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Summer Brews

Summertime, when the livin' is easy and the beer is icy cold. With Memorial Day weekend behind us, the unofficial start of the summer season is here. The grass is growing, the lawn needs mowing and after working up a sweat chopping down weeds, nothing satisfies like a crisp, clean brew-one that goes down smooth and easy. Here are a few favorites designed for summer quaffing-responsible quaffing, that is.

Montana's Big Sky Brewing flavors their Summer Honey Seasonal Ale with a touch of honey and spice, and both really come through on the wheat-laced nose. This is a very smooth and creamy brew that's lightly herbaceous with just a kiss of soft hops on the finish.

Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, kicks it up a notch in their 2005 version of Summerfest. A true lager with clean, crisp aromas highlighted by citrus and orange blossom. The malt flavors are fairly subdued with just a hint of spice and a nice citrus backbone. More hops than the Summer Honey, especially on the finish, but still on the lighter side.

The Twilight Ale from Oregon's Deschutes Brewery amps things up considerably with richly hopped aromas backed by citrus, wheat and clover. Opens with sweet malt, deftly followed by an aggressive hop attack, again, most apparent on the finish. Bigger in style, but not too big for summer, this is a beautifully brewed ale that goes down easily. To my taste, it strikes the perfect balance between malt and hops.

Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California, calls their summer entry #10 Ale. It should have been #11 (that's one more than 10, isn't it?), because this brew definitely has more going on than most summer beers. Deceptively smooth aromas, lightly spiced with a soft grass quality, the flavors open up with rich and fruity malt. But that gives way to a very aggressive hop profile that finishes bright and bitter making for a slightly schizoid brew-but it grows on you. Definitely the most complex entry, it comes in a 22-ounce bottle priced around $3.50. All the rest are traditional six-packs priced somewhere between $6.50 and $7.

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