Last week’s solstice marked the start of long, sunny days and cool, clear nights in the High Country. The snow has fled from all but the highest peaks, signifying that it’s time to put away the dark, rich beers of wintertime and brush off the bright, light recipes of summer. For casual, patio-sipping brews, look no further than the four breweries perched at our doorsteps, and check Powder Keg next week for some sunshine-inspired recipes and pairings to make the most of the season.
The beer: Imperial Saison
Located high atop the corner of Highway 9 and Main Street in Frisco, Backcountry has big bar windows that overlook the reservoir and a wrap-around deck with views of Mount Royal. Enhance your dining experience with an effervescent Imperial Saison.
“It’s like a traditional saison, but stronger,” said Alan Simons, head brewer at Backcountry. “It has a lemon-citrus flavor, with a peppery finish.”
The beer pours a golden, slightly amber hue, with a dry, slightly sweet-tart edge. But be warned: Due to this beer’s imperial style, it’s heavy on the alcohol, weighing in at a hefty 9.5 percent alcohol by volume.
“The alcohol in there has a warming effect,” Simons said. “It’s refreshing and light, but it will catch you off guard.”
The beer: SummerBright Ale
Breckenridge Brewery created SummerBright for enjoying poolside. This golden ale is made with two row pale, white wheat, Carapils and Munich malts and Fuggle, Cascade and Willamette hops, imparting a sessionable, smooth flavor.
This beer is low on the alcohol scale at 4.5 percent ABV, and at only 14 International Bittering Units, it won’t shrivel up your tongue if you have a bottle or three.
Jimmy Walker, the company’s head brewer in Breckenridge, recommended the SummerBright, as he said it appeals to a wide range of beer lovers. The beer is now being poured at the brewpub and is also sold in bottles. Pick up a six-pack and pair it with beer-steamed mussels or Rocky Mountain trout.
Dillon Dam Brewery
The beer: Dam Hefeweizen
Dillon Dam Brewery’s hefeweizen is brewed with a special German yeast strain, Weihenstephan, which gives it its yeast-forward flavor profile.
“We only filter about 10 percent for a cloudy, creamier body,” said Cory Forster, head brewer. “It’s fermented warm and has notes of banana and citrus and spicy cloves from the yeast.”
German hops add a grassy nose, and red and white wheat malts contribute a touch of sweetness to the brew.
This hefeweizen has been perfected by Dillon Dam brewers, who have been making it every summer for the past 10 years, Forster said, and it’s only available on tap and by the keg and party pig.
Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co.
The beer: Crispi’s Cream Ale
Pug Ryan’s cream ale is a hybrid of an ale and a lager, said Ed Canty, assistant brewer at Pug Ryan’s.
“It uses ale yeast and lager yeast,” he said. “It ferments at an ale temperature, about 65 degrees. It’s a light-bodied, very low hopped, smooth ale that’s blonde in color.”
The cream ale comes in at 4.9 ABV and 14 IBUs, and Pug Ryan’s brews it every summer for the opening of the Tiki Bar at the Dillon Marina. The beer is light, not heavy like a stout that you would drink in the winter when it’s really cold, Canty said.
“It’s a very smooth, very easy-drinking beer, not overly bitter like pale ales, and has a very crisp, clean finish to it,” he said. “It’s a lawnmower beer; you’re out there and you finish mowing the lawn and you want to drink a nice, cold, not hoppy beer. … It’s low in alcohol, so you can have a few of them before you get a buzz going.
“Our brewmaster, Dave Simmons, created one hell of a great recipe on that one, and it’s a favorite among a lot of the locals.”