Good god it's frickin' hot down here in Texas this summer. I swear if it weren't for the great, cold swimming holes we have in and around Austin I'd move. (I've discovered through Facebook that I have about a dozen friends in the much balmier Portland, Oregon; maybe I should move up there. Nah, they already have several beer bloggers.)
Seasonal beers also help me deal with the heat, and I've sampled a couple of good'uns lately.
Last night — as the sun was setting, appropriately enough — I grabbed the Twilight Ale that the nice folks from Deschutes (speaking of Oregon) sent to me. Not quite sure why this is a seasonal — it didn't seem particularly light, but it certainly is flavorful. Not particularly original in taste, it struck me as a Sierra Nevada Pale clone, albeit slightly heavier on the malt. But hey, nothing wrong with that — I love Sierra Pale. Deschutes says it blends four kinds of hops, finished with an Amarillo dry-hopping.
Sorry, not sure if this beer is available in Austin — Deschutes doesn't send all their beers to Texas, and I haven't checked the stores for this one.
Deschutes sent me some big-beer stuff to review, too, but I don't really want to tackle a couple of 11% ABV bombers on my own. Let me round up some friends for a tasting and I'll get back to you on those.
When I really like a seasonal is if it delivers something unique, and Shiner Smokehaus certainly delivers in that regard. I was pretty pissed when Spoetzl/Shiner replaced my beloved Kölsch with that pathetic, watery Spezial Leicht (Special Light) as the summer seasonal last year; they're definitely getting back on my good side by replacing Leicht with this.
I've also opined that Shiner could get on my good side if they'd re-release more of the limited-edition 100th anniversary beers that they've been putting out over the past five years, and they're sort of doing that here. Last year they put out a delightful Munich-style Helles, and Smokehouse revives the Helles, but with a twist: As hinted by the name, the beer is flavored with a pale malt that's been smoked by mesquite wood.
Now, I had some trepidation about that. I've tried "smoke beers" before and have yet to be impressed. And then I smelled it, and I really got worried — it smelled like barbeque! (Texas BBQ, anyway, as mesquite is the wood of choice for how we smoke it down here.) Now I love BBQ, but I'm not sure I want to swish it around in my beer before drinking.
But I was pleasantly surprised. The actual smoky taste was much more restrained than in other beers I've tried, and it went down great. And I'd forgotten how much I liked that slightly syrupy quality of the Helles. Smokehaus' label bills it as "The Perfect Sommer Bier," and I'm inclined to agree. In fact, rather than tasting like BBQ, I think this may be the perfect beer to drink with BBQ. I'll be consuming a lot more of this throughout the summer.