Now that we are deep into April, the summer beers offered by craft breweries are out in full force. On top of the Sunrise Weiss I had a few weeks ago, I’ve already had a chance to have this year’s versions of Shipyard, Sam Adams, Gritty’s and Sebago‘s summer brews. Tonight, I had the distinct pleasure of my first pint of Geary’s Summer Ale.
D.L. Geary Brewing Company is probably one of the main reasons we have so many great craft breweries here in Maine. The brewery opened in 1986, back when there were only about a dozen microbreweries in the US. Both D.L. and the brewery have been pioneering forces in the American brewing world, and paved the way (and prepared the tastebuds of Mainers) for the score of craft brewers in the state today. For a great look at all Geary has done for the world of beer, I suggest reading the interview with D.L. in Brian Yaeger’s excellent Red, White and Brew.
Geary’s Summer Ale is a favorite of mine for a few reasons. For one, the beer is brewed in the style of a kölsch, rather than wheat or blonde like the majority of summers. Living in Alaska soon after I turned 21, Alaskan Brewing‘s Summer Ale is the first summer seasonal I fell in love with, and – surprise, surprise – is also a kölsch. Since then I’ve had a real affection for the style.
Another cool thing about each release of Geary’s Summer Ale is the artwork on the labels. Every year, D.L. Geary Brewing Company partners with the Maine College of Art, allowing undergraduates to submit label designs. The winning design is used on that year’s Summer Ale, and the brewery awards a scholarship to the winning artist. This is not only a great way for Geary’s to reach out to their community, but ensures quirky new labels for each iteration of the beer.
Of course, none of this would matter if the beer wasn’t any good. For my review, I had a pint of the brew on tap at the Great Lost Bear in Portland for at the relaxing price of $2.50.
The pour for the brew is clear and practically glowing gold, without a touch of haze. The head is a beautiful eggshell white, about a finger thick and with a surprisingly long life. Carbonation looks pretty ferocious as well. The nose isn’t a bold punch like some beers, but more of a pleasant and unassertive aroma. Bready malt and a bit of buttery diacetyl are at the fore (think buttered biscuits), with some spicy and fruity hop hints following behind.
Flavor is sweet biscuit malt and tangy hops. The taste is really rich and full – much more than the nose lets on. As you’ve probably noticed in my reviews, balance is key – and Geary’s Summer Ale nails it. The malts are sweet and bready, but not cloyingly sweet. The Saaz and other hops are spicy, but not overbearing. The finish is bitter, but not face-puckeringly so. Likewise, the mouthfeel is full-bodied, but light enough to work as a quaffable summer ale. The beer may not be a perfect kölsch in a style sense, but is a nice American interpretation of a traditional beer.
Over two decades later, Geary’s is still brewing great beer. If you’re looking for a good local summer ale and don’t want a weiss, weizen or APA, you’re in luck – D.L. has you covered.