Quasar Pale Ale
Simcoe and Mosaic hops give this pale from Portland an energetic aroma swirling with green onion, garlic, tangerine, pineapple and even a dip of petroleum jelly. The flavor, however, is focused on the tropics with melon and pineapple shooting back and forth across the tongue and leaving very little bitterness behind. With a soft, easy finish, this is a classic summertime crusher.
Draai Laag Brewing Co.
Here’s a practice Draai Laag engages in that we wish other makers of sour ales would adopt: The brewery prints the apparent attenuation (the degree to which yeast and bacteria have gobbled up all of a beer’s malt sugars) on the side of each bottle. It’s a handy gauge of how sweet a beer will taste—one that’s 60 percent attenuated would be relatively sweet, while one that reaches 90 percent would be pretty close to bone-dry. The Plague, a “Belgian-inspired stout” aged in French Petit Syrah wine barrels and fermented over blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, boasts an apparent attenuation of 88 percent, which means there’s little left of fruit or malt sugars. The clean, mostly dry, malbeclike finish of the beer backs up the label’s claim, but what occurs before it is enticing, too, as tart and sweet berries slide gently but noticeably into cocoa, chocolate and lightly roasted grain with some dark pecan nuttiness. This backward flavor transition—usually it’s the toasty stuff that comes first, followed by the acidity—is gorgeous; the sip segmented but still cohesive. Plus it cleans up well off the palate, like we knew it would.
Highland Park Brewery
The problem with making a turbid IPA is that it occasionally comes out of the can looking more like chicken stock than beer. But just like mom told you, what really counts is on the inside. Here, that’s heaps of Amarillo, Simcoe and Citra hops, which impart an aroma in the 6.2% beer like a smoothie shop, replete with fresh strawberries, peach, mango and wheat grass. The character of the malts is also lovely: a squishy, sweet angel food cake. Fresh berries come through again in the front of the sip alongside mango skin and orange pulp, while bags of grass clippings spill onto the latter half of the sip and persist through the swallow. Great Green is more like it.
Surly Brewing Co.
Minneapolis-based Surly celebrated a decade of being, well, surly this year, and did so with this anniversary ale aged on toasted sassafras. That unique additive isn’t much apparent in the aroma, which plops a ton of dark fruits—plums, prunes, raisin pulp—atop a banana bread base and comes across like fruit cake chased with fortified wine. But you do get it on the tongue, in the form of a ginger-spicy root beer finish that follows cherry cola, mashed figs, biscuity malt, vanilla and bubblegum. Pour a glass and sip slowly as it warms—the beer evolves dramatically as it changes temps.