published Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

The Beers of Summer: Brews you can use

Summer Wheat beer from Big River Grille will be on tap soon.
Summer Wheat beer from Big River Grille will be on tap soon.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

The hotter summer gets, the more tantalizing the words “ice cold beer” become.

“In the summer people get thirsty for what we call a ‘lawnmower beer,’” says brewer Chris Hunt from Moccasin Bend Brewing Co. “It’s hot, it’s muggy, and folks are tired out from mowing their lawn or doing something like that. They don’t necessarily want something to challenge them; they want something that is going to quench their thirst.”

Creating a light, refreshing beer that doesn’t taste diluted can be a tricky task, Hunt says. Luckily for Chattanoogans, there are plenty of hometown brews crafted to help beat the heat and enlighten the taste buds along the way.

Here’s a roundup of locally brewed seasonal beers to serve as a guide for anyone from the connoisseur to the Coors chugger. And remember to drink plenty of water as you sip your brew in the heat because alcohol dehydrates the body.

Summer Wheat

  • Brewery: Big River Grille, 222 Broad St.
  • Style: Hefeweizen.
  • Alcohol content: About 5 percent.
  • Description: This golden, cloudy unfiltered beer has hints of banana, clove and bubblegum, depending on your taste buds. The brew gets sweeter toward the bottom where the yeast settles. That yeast causes the beer to be effervescent, “which basically means you’re going to burp a lot,” bartender Josh Pierce said. Pierce prefers the wheat beer without an orange slice, but the garnish does give the mild brew a sweeter flavor. The lightness of the beer makes it a perfect thirst quencher after a big meal.

VerbEnium in the Cranium

  • Brewery: Moccasin Bend Brewing Co., 4015 Tennessee Ave.
  • Style: American wheat.
  • Alcohol content: About 4.3 percent.
  • Description: A trip to Crabtree Farms inspired brewer Chris Hunt to concoct this fresh, full-bodied beer. He was dropping off spent grain to be composted when he sniffed some of the farm’s lemon verbena, an aromatic herb reminiscent of the yellow citrus fruit. “I just knew I needed to figure out how to get that into a beer,” said Hunt.

The stems and leaves of the herb are carefully wrapped in muslin and steeped as a tea before being infused in a base American wheat beer during the brewing process. The result? A light, clean but impressively dimensional flavor with all the piquancy of summertime. It’s not very hoppy, and not too citrusy, but its subtle notes of lemon and fresh-cut herb put a new spin on the traditional American wheat.

Hill City Gold

  • Brewery: Chattanooga Brewing Co., 109 Frazier Ave.
  • Style: Golden ale.
  • Alcohol content: 6.1 percent.
  • Description: This golden ale — to be debuted in a few weeks — is less hoppy than an India Pale Ale but still boasts a sharp, ringing aftertaste. Its malts make it reminiscent of a German beer and more bitter and complex than the traditional summer beer. “This is a beer you’d probably like at dinner, maybe not after a hot day’s work,” says brewer Mark Marcum. For a lighter, more thirst-quenching brew, CBC is still brewing its spring wheat beer, the Kölsch.

Weiss *’ Shine

  • Brewery: The Terminal Brewhouse, 6 14th St.
  • Style: Hefeweizen.
  • Alcohol content: 5.8 percent.
  • Description: This beer, billed as smooth and rousing with hop bitterness, is a little low on flavor. It’s a nice, easy beer to take down, especially for less-adventurous beer drinkers still looking for a brew that tastes good to them. Still, fans of flavorful hefeweizens may want to skip this one.
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