Summer Brew Smackdown With Karma Ale, Foret Saison And Schneider Hefe-Weizen

As if it weren't hot enough already, summer officially began Monday. Temperatures are already steadily hitting the upper 90s and triple-digits mark. Delicious as a thick, dark, high-ABV Russian Imperial Stout or barleywine served just shy of room temperature may be in cooler weather, these days a cold, refreshing beer sounds a lot more appealing.

Different as they may be from each other, pilsners, Kölsch-style lagers, witbiers, saisons and hefeweizens are all traditionally thought of as warm-weather brews for their light bodies and crisp, refreshing tastes. Some drinkers (including myself) also turn to hoppier pale ales and IPAs during hot weather.

So, in preparation for the official beginning of summer (because we'd been enjoying such moderate spring weather until then, right?), I headed to Whole Foods on Sunday to pick up a few brews that seemed appropriate for the weather. After the jump, they get the business end of the Hophead Beer Ranking Scheme.

Avery Karma Ale
Appearance: Clear amber-gold with an off-white cloud of a head. Cool art on the label, too. 9/10
Nose: Not too pronounced, but an interesting blend of fruity and spice notes. 8/10
Taste: Notes of banana, orange-peel, clove and coriander are all apparent and complement each other better than you'd expect -- perhaps because they're all so subtle. Nothing amazing, but still tastes fine. 33/40
Body: Very light with a lively carbonation. 10/10
Finish: Slight citrusy hop bitterness rounds out the refreshing, crisp drinkability. 10/10
Style/Originality: The label says this ale was inspired by Belgian farmhouse ales and pale ales, and it's a well-done blend of the two styles along with some of the crisp, citrus-peel tang of a witbier and a banana-peel esters of a hefeweizen. 10/10
Party Factor: A six-pack of this 5.2-percent ABV beer was $9.49 at Whole Foods, putting the Party Factor at 3.29, rounding to 3.
Total: 83

Foret Organic Saison
Appearance: A very cloudy golden hay color with lots of floating sediment and an enormous, long-lasting puffy white head. Looks great, though I'm surprised the cork has 2009 printed on it. 10/10
Nose: A kind of dank, funky, grassy, herbal aroma. Smells very fresh despite the date on the cork. 10/10
Taste: Crisp, nice and refreshing with a kind of pilsner funkiness to it along with herbal notes -- coriander? -- and that familiar Belgian yeastiness. No alcohol taste at all despite the 7.2 ABV -- relatively high for a saison. The label says it pairs well with robust grilled meats, and in fact it was a very nice partner to a grilled T-bone. 35/40
Body: Very light, almost too thin, with pronounced carbonation. 8/10
Finish: Quite dry and drinkable. 10/10
Style/Originality: Its refreshing dryness is quite a contrast to Boulevard's Tank 7, which is also a strong (8 percent ABV) saison but is much sweeter. 9/10
Party Factor: A 750-ml bottle was an eyebrow-raising $10.99. At 7.2 percent ABV, that comes to 1.38, rounding to 1.
Total: 83

Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen
Appearance: A cloudy brownish-amber, it's much darker than Schneider's Weizenhell hefe. Can't say it looks attractive compared with the more familiar sunny yellow hefes, but I can appreciate the difference and trust that Bavaria's oldest wheat brewers know what they're doing. 8/10
Nose: Fruity with clove notes, but not especially pronounced. 8/10
Taste: Some banana notes along with spices, but again, the flavor is not jumping out at me. Perhaps subtlety is a good thing with summer brews, though. I'm wondering if this is an old bottle. From what a couple of brewers have told me, hefes are always better fresh and tend to lose their flavor quicker than other beers. Drinking imported hefes, which can be subject to long shipping times, can be a gamble. Looks like I'll have to make a trip to Germany and try this one in a Berlin biergarten. 32/40
Body: Very refreshing and light with Champagne-like fizziness. 10/10
Finish: Very drinkable. My glass disappeared much more quickly than I expected. 10/10
Style/Originality: If it weren't for Georg Schneider earning an exemption to the Reinheitsgebot beer purity laws, we probably wouldn't have wheat beer today. Who am I to question the originality? 10/10
Party Factor: A half-liter (16.9-oz.) bottle of this 5.4-percent ABV brew was $4.49, giving us a factor of 1.69, rounding to 2.
Total: 80


Raise a glass (or 12) to Fort Worth's Rahr & Sons, which earned the top ranking in the homebrewing magazine Zymurgy, had a full dozen of its brews named to the Top 50 and earned the Spirit Of Homebrew award based on its number of votes received divided by its production in number of barrels. 

"This is exactly the kind of support that keeps us going, despite this year's roof collapse," founder Fitz Rahr said in a press release. "We're poised for another great year with big plans for Rahr's future, and I think we'll be successful as long as our fan base remains our litmus test."

Unfortunately, due to construction delays, the brewery is still not open for public tours and tastings. Keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for news on when it does open. Hopefully that will be before July 31, as a new rock 'n' roll booking/promotion agency, Up To 11 Entertainment, has a showcase scheduled at the brewery. At the showcase, $15 lets you watch four bands and includes "all the Rahr beer you can drink," according to manager Josh Pitts. Sounds like a challenge to me.

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