This Month in Beer is an ongoing series of articles on AskMen where Greg Zeschuk discusses some of the more interesting releases in the world of beer. Dozens of beers are released every month, and his goal is to pick out a small sample of exceptional beers to share with you.
If you follow this column regularly on AskMen, you'll have seen that I've been dancing around the concept of warmer weather and spring beers for the last couple months. I'm from Canada, and even though it is technically spring here, we just endured snow in May, so you can appreciate that I'm a little gun-shy about declaring official patio season. Now, however, I'm confident that dark, cold weather is behind us and I can truly roll out the warm-weather beers.
One of my favorite warm-weather beers is called a Wit. It originated in Belgium and was resurrected by a famed brewer named Pierre Celis when he started making Wits again in the mid-1960s in Hoegaarden. Funnily enough, neither of the Wits I'm featuring this month are technically Belgian, but both are inspired by their Belgian beer predecessors.
The first Wit on the menu today is from Hitachino Nest of Japan -- their White Ale. Witbiers are traditionally made with a healthy dose of wheat (versus just barley) but also have some type of orange (usually curaçao orange peel) and coriander added. The White Ale includes orange juice and the requisite coriander, but also nutmeg, and it's this unorthodox addition of nutmeg that really adds an interesting dimension for the drinker. On first sniff, the nutmeg makes a big appearance, but is nicely backed by the grainy wheat. The orange is evident in the flavor, as is the delightful intermingling of nutmeg and coriander through the finish. Another desired component of good, thirst-quenching wheat beers is a slight tartness, and happily it's present in the Hitachino Nest White Ale. This is a spicy, complex patio beer, but it's also great with sushi!
Next up is a Wit from the Danish brewing wizards at Mikkeller. They've made an appearance in this column before due to their incredibly creative and unique beers. True to form, the Not Just Another Wit is actually an Imperial Wit, meaning it's a stronger, bolder incarnation than the standard Witbier. It clocks in at 7.6% ABV, so it definitely deserves some respect on the patio. If you get a chance to try this beer, the perfumy, floral nose that completely dominates the aroma will blow you away. It's easily one of the boldest beers I've tried in a long time. Somehow, even with the huge floral aroma, this beer is dominated by a sweet orange character that totally permeates but doesn't quite overpower the flavor. It's got the desired tart wheat finish to completely round out the experience and add just enough of a thirst-quenching quality for the patio.
Shifting gears to another European-based style, the next beer up is a Kölsch, a hybrid beer traditionally brewed in Cologne, Germany. The one I'm presenting today, Früh, is 100 percent authentic, as to be truly called a Kölsch, it can only be brewed in Cologne. There are many beers called Kölsch from elsewhere, but they aren't quite the same. As a hybrid beer, it has qualities of both an ale and a lager. It's got the light fruitiness and gentle citric character of ale, but since it undergoes cold fermentation (lagering), it has the crystal-clear, clean and dry finish of a lager. Früh is one of the classic Cologne-based beers that is exported around the world, but if you really want the ultimate Kölsch experience, you want to try it on tap in Germany.
Finally, I'm sharing an example of one of the hottest trends you'll see in craft beer this spring, the Session Ale. A Session Ale is a beer specifically brewed to have full flavor but lower alcohol content, to allow for multiple beers to be enjoyed in a single session. You're likely to see a bunch of others next month, but this month I'm featuring the Red Racer ISA (India Session Ale) from one of Canada's hottest brewers, Central City of British Columbia. I hate to make the comparison, but the Red Racer ISA is like a light IPA: It's got 4 percent ABV, a huge dank/citrus/tropical hops nose, resolute bitterness, but a lighter-than-expected body. Your light beer-drinking friends will be knocked right out of their chair if they try this beer (hopefully in a good way) due to its bold flavor, and your craft beer pals will be amazed they can put so much flavor in a beer with only 4 percent ABV. Watch for other Session beers in all shapes and sizes in the coming months.