I don’t like summer beers. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I live in Alabama…a state that engulfs its denizens for roughly 8 months a year in heat so ungodly that their bodies just beg for the crisp, refreshing brews that ale factories pump out in the sweltering summer months. But I was born and raised a New England boy…where the harsh, ass-kicking winters forced me to cut my teeth on dark, hearty brews. Because of my background, even in the dog days of summer I’m still partial to BDSAs, stouts, and porters. And if I need something refreshing, I’ll turn to IPAs, Flemish sours, lambics, browns, or American pale ales well before I’ll grab a summer seasonal.
There are other reasons I steer clear of summer beer. Partly it’s out of loyalty. Summer beers are traditionally wheat beers…and my name is Barley. As Marlowe once poignantly stated…”My name is my name!”*
*Granted, it’s not actually my name.
The other issue is that summer beers, even the very best, tend to have the crisp, clean, grassy profile of lagers (as wheat beers often do). As an Alehead, I have nothing but respect for a well-crafted lager…it’s just not my style. The same is true for summer brews. I can appreciate them…hell, I can even enjoy them on occasion…but for the most part, they tend to leave me cold.*
*Truth be told, any beer that allows for a “Do I add a lemon or not?” debate is probably not going to win over this Alehead’s heart.
I should point out that I make sweeping statements in these posts all the time. That’s the beauty of a blog…you can write whatever you want…making outrageous, unresearched claims…and there really aren’t any repercussions. To say I don’t “like” summer beers is pretty rash. I would still drink a good summer brew over wine or pretty much any cocktail (except for a glass of small-batch bourbon or single-malt Scotch…the official booze preferences of Aleheads). I’m just trying to get my prejudices out on the table. If I talk smack about one of your favorite summer offerings, it’s nothing personal. And by “nothing personal”, I mean, of course, that it’s entirely personal. It’s hard for me to rate beers properly when I don’t particularly like the style they represent. So I apologize…now, and for all future tasting notes on summer beers…if you disagree with my opinion. If you love the beers of summer…then keep on keepin’ on. Don’t let this humble Alehead’s misguided scribblings deter you. As I’ve said in my ramblings before…if you believe a beer is good, then it’s a good beer.*
*Except for the Beast, of course.
Bell’s Oberon is a classic summer offering. Named for Shakespeare’s King of the Fairies, you could certainly see a foursome of the mischievous Puck, the steadfast Mr. Tumnus, the resolute Frodo, and the batshit insane Gentleman with Thistledown Hair sipping this sparkling, golden ale together out of a bladder made of Orc-skin (Note: I sometimes get my fantasy worlds mixed up). I have heard a number of folks proclaim the Oberon as one of their favorite summer brews. It’s an excellent example of the style and it gives you everything you would want from a summer seasonal. I’ll do my best to be objective about the brew, but as I tried to make abundantly clear in the intro…you’ll have to take my tasting note with a grain of salt. I’ll admit I didn’t really like the beer…but it had enough charm that I can see why it’s so popular. And if a summer beer can turn my head a little…well, that’s probably about all I can ask.
The Oberon’s label claims the brew looks and smells like a summer day. They’ve certainly got the look right. The brew pours with the hazy, golden color of a shimmering summer morning. It looks like the sun rising over the tarmac at Miramar before Goose, Doc Holliday, the guy from Roxanne, and that crazy Scientologist got together for their creepy game of volleyball.*
*Similar to how I feel about summer beers, I go against popular opinion in regards to the movie Top Gun. I fucking HATE Top Gun. Passionately. It fucking sucks. You can’t convince me otherwise.
The Oberon has a magnificent head…pure white, two-fingers thick, and long-lasting (insert your own penis joke here). The lacing is sporadic, but noticeable. The Oberon’s nose is a big burst of pale wheat malt, with a touch of fruit and citrus, and a definite hint of yeast. The taste is very refreshing…the initial flavor almost has a Belgian-esque spice, but that quickly gets supplanted by the sweetness of the wheat and a touch of bitterness from hops. The finish is yeast and biscuits…”lager” clean, dry and smooth. The Oberon boasts an excellent mouthfeel (the hallmark of wheat beers). Soft, fizzy, fluffy…light enough to refresh, but substantial enough to satisfy. The mouthfeel is definitely the highlight of the brew.
Of course, if the mouthfeel is the highlight of a beer, it probably wasn’t my favorite. Try as I might, I just can’t get into this one. I fully recognize that this is a quality beer from a consistently excellent brewery. But summer beers are summer beers…and as I said earlier, they just don’t do it for me. I would say that drinkability is very high for those of you into this style…and for the rest of us…whatever. However, since I promised objectivity, I’ll try to rate the brew based strictly within its style. Stripped of my prejudices towards summer seasonals, I think this is a solid 3 Hops beer. Nothing spectacular…nothing flashy…but it represents its style well and it does what a summer beer is supposed to do…it refreshes you, but still leaves you wanting more…
…unless you’re me, of course…in which case I’ll have a bottle of that Imperial Stout you just cracked open. Mmm.