best resembles a lager. The yeast likes to be fermented between 58F – 64F, and this allows for those fruity esters that are typical in ales to come through. This slightly cooler temperature also helps to add a little more body to the beer that is created in a lager while fermenting at temperatures in the 40sF. Kölsch also undergoes a lagering period after it finishes fermenting in the ale temperature range. This lagering period helps to clarify the beer and yield the crisp, clean, and clear final product that Kölsch lovers have come to cherish.
Saisons were originally brewed in the 1700’s in the French speaking part of Belgium. Saison is French for “season” and this is the quintessential seasonal style. These beers were brewed in late spring and stored in farmhouses to be drunk during the summer months. They were traditionally brewed between 3% – 5% ABV so that the farmhands could continue to work after quenching their thirsts while also getting some carbs and other good stuff from the brew. It is hard to clearly define Saisons since they were typically brewed using brettanomyces “wild yeast”and the ingredients available at the time. I like to brew mine around this time of year using the WLP566 Belgian Saison II yeast. Mainly because I will ferment it at 68F-72F for 2-3 days and then move it to my attic for 2 weeks longer. I’ve found that the Saison II can handle those hotter temperatures and still completely ferment out, and also helps to create more black pepper and spicy esters.
Some other styles to try for the warmer months include kettle soured ales and Scandanavian Farmhouse styles or anything brewed with a Kveik Yeast strain. Lactobacillusstrains enjoy the warmer summer temperatures, and many homebrewers rely on this to kettle sour Gose and other styles. The Kveik yeast strains are another excellent hot weather brewing option. We actually just released a blog post on this yeast strain and you can check it out here! The Kveik strains can often tolerate temperaturesin the 90˚s with no ill effect and are a great option for anyone who doesn’t use A/C in the summer!
Happy warm-weather brewing!