"Spring is in the air"
...is what I might say if I lived below the 44th parallel. Since I don't, it is still very much winter as I write this on the 15th of March. As such, the weekend excursion to the Muddy Pig was a hair-raising ordeal across 6 blocks of completely ice-coated sidewalks. The wind is still blowing, wearing multiple layers is required, and snow banks are still waist-high. Once there, I was rewarded, though. Summit's new releases put me in a snow-melt state of mind. The Maibock is out a couple months early, as usual. Their seasonals always seem to come out a bit before you might expect, but I don't mind at all. It's become a tradition of wishful thinking. Early-summer beers in March, Oktoberfest in August, etc. I quite enjoyed the Maibock.
Gold Sovereign. The beer is apparently based on a Victorian-era recipe. Damian McConn, the brewer behind Sovereign Gold was on hand most of the night to talk about his beer and he described some of the trouble in getting the top-cropping strain of British yeast to clear. The beer is unfiltered and does pour a hazey, light, golden color. Gold Sovereign utilizes Boadicea, Sovereign, Pilgrim, and First Gold hops. It really is a showcase for British hops and it doesn't go easy on them. This is a bitter, hop-forward drinking experience for sure. There is a dominating, lemony, grassy punch right at the beginning of the first sip that lingers for a while and eventually fades into a mild saltine-like maltiness at the finish. I expected something malty, sweet, or warming based on the description, but this is a drinking-beer. For a something that's in the 6% abv range, it is extremely quenching and easy to drink. I'm not the only one who thought so, either. Two hours after the tapping, the cask was empty and by Sunday when I stopped in for another drink, the keg was also completely gone. I wondered previously if the beer's obscure origin and style might affect its popularity, but that certainly wasn't the case during the release weekend. It will hopefully be available on tap shortly, and the bottles are set to release the week of March 21.
Organic Westminster Malt
Boadicea, Sovereign, Pilgrim, First Gold hops
Summit's Maibock is much improved over previous years. I have found it disappointing or lackluster in the past. No longer. For 2011, Summit is using a new Moravian Pilsner malt as the base. Their Moravian malt is made from a barley variety originating in the Czech Republic. It's grown in North Dakota (allegedly by some of Summit-owner, Mark Stutrud's family) and is under modified* when malted which is a more traditional method of production. The end result is amazing. Summit has tweaked their Maibock in years past and it tended toward the sweet side in the style of most American Maibocks. This version is sublime. It rises right to the top of my list. If anyone can think of a better American Maibock, well, I'd be interested in trying them side by side. Summit Maibock 2011 is easy-drinking and complex. The holy grail of beer, as far as I'm concerned. Each sip is like a new experience. Soft, smooth malt flavors dance with nuanced hops. Balance is the word of the day. You first sink into gentle, creamy malt like an overstuffed sofa only to be greeted by your good friend hops. "Hello hops!". Further sips reveal spicy, floral, grassy (artichoke leaves?), and a slight piney-ness all accompanied by that classic well-made-lager malt component.Great lagers are sorely missing from the American craft brewing community (and not without reason - they are difficult and more expensive to produce) so this is a welcome improvement in my book. The only shame is that it's a seasonal. I hope Summit brings it back without change next year.
Moravian Pilsner malt, Munich malt
Czech Saaz, Mt Hood hops
*under modification refers to the a lower level of starches and proteins which are converted and readily available after the malting process. Under modified malts hence require additional processing by the brewer but yield a different or better flavor.