Summer ales: Some opinions

Another fine article from the GMR archives.

Around Green Man, the matter of ale and other forms of drink is a sacred subject indeed. Be it the Neverending Session enjoying a few ales, prolly Guinness or maybe a Harp, with an Irish fry in the morning, or a one of the house brews, say Dragon’s Breath Ale which our Librarian, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, is rather partial to, some form of the sacred drink is being consumed ‘ere all hours of the day. (Please no letters from the British Association for the Promotion of Temperance as we’ve heard your lectures continuously since Queen Victoria was a young girl!) So we asked staff and frequent visitors to our Pub what they liked best for a summer ale as we can serve up anything from anywhen that the heart desires. Their answers are quite fascinating!

First up, Paul Brandon has a Proustian moment — ‘I hold up an empty ghost glass for the long-passed Kentish  Fremlins Bitter, which was a wonderful fruity, hoppy explosion of happiness best sampled in an English beer garden at 10 pm in midsummer, when the sun is going down smoking and the bats are flitting after midges. Alas now just a memory. Wychwood’s organic Circle Master Golden Ale is just wonderful (and I’ve sourced some here in Brisbane, though at a kidney a bottle my quaffing options are becoming limited), and of course there’s Cider. Best bought from a rickety farmyard door somewhere in deepest, greenest Somerset. It comes in plastic containers that probably recently carried pink agricultural diesel, and upon first chug, one feels one’s left eye start to involuntarily twitch. Ah…’

Almost as Proustian is the answer from Peter S. Beagle — ‘When I can get it — and I only know one pub in Berkeley that stocks it — I’ll take Blackened Voodoo, which is really a dark ale (as is the Brazilian Xingu, which is even harder to find. Blackened Voodoo is a Dixie Beer product; I think Katrina almost put them out of business — anyway, I couldn’t find it for quite a while. Sierra Nevada’s always a reliable bet, but BV’s worth the extra searching…’

Peter later added that it reminded him of a Housman poem

I wish you strength, to bring you pride,
and a love to keep you clean.
And I wish you luck at Lammas-tide
at racing on the green…

Which he noted ‘Of course, it’s actually a poem about fratricide – but, hey, that’s Housman for you…’

Charles Vess, art book, Drawing Down the Moon, will finally be released in early December by Dark Horse, says he ‘never developed any sort of taste for beers, but my drink of choice on hot summer these days is a Mojito made with top shelf rum and fresh as can be mint. Then sit back and smile.’

Elizabeth Hand says ‘To be honest, these days my libations don’t change much from season to season. It’s nearly always red wine. But at some point during the summer I usually have one margarita, on the rocks, salt — I had one while in San Diego — in honor of all the margaritas I used to mix for myself back in the day. I had enough then to fuel me for the rest of my life, plus it’s hard to get a decent margarita in a bar or restaurant — they all use a margarita mix, even in places like San Diego, and I don’t believe in frozen margaritas, strawberry margaritas, or some such. The one I drank in SD was the real thing. Rose’s lime juice, Cuervo, triple sec, salt. At the beach I used to do shots with salt and a slice of lime, but that was another century.’

Denise Dutton proclaims ‘I don’t care if it’s Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is always my favorite libation, no matter the occasion. If I can wrap my hands around a pint, I’m a happy woman. You want Summer? Try it with s’mores. Trust me.’

Tobias Buckell says ‘I just recently had a Trappist Ale that has absolutely become my favorite ale, summer or not!’ When pressed he said the actual ale was called Chimay.

Cheryl Morgan notes that ‘ I am currently spending much of my time in the UK I think the top pick should be a bottle of dry (or possibly sparkling) white wine to be consumed along with a picnic while spending a lazy day watching flanneled fools whacking a red leather ball around the green fields. For evenings I am very happy to join Mr. Buckell in a glass of Chimay, which is my favorite beer. However, if I happen to be in California a large margarita might be in order, especially if I happen to be in a Mexican restaurant.’

Charles de Lint notes that he’s ‘not much of a beer drinker, but when I do it’s either a bottle of Negra Modello, or Kilkenny if it’s on draft.’

Kathleen Bartholomew waxes nostalgic — ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’

Chris Fowler says simply that it’s ‘Theakston’s Old Peculiar, naturally!’ Why this is so will require you to read Full Dark House, the first novel of his excellent Bryant & May mystery series to see why!

A local West Country ale is the favourite summer ale of Terri Windling, Otter Ale to be exact.

Lou Anders states that it ‘used to be the Cherry Lager from Sam Adams. That’s not really an ale though, is it?’ He says it’s raspberry frambuas now.

Catherynne Valente from her new digs on Peaks Island in the city of Portland, Maine, ponders a minute before answering — ‘Mmmm. I’d have to say Sea Dog Blueberry Ale. Especially since moving to Maine, it’s nice and fruity without losing the sense of being beer.’

Will Shetterly, puzzled, asks ‘Is there a bad summer ale? If so, I’ve never had it. I wish I could name a favorite, but if it isn’t made by a major American company, I’ll probably be very happy with it.’

Lisa Spangenberg says ‘Right now I’m enjoying Curve Ball from Pyramid Brewery. It’s about to disappear since it’s a seasonal. The Sierra Nevada Kellerweise Hefe is pretty fine though.’

A fruity ale hits the spot for Elizabeth Bear — ‘Wachusett Blueberry Ale! Mmmm. Also, Dogfish Head Burton Baton oak-aged IPA.’

For Ellen Kushner, Allagash White will do just fine.

Neal Asher notes ‘Well, since I spend summers on Crete now, it has to be Mythos/’

Jennifer Stevenson prefers the lovely named Honker’s Ale by Goose Island Brewery.

Christopher Golden says, alas, that ‘I’m not much of a drinker, actually. A Corona with lime is enough to get me through a summer afternoon.’

The same dark beer year round will do for Ellen Datlow — ‘The only beer I like is Baltika #6, the dark porter, a Russian beer I get at KGB Bar all year round.’

Tim Pratt says this year he’s liking Skinny Dip Ale, a Belgian style libation.

Simon R. Green who has neither an official website nor a blog to our knowledge says his ‘favourite summer libation is fresh orange juice and perrier water, half and half, straight from the fridge.’

Neil Gaiman says he ‘drinks tea, proper English with milk and honey, and water.’

Sarah Monette says ‘Sangria. (I don’t like beer.) The combination of fruit, wine, and ice is too good to pass up. Also, the color is festive!.’

Josepha Sherman likes a New England favourite ale — ‘I like Sam Adams, thanky. (Psst: ‘It comes in PINTS?’)’ She alter added that she also enjoys Cranberry juice on ice or iced coffee.

For Emma Bull, the same thing all year is quite fine — ‘I drink winter ales in the summer, too, because mmmm, winter ale! Summit Winter Ale, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, is delicious, with plenty of toasted malt flavor and a lovely slightly sweet finish. Good all year ’round!’

Another winter ale aficionado is found in Lahri Kirwan of Black 47 fame — ‘Hi: It’s basically the same as my Winter one — Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But if that’s not available I like Harpoon and will try whatever microbrew IPA that’s available.’

Fellow Irish musician Nick Burbridge says simply ‘Harvey’s Sussex Bitter!’

Tim Hoke is of a German inclination — ‘In the summer, I’m partial to hefeweizen. There are some German-American events that take place not far from my house, throughout the summer, and I get a good hefeweizen there. Sorry, I don’t know the name. There’s a picture of a monk on the label. As summer closes, I’ll go for Oktoberfest brews. Warsteiner has a nice one.’ Tim later remembered that it was called Franziskaner.

A pale ale will do for Kage Baker — ‘I suppose my favorite all-round dependable ale for summer would be Lagunitas India Pale Ale.’

Richard Dansky has a definite favourite — ‘I must confess, it’s the Carolina Summer Wheat — from a wonderful local brewer whose product largely doesn’t make it out of the Carolinas. They do a fantastic (and beer-tastic) brewery tour as well.’

Some prefer alternative libations.

Champagne gets the mojo rising for Deborah Grabien — ‘Any good mead, from any of several friends’ private stashes. But really, my tipple of choice — summer, winter, whatever — is always going to be dry, white, and bubbly. Ideally, a ’90, ’93 or ’95 Dom Perignon or Veuve Cliquot. Almost any nineties vintage of Nicolas Feuillatte. Oh nom, champagne….!’

For Holly Black, it’s a ‘Dark & Stormy – dark rum, really spicy ginger beer and plenty of limes.  Yum!’

From David Kidney, we get this cool riff — ‘Ever since I first saw it on the shelf at the local liquor store…it’s been Innis & Gunn for me. Aged in oak, with a delightful sweet hint of vanilla, toffee and orange, when served ice cold it is a special elixir! Mmmm. A Scottish brew, but one which was very difficult to find on my recent trip…not available in Glasgow, Isle of Skye, Inverness…but there it was at The Wee Windae on the Royal Mile! The perfect accompaniment with my duck and avocado on panini!’

Robert Tilendis muses ‘Y’know, if it had started off as’libations’ rather than ale,’ I would have had no hesitation about jumping in. But as a confirmed consumer of the hard stuff (and not much of a beer drinker, I’m afraid), I do feel some constraints. However…

‘Due to the recent and ongoing unpleasantness in Jamaica, I no longer drink Cuba Libres with dark Jamaican rum. (And I really miss that rich rum flavor. Quite enjoyable on the rocks with a squeeze of lime, too.) Margaritas are a nice substitute (that’s with salt, thank you very much, and a nice golden tequila). If it’s really, really hot, I can handle a Bombay Dry and tonic.

‘And when the weather cools down, which it will soon enough, I’ll go back to my nice smoky Lowland blends — but they have to be at least twelve years old.’

Deborah Brannon knows what she likes — ‘It’s all Irish whiskey all the time for me, honestly! Irish coffee, especially, tends to be my drink of choice — there’s just something glorious about quality coffee, heavy cream, and a generous bit of sweet, golden Irish sunshine. Er, not to wax poetic or anything.’

Sharyn November says iced coffee with one sugar, very light. (I don’t drink.)’

OR Melling says ‘Beannachtaí Lughnasadh! Blessings of Lugh upon you on this first day of Lughanasadh, the beginning of the end of summer (alas). It’ll have to be ginger beer or elderflower cordial for me — non-alcoholic

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