Thursday, January 14, 2010

In search of summer brews...

Beer: Georgian Bay Dipper
Brewery: Hockley Valley (Orangeville, ON), but also under the "Midland Beer Works" name.
Type: adjunct lager
ABV: 5%

Yes, you read the title right. It's the middle of January, and I'm thinking about summer; then again, what Canadian isn't? Fortunately for us, it's been a fairly mild winter in Waterloo -not excessively cold, and maybe two days of difficult shoveling so far. Two months of winter gone and I'm relatively un-pissed about the whole thing....strange. That, and it's unseasonably warm today (i.e., slightly above freezing), conducive to thoughts of nicer weather, patios and steaks on the barbecue.

Beer is truly a seasonal beverage, a fact I really began to appreciate last summer. Some of my absolute favorite brews are ales, porters and stouts, which are "in season" right about now. There's something about colder temperatures and scarves that bring out the ale love; folks generally crave a rich, full, spicy and strong brew to provide warmth and comfort. My brewing habits have changed accordingly; I drink darker brews almost exclusively now. In the summer, however, the hot temperature puts the emphasis on light, crisp and refreshing brews, which leads to increased demand for pale lagers, pilsners, wheat beers and...*shudder*...light beer. Last summer, I decided to stick with my usual ale favorites - lagers be damned! - and found myself to be quite disappointed. On warmer days, sitting outside on my patio, ales (even lighter ones) just didn't taste right. I found myself actually disinterested in my favorite brews and instead migrated to the pilsner end of the spectrum. Normally, I find pilsners and pale lagers to be rather boring, but in the summer heat, they truly hit the spot.

I henceforth decided to devote myself to a seasonal approach to beer drinkery. Like the no-white after Labour Day rule (I'm still not sure what that's all about), I'm going to keep my fridge stocked with lighter fare in the summer, with only a few exceptions for cooler days and evenings, and embrace the Dark Side in the cooler months. Not as an absolute rule, mind you, but as a general principle. In order to do that, I need to decide which brews to keep on hand in the summer, because on hot days, sometimes I just want a damned beer. No lambics, no trappist ales, no tulip glasses - just an honest beer, drank straight from the bottle, or even from the can.
Therefore, I begin my quest to find pale lagers and pilsners I actually like to prepare for sunny days ahead. After all, I can't drink only Steam Whistle all summer. Variety is the spice of something or other.

I picked up this first entry because of the name. My family cottage is on Georgian Bay, and the Dipper part refers to skinny-dipping. Intrigued, I am. Also, the beer is produced by Hockley, which makes a tremendous dark ale (but a surprisingly dull stout). Might as well go for local.

Pours a surprisingly dark amber, with a thin layer of head, that didn't last too long (not much longer than it took to find the camera, actually). Still, it's a lager, and it's too be expected.

The nose wasn't offensive at all (high praise, I know...). Light malts, a bit of hops, caramel and a slight hint of apples and grape. Better than skunk and urine (read: Molson).

The taste is also inoffensive, and for an adjunct lager, it's surprisingly drinkable (adjunct lager = fizzy, bland lagers for the masses - Pabst, Bud, Schlitz, Blue and Canadian are all considered 'adjuncts'. It's a bit derogatory, but it's honest). Other than a bit of tinniness to the finish, I get most of the flavours I detected in the nose. It's perhaps a bit too sweet for my taste, but otherwise it's certainly a decent brew.

Mouthfeel is thin, with average carbonation. Feels like a typical beer.

Not a bad little brew. It's hard switching abruptly from a steady diet of porters and stouts to a light, sweet lager, but it's going down fairly well. I'll probably want something a bit more bitter and hoppy in the summer, but this one isn't bad to keep on hand. I'll certainly try it again on the patio - everything tastes at least 20% better when you're sitting in the sun and within 15 feet of a barbecue. Except dark beers, of course. (Grade: B-)

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