Monday, June 11, 2012

Back Yards, Barbecues, and Beer

If any weekend was a good indication that summer's around the corner, this weekend in Ottawa was definitely one of them. With sunshine and downright hot temperatures, this was a perfect weekend to break out the barbecue—if you haven't done so already.

And with the summer-like weather, what better time to try some summer ales?

This weekend, I tried two. Correction: last night, I tried two, end to end. Both, with some similarities, but with enough differences to make them truly distinct. Both, in my opinion, perfect for the backyard grill.

Beer #1:
Summer Weiss
Bracebridge, ON
LCBO: $12.95, 2 x 750 ml; 5% ABV
The label of this bottle recommends that in order to bring out extra flavour, you should slightly agitate the bottle before you open it. I don't know what they mean by slightly, but be warned: do not shake this bottle too much. I imagine that the agitation from the car ride home should be enough, assuming that you plan to open it as soon as you arrive. I turned the bottle upside down and then straightened it before opening, and that was too much. When I popped the stopper, it was as thought I had shaken a champagne bottle at the end of a Grand Prix race.

A fountain of foam shot fourth and doused me, but good.

Pouring the beer into a glass was a challenge afterwards. Not much but a brilliant white foam filled my glass. I had to wait several minutes for the bottle to settle down before I could get a decent fill.

The colour is a brilliant yellowy gold. There is a slight murkiness to this weiss, much as expected in a German-styled wheat ale, but not so much murkiness to make me think there hadn't been a little filtering. There were lots of fine bubbles in the glass, which gave me the visual impression of a light ale.

On the nose, I picked up a light citrus and a slight sweetness. I imagined sitting on a patio on a sun-drenched day, watching people leisurely saunter by, window shopping in nearby stores, summer in full swing.

In the mouth, this beer was clean, with subtle hops mixed with spices. I was enjoying this weiss ale in my back yard, while eating dinner. I had a barbecued filet of salmon, on which I had rubbed a sweet and spicy Thai dipping sauce. With it, we served a black rice and mango salad, and some lightly barbecued asparagus. This beer complemented the meal perfectly. The spice of the beer mingled with the zest of the salmon and the heat of the jalapenos in the rice dish. It cleansed the palate and cooled the throat.

It's a great beer.

After dinner, I opened the second selection of the night.

Beer #2:
Festivale Altbier
Vankleek Hill, ON
LCBO: $4.35, 600 ml; 4.75 ABV
Both Beau's and Muskoka offer a German-styled summer ale, but both are quite different. While Muskoka's beer is a traditional weiss wheat ale, Beau's old-styled beer from the Rhineland is darker with more of a barley tone.

Deep amber in colour, almost a caramel tone, the Festivale has a creamy tan head. Being a dark-ale lover, my eye brows raised during the pour, which was much cleaner and smother than the explosive pour of the first beer. Normal, but not nearly as exciting.

On the nose, I caught complex aromas of barley and hops. This was a serious beer that was going to command my attention, whereas the weiss was carefree and easy-going.

On the palate, Festivale was more intense, with caramel and smokiness that stuck to my mouth and lingered in the finish. Where the weiss carried me through the meal, the altbier wanted to hang around, slow things down.

It's a good ale for drawing out the evening.

I'm glad I didn't have the Beau's first. It just wouldn't have gone well with my meal. The Muskoka ale was a perfect match. If I were to choose a meal for the Beau's, I think the barbecue is still the tool to use. I think the perfect meal would have been a fresh Bavarian sausage with a light potato salad and corn on the cob.

Yeah, that would have been perfect.

Whatever you plan this summer for the barbecue, make sure to add these summer seasonals to the menu.

Bring on the summer!

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