Grocery stores have started selling 12-packs of fall seasonal beers. Marzens and pumpkin beers are lurking on the shelves, and soon enough they’ll take over entirely.
But just like when I was in school, I am zero percent ready for summer to be over. I plan to drink summer beers for as long as I can, and I hope everyone joins in. So I’m going to tell you about some great spring and summer seasonal beers that will soon be gone for months.
My favorite is The First Squeeze, a blood orange wheat beer from Raleigh Brewing Co..
But I’m getting ahead of myself because the first stop on this last-ditch summer beer tour is, obviously, for ice cream.
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I had my first beer float when I was a newly minted drinker. I thought it was OK; I wasn’t a huge fan of stouts and that’s the classic beer float beer. Five years later, I’ve grown to love stouts. So last month at Bittersweet in downtown Raleigh, I saw a beer float on the menu and decided I needed to give this concoction a second try.
Man, did it hit the spot. They make it with a hefty 10 percent ABV chocolate stout from Brooklyn Brewery. You can make it with any beer that has some noticeable sugar. High alcohol stouts, which tend to be sweeter, work doubly well.
“You need some sort of fruit or sweetness to work,” said Lewis Norton, the Bittersweet bar manager who poured another float for me on a follow-up visit. “You wouldn’t make a float with a lager.”
For a seasonal, local option, try Coffee Is For Closers, a 6 percent ABV summer porter from Fullsteam in Durham that claims to be inspired by iced coffee. I’d order ice cream in my iced coffee if I could, so why not put some in this beer?
Norton and the others at Bittersweet can frequently be found pairing beers with desserts, like an Amaretto-inspired sour beer from Wicked Weed Brewing that went with a cupcake with Amaretto cream icing. And they always have a carrot cake cupcake they suggest with an IPA.
But it’ll only be blazingly hot for a few more weeks, so take advantage of this excuse to put ice cream in your beer.
If you’re trying not to ingest too many calories before Halloween-then-Thanksgiving-then-Christmas, maybe you don’t want to put ice cream in your beer. Here are some dessert-free beer pairings I came up with, all using local seasonal summer beers that need to be tried before they’re gone until next year.
The best beers to pair with...
A weekend in the woods: While it’s hot, you want a beer you can stick with all day long without getting too drunk. Try 3-A-Day, a session IPA from Raleigh’s Lynwood Brewing Concern that clocks in at less than 5 percent ABV. Find some water to stick your feet or a fishing line into, and enjoy this beer that won a silver medal at the 2016 World Beer Championships.
Making tacos: Garden & Gun magazine recently asked trendsetters their favorite Southern cocktails. Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam, suggested a beer cocktail: the Michelada. The Tex-Mex drink is, roughly, a beer poured over ice with a couple dashes each of hot sauce, soy sauce, Worschestershire sauce and black pepper, plus a few ounces of lime juice. Wilson told the magazine he’ll make his with any cream ale, lager or pilsner. Fight the salt and spiciness with a Strawberries & Cream Summer Ale from Holly Springs’ Bombshell Beer Co., or stay more mainstream with the Park Day pilsner from Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston.
The back-to-school blues: No beer cures the blues like a blueberry beer, and nobody does it like Top of The Hill Brewery in Chapel Hill, with its Blue Ridge Blueberry Wheat. Plus it’s fun to go to Topo and watch people get surprised when the actual blueberries in the beer hit them in the nose as they chug it.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran
Upcoming beer events
Sept. 4: Homebrew For Hunger in Carrboro, from 1-5 p.m. at Fifth Season Gardening Co., will showcase dozens of local homebrews and give the proceeds to PORCH, a charity that provides food for low-income families. Tickets are $30 for an all-you-can-drink pass and available at homebrewforhunger.com.
Sept. 10: Beericana, from noon-6 p.m. at Sugg Farm Park in Holly Springs, is shaping into one of the area’s biggest beer festivals. There will be more than 70 breweries, from super-tiny local breweries to statewide powerhouses and national bigwigs. Tickets are $15, $45 or $75. For a full lineup of breweries, bands and food trucks go to beericana.com.
Sept. 23-24: Triangle Oktoberfest, at the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, is a fun time with plenty of traditional German music, appropriately themed beer on tap and people in lederhosen. Tickets range from $15 to $25 depending on which day you go, although those 16 and under get in free. Get details at triangleoktoberfest.org.
Sept. 24: BBQ, Blue and Brews in downtown Fuquay-Varina runs from 1-6 p.m. and is pretty self-explanatory. Tickets are $20 and more information is at fuquay-varinadowntown.com.