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Beachy Beers

Craft can beers really hit the spot when heading to the beach. STORY and photo by Jeff Stites So you want to head to the beach but that “No Glass” sign is making you think you’ll be sentenced to an afternoon drinking Natural Light? Never fear, beach beer doesn’t have to be lousy anymore! Craft brewers are discovering that cans are not only more cost efficient than bottles, they preserve a beer’s brewery- fresh flavor much better and longer than glass.

Beer’s enemies are time, sunlight and heat (and sometimes Southern Baptists). Any beer allowed to get too hot for too long will begin to taste “skunky.” All beers also change flavor over time, though in some varieties this is a good thing. But no beer can stand up to sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, and though brown glass does a decent job of keeping out the sun, it’s entirely dark and beer-friendly inside of a can. Today’s cans are aluminum, making them easily recycled, and they are coated to prevent any metallic taste from entering the beer. Canned beer is all the rage now, and for us here at the beach, this is a great thing. Here are a few of my favorite beach- friendly brews, and a couple new ones I tried just for you. Rail Walk Caramel Coconut Cream Ale 6% ABV 15 IBU The Label Says: A light creamy body with sweet caramel coconut taste and a delicate, tropical aroma. My Take: I have a soft spot for cream ales, and, come to think of it, for coconuts, so I’m pretty pleased with this beer. The label claims a “tropical aroma” and if suntan lotion and beer screams “tropical!” to you, this fits the bill. I will say it definitely smells beachy. And it tastes beachy, too, if that makes sense. It’s very coconutty, but also quite beer-y. I don’t think a regular beer would have worked with this quite as well as the cream ale does. The extra body makes it sort of, if you use your imagination a lot, kind of pina colada-ish. It has more density than your average beer, and even if I’m sitting in the hot sun, I think that works quite well for me. And this is brewed in Salisbury, so hooray for local beer! Funky Buddha Pineapple Beach 5% ABV 20 IBU The Label Says: Blonde Ale with pineapple added My Take: This one is just as pineapple-y as the last one was coconutty, but it doesn’t work quite as well. It isn’t bad at all, but I think it could be better if the pineapple were paired with a stronger beer. This one is not quite fruity enough to be a shandy, but too fruity not to be, if you get my meaning. It is very refreshing, though, so maybe sitting on the beach in the middle of July, this would hit the spot. I’m going to try that and find out. Dos Equis Lager Especial 4.2% ABV 10 IBU My Take: This is about the most traditional beach beer I’ll be looking at this month. It’s just a simple, but delicious, lager beer. Don’t get it confused with its better advertised fellow Mexican brew, Corona. This one is much, much, much better. Dos Equis (Spanish for Two X) may have a hard to pronounce Spanish name and the brewery may be named after none other than Montezuma himself, but this is really a German beer. The fellow who started the brewery in 1897 had just emigrated from Bavaria to Mexico and since beer was what he knew, beer was what he did. And he did it well, keeping it fresh and light, but with just enough hops and malt notes to let you know you’re drinking a beer. For the beach, that’s a pretty sure-fire recipe for success. Oskar Blues Brewery Dales Pale Ale 6.5% ABV 65 IBU The Label Says: A Huge Voluminously Hopped Mutha of a Pale Ale, The Original Craft Beer In A Can My Take: First of all, props to the Oskar Blues people for using the word “voluminously” on a can of beer. Oskar Blues began canning beer at their microbrewery in Colorado in 2002 and expanded with a second brewery in Brevard, NC in 2012, so here’s another local brew! Dale’s Pale Ale is very hoppy, but not so bitter as to make it barely drinkable. In fact, it’s quite a refresher. The hops varieties used are more of the piney variety, so it has a bit of a West Coast feel to it, which is cool because we can get it from right around the corner (basically) and have very fresh, West Coast IPAish beer. On the East Coast. On the beach. Hooray us! Blue Moon Belgian White 5.4% ABV 9 IBU My Take: Blue Moon gets a bad rap, I think, from craft beer fans. They find out it’s made by Coors Brewing and so it isn’t truly a “craft beer,” they say. But I submit that if you poured Blue Moon into a bottle with a funky label and claimed it was from some town no one had ever heard of, those same craft beer fans would applaud it. Blue Moon is simply a very good beer. There is no rule or law of brewing that says the more of a recipe you make, the worse it tastes. This beer hits the right balance of malt and citrus flavors. It keeps it light while also delivering robust flavors. And it’s one of the best beers to drink on a hot summer day. Period. Plus, they’ve perfected the can by making it a pint and giving it a screw top. Cigar City Jai Alai India Pale Ale 7.5% ABV 70 IBU The Label Says: The merry game of jai alai provides inspiration for this citrus-forward India Pale Ale with notes of clementine, orange peel and caramel malt creating an IPA that’s both bold and approachable. My Take: I saved my favorite for last. The Cigar City folks are based in Tampa, but brew beer for distribution in our area at the Oskar Blues brewery in Brevard, so again, hooray local beer! Jai Alai is every bit as hoppy as Dales, but these hops impart an entirely different flavor. Instead of the piney notes of Dales, Jai Alai’s hops are very citrusy. There is no actual fruit in here, no pineapple or orange at all, but the hops make you think there may be. It goes down smooth and leaves you refreshed and, with 7.5% alcohol by volume, happy. This is by far my favorite beach beer, and as long as you can walk home or have someone else drive you (because it’ll sneak up on you), I highly recommend you give it a try.

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