Summertime is time for beer enthusiasts. From the Front Range and across the mountains, beer festivals abound, offering opportunities for good food, live music and, of course, delicious craft beers from within the state’s borders and beyond.
Unlike in older days, the “rules” for which beers to drink at which time of year are no longer followed so strictly. That means you’ll see stouts and porters nuzzling up to pilsners and hefeweizens in most beer booths this summer. There’s nothing wrong with this anymore — it’s the 21st century, and creative, custom craft beer is at its zenith in Colorado.
Beer drinking revolution aside, there’s something to be said for tradition, so with the 17th annual Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival in mind, we’re going to delve deeper into the “traditional” summer beer — the light, refreshing wheat beer.
Sunshine in a glass
Wheat beers shout “summer” in their appearance alone, opaquely golden in color, not to mention in flavor, although the “wheatiness” of each wheat beer varies from brand to brand.
There are also a number of styles of wheat beer. While in America we often call it “wheat beer,” it is also known as “weissbier,” (German for “white beer,” a reference to its color). The term “hefeweizen” means “yeast-wheat,” referring to the beer in its unfiltered form, which appears cloudy in the glass. You may also have heard of “witbier,” a term used for Belgian wheat beer.
However it’s called, wheat beer is considered one of the oldest beer styles and is generally considered perfect for drinking in warm weather, due to its light, crisp and refreshing taste.
Jimmy Walker, brewmaster at Breckenridge Brewery, emphasized this as he discussed what makes wheat beer best for this time of year.
“The wheat is a great summer beer because it’s not as high alcohol as a lot of other craft beers. A lot of craft beers can be upwards of over 5, 6, 7, up to 12 or 13 percent (alcohol by volume). Those don’t make good summer beers,” he said. “Also, beers that are really over the top hoppy and malty — that’s what gives it that heavy feeling — (aren’t good for summer). Beers that are lighter tend to be (better).”
Walker used Breckenridge Brewery’s Agave Wheat for an example, which will be among the beers served at the Bluegrass and Beer Festival in Keystone this weekend.
“It’s not bitter; it’s not hoppy. It’s not high in alcohol. It’s refreshing,” he said.
If you’re looking for a good conversation starter over your hefeweizen, turn to the person next to you and ask if they take lemon with their wheat. This is a topic that has many beer lovers divided and there seems to be little leeway on the subject — you’re either for or against.
While the pro-lemon side claims that the lemon adds to the flavor, members of the opposing side wince at the thought, pointing out that acidity from the lemon wedge cuts down the beer’s nice, frothy head and actually hides other, more subtle flavors in the beer.
Whether or not you choose to garnish your beer, the Keystone event is bound to be full of delicious tastes, from the craft beer to food served by Keystone’s quality restaurants. Live music from a number of talented musicians and popular bands, including live bluegrass acts Hot Rize, Hackensaw Boys and Sierra Hull, will entertain throughout the weekend. We’re already tapping our foot in anticipation.