Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Finding the right beer for the season

April 2, 2014
Beer

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

So far in past articles, I have been highlighting commercial beers I thought were worthy of attention. These have been based somewhat on randomness, but did you know beer styles are relative to the seasons and holidays?

In the days before controlled refrigeration, brewing schedules were determined regarding seasonal temperature of said region and ingredients available during those seasonal temperatures.

In conjunction with that, early brewers also based their brewing schedules according to dark, strong beer being consumed during the cold months, and lighter, less alcohol beers were quaffed during the warmer months.

The American craft beer industry has tried to mimic this type of scheduling, along with featuring styles during a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day.

With modern refrigeration and brewing practices, any style can be created at any time. If there is a particular ale or lager you really like, it is more than likely to be available year round, unless the brewery designates it as a seasonal beer — then, you have a small window of opportunity to enjoy it. If the latter is the case, I just look forward to that time of year … absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

However, home brewers have the advantage of brewing what they want when they want, which along with creative freedom, is a very appealing aspect of the hobby.

For most people, they prefer a few styles and stick with those, rarely branching out, which is perfectly acceptable. Hey, drink what makes you happy. As for me, I am a bit of a traditionalist and tend to seek out styles according to the season or holiday. Dark, strong beers in the cold winter months, malty beers in the early months before spring, hoppy IPAs and Pale Ales in the later spring, wheat and light, refreshing beers during the dog days of summer, Marzen and mild ales in the fall.

In March, I always seek out foreign extra and dry stouts, along with my beloved Irish Red for St Patrick’s Day, and a good Mexican beer like Modello (NOT Corona) for Cinco De Mayo. In September, it is all about the Oktoberfests. During the Christmas/New Year’s season, I tend to seek out the holiday beers.

Following is a guide to what type of beer is appropriate for each month:

January/February: Belgian Strong Ales and Trappist, which is also a Belgian style;

February/March: Dry Stout, Porter, Red Ale, Lambics and Dopplebocks;

March/April: Kolsch, Bock, Munich Helles, Dunkles and Pale Ales;

April/May: Pilsners, Dunkleweisen and Lambics;

May/June: Biere De Garde/Saisons and Maibock;

June/July: India Pale Ale, Fruit Beers, Lagers and Pale Ales;

July/August: Belgian White, Weizen, Weisse and Berliner Weiss;

September/October: Marzen and Oktoberfest (of course!), Old Ale, and Mild Ale;

October/November: English Brown Ale, California Common and Scottish Ale; and

November/December: Imperial Stout, Barley Wine, Altbier and Extra Special Bitter.

For a complete description of the above styles, go to http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/publications/beer-style-guidelines and download the pdf file.

Prost!

Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to http://forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at rockfordcraftbeer@comcast.net.

From the April 2-8, 2014 issue

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