Anderson Valley Summer Solstice

April 10, 2012

I realize I’m getting ahead of myself by over 2 months here, but sometimes a beer is just too good to wait around for a timely tie-in by a know-it-all columnist.  When ale is being produced so nicely, being consumed so quickly, one can’t sit around on ceremony; it’ll be gone before you know it.  Spring has very recently sprung, but today we’re going to focus on the Summer Solstice.

The distributor that carries Anderson Valley’s summer-time cream ale usually runs out of their allocated supply well before June 20th.  Rather than wait for a more apropos moment to review this beer, we’ve gotta strike while the iron – or, in this case – thermometer is still hot.  Luckily the spring temperatures here along the Gulf Coast are already as steamy as most folks’ summers elsewhere.  This means we are privy to enjoying seasonal ale long before the rest of the country finds that perfect match of beverage and weather.

Cream ale is top-fermented, as it should be, and then, usually, lagered cold to smooth out the flavors and textures.  Hop presence is at a minimum leaving behind a creamy malt profile.  Not many American craft brewers attempt cream ale much like Germans being better known for their lagers/pilsners and not kolsch beer; a neat parallel as cream ale is produced much like German kolsch.

The light, creamy qualities and sweet, faintly citrusy flavors of cream ale make for a refreshing drink on a hot day.  As the bitterness and alcohol contents are usually quite low in this style, a lot may be enjoyed while lounging on a beach or working on your azaleas.  If your only experience with cream ale is Wexford or Genessee, boy, does Anderson Valley have something special for you.

What we have here is orange with reddish highlights all throughout and sporting an off-white to tan head with loads of carbonation bubbling everywhere.  Solstice’s lack of complexity, to me, only adds to its ability to be enjoyed.  Everything about it is clean, light and totally discernable.  Scents of sweet malt, almond nougat and vanilla prevail with a touch of honey.  There’re wonderful flavors of apricot, shortbread and vanilla cream soda dancing all across the palate.  The crisp mouthfeel of the beer prevents all of these sweet sensations from being sickly and cloying.

Summer will be here before you can say “heatstroke.”  Act fast; Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice Ale will be gone well before that.