September 16, 2010

The Season for Beer

You say it's January and I'm dressed for summer?
I frequently find myself drinking beer styles out of season. Oh, the scandal. Perhaps we homebrewers prefer to break with preconceived notions.

Many styles of beer have a seasonal connotation: pumpkin beer in the fall, light hoppy beers and saisons in the summer, dark and heavy beers during the winter. Whether it be due to procrastination, or the restrictions of ambient temperatures, I frequently find myself drinking beers out of season. In fact, I think I almost prefer it. Sure, during winter I enjoy a good barley wine or an imperial stout on occasion, but more often, when it's dark for 16 hours a day and below zero, a nice, hoppy IPA really helps lighten things up. Likewise in summer, a low-gravity, jet-black stout might seem out of place, but it's probably my preferred summer quencher.

There are also practical considerations. Some of us are lazy and brew our Oktoberfests in October, or more frequently in my case, brew saisons at the peak of the summer heat. Since I don't use a temperature controller or electric refrigeration (ice packs all all the way, baby!) it's almost a yearly tradition to wait until August to brew a saison when those stubborn saison yeasts can be happy and attenuative at 80 degrees. And it's not until December that I'm usually thinking about brewing something like an imperial stout. The vigorous fermentation from those high gravity beers can easily generate excessive heat during summer when temperatures are already high. That being the case, I usually pop my first bottle of "summer" saison in September, and that winter-brewed imperial stout is ready for tasting in June.

I do enjoy planning ahead and brewing my Christmas beers in the summer, and brewing IPAs and Hefeweizens in the winter, but that's not always possible. Plus, variety is one of the biggest reasons to homebrew in my mind, so having commercial saisons in the summer when they're available is just fine. I'll drink mine in the fall and winter while the commercial brewers are releasing their winter ales and imperial warmers etc. If you're going to brew your own beer, why not make your own calender too?


  1. Agreed! While I always love me a hop bomb anytime of year, I drank a lot of stout and porter this summer. Very refreshing to me.


  2. hefweizen is my favorite beer, so you can bet i'll make it in the winter too.

  3. I really miss the drink now, brew now, and store now section that used to be on the back of Northern Brewer Catalogs. I saved a few but I'm still missing many months.

  4. Glad to hear I'm not the only renegade out there. When I first started enjoying beer, I couldn't really stand hops. I remember being assured by the barkeeps @ my favorite brewery that I was allowed to drink my favorite porters and schwarzbiers in July if I wanted. I still prefer IPA's in fall, with the sturdier foods that seem to be in season then. And my climate limitations mean that I brew my saisons mid-summer and start my Oktoberfests in, well, October too.

  5. I agree totally, with one addition: if you brew a truly unreasonable amount of beer, you have plenty of leftovers that come into season about 6 months down the line. Doesn't work great for IPAs, but most stouts 'n brown ales are none worse for the wear after a few months, and the higher gravity stuff is probably better.