When the mercury's soaring, a cold, refreshing beer can be the best part of summer. As part of our occasional Taste of Summer series, we asked beer expert Graham Haverfield to recommend a few of his seasonal favorites.
Haverfield is the beer director for the Wine Library in Springfield Township, N.J. He's also a certified cicerone, or beer server. "Summer beers are typically lighter in body, they're typically a little lower in alcohol," he tells NPR's Scott Simon.
His first pick is Last Chance IPA, from Weyerbacher Brewing Company. For the nonexperts, IPA is short for India pale ale, a beer that was first made for British troops in India.
The original IPAs were strong stuff, made to withstand the long sea voyage to India, Haverfield says. "The American IPAs are very different from those old styles; these are very light, bright, bitter beers that really accentuate American hops, which are piney and resinous and citrusy." He adds that beers like Last Chance will pair well with spicy summer barbecue.
We go across the Atlantic for Haverfield's next pick, the Brasserie Dupont Posca Rustica, from Belgium. "This is a very cool beer, this is basically like a history lesson in a bottle," Haverfield says. "This is beer like it was brewed back when the Romans were in occupation of Belgium." Beer in that era had no hops at all, he adds, making it the opposite of the modern IPA. "They used this mixture of spices and herbs to add bitterness to the otherwise sweet beer."
Posca Rustica has a floral, grassy taste, Haverfield says. "It tastes old, not as in not fresh, it just tastes, like, arcane. ... Something like grilled artichokes or rotisserie chicken, anything served at a big table, this would add a great complement to that."
Last is also a Belgian-style beer, but it's from Chicago: Goose Island Sofie. It's a saison, a dry, spicy beer aged in oak barrels with a little orange peel. "For me, this really screams seafood," Haverfield says. "Something super light and clean like sushi, or much richer, like crab legs."
What's your favorite summer beer? Let us know in the comments.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Let's return now to our series Taste of Summer.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME)
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: (Singing) Hot fun the summertime....
SIMON: And today we're talking beer...
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SIMON: ...especially light refreshing brews that can compliment the season. Graham Haverfield is the beer director for the Wine Library in Springfield Township, New Jersey. He's also a Certified Cicerone, or beer server. He joins us from the studios of Rutgers University in Livingston, New Jersey.
Graham, thanks for being with us.
GRAHAM HAVERFIELD: Thanks so much for having me. It's a thrill to be here.
SIMON: I was a certified busboy, but I didn't work with Cicerones. What's good summer beer?
HAVERFIELD: Good summer beer is a wide range of things. I mean, summer beers are typically lighter in body. They're typically a little lower in alcohol. Beer is soul food friendly. I've picked beers that are good for fare that will be enjoyed during the summer months.
SIMON: Let's get to the brewski, as we say in Illinois.
HAVERFIELD: All right.
SIMON: The first is called Last Chance IPA. Firstly, what's IPA?
HAVERFIELD: Yeah, IPA stands for India pale ale, a style kind of born out of necessity from getting pale ale from Britain to India for the troops. So you make a beer a little more alcoholic and a little hoppier, it'll survive a trip better.
SIMON: All right.
HAVERFIELD: But the American IPA is very different from those old styles. These are very light, bright, bitter beers that really accentuate American hops which are piney and resinous and citrus-y.
SIMON: OK. Here's mud in your eye.
SIMON: Wow. Oh. Oh, that's strong. Piney. You're right.
HAVERFIELD: It's piney and resinous. Need a little of, like, grapefruit rind even, maybe.
HAVERFIELD: And something that is robust like this, it can stand up to all the flavor of, like, a spicy barbecue or something like that, which is obviously commonplace during summer. So this is a light American IPA.
SIMON: Now, let's see. There is, forgive the expression, a tall blond Belgian on your list.
HAVERFIELD: There is.
SIMON: This is the Brasserie Dupont Posca Rustica.
HAVERFIELD: Yes. This is a very cool beer. This is basically like a history lesson in a bottle. This is beer like it was brewed back when the Romans were in occupation of Belgium. Like I said...
SIMON: Oh. Oh-ho.
HAVERFIELD: Beer in continental Europe back in the time of the Roman Empire was not hopped at all, so the opposite of that first beer we had. They would use this mixture of spices and herbs to add bitterness to the otherwise sweet beer. So this is Brasserie Dupont's interpretation. This is a really special beer. And talk about food friendly. I mean...
SIMON: Oh, this is unlike beer.
SIMON: This is nice.
HAVERFIELD: Yeah. This is beautiful.
SIMON: This is nice. It's not as effervescent or, I guess, hoppy. It's a little smoother. It's got almost a lemony kind of taste.
HAVERFIELD: Yeah, exactly. Lemongrass, even.
HAVERFIELD: It's very rustic, very floral, grassy. It almost - it tastes old. It's just a really cool beer. Something like grilled artichokes or rotisserie chicken, anything served at a big table, this would add a great complement to that, any kind of meal like that.
SIMON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I really like this. Now, finally, I'm looking at something here that I get - it's called Goose Island Sofie?
HAVERFIELD: Yes. Goose Island Brewery from Chicago.
SIMON: They make a Belgian beer? Who are they trying to kid?
HAVERFIELD: They make quite a few Belgian styles of beer.
HAVERFIELD: I think you'll find, like the last one we just tried, this is going to probably not remind you of any beer you've ever had.
SIMON: All right. Let me open this.
HAVERFIELD: So what we have here is a Belgian style saison which is kind of a very, very dry, slightly spicy style of beer. They've then aged it in oak barrels that were previously used to age wine and add a little orange peel.
SIMON: Oh, that is nice. I taste the orange.
HAVERFIELD: Yeah. But it's subtle, you know?
HAVERFIELD: It's just like a hint.
SIMON: But I actually can still taste it. No, that's good.
HAVERFIELD: For me, this really screams seafood. It could even be, like, something super light and clean like sushi or much richer like crab legs or something. But this beer would lend itself nicely to a wide range of food, for sure.
SIMON: Graham, nice talking to you. Thanks very much.
HAVERFIELD: Oh, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Graham Haverfield, beer director for the Wine Library in Springfield Township, New Jersey. And his list will be available on our website, npr.org. You can share your picks there, too. And remember, beer isn't lemonade, so drink responsibly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.