Panelists included this blogger; Pete Slosberg, founder and former owner of Pete's Wicked Ales; Celia Sack, proprietor of foodie bookstore-for-all-seasons Omnivore Books; and a couple of her summery friends, Rikke Cox and Alexis. The summer beers sampled came in 12-ounce bottles, available for $2 or less, and were scored on a scale of 1-10, based purely hedonistically. They're listed here in descending order of overall preference. Eager to see who won? All is revealed after the jump.
(Note: ABV stands for "alcohol by volume"; IBU refers to "international bitterness units.")
1. Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale (Bend, Ore.): 35 points. This ESB-like bitter ale was the near-unanimous winner in an otherwise shallow field. Slosberg enjoyed its "beautiful aroma" of fruity and hoppy notes, a spicy after bite and all while being actually "thirst quenching." (5 percent ABV, 35 IBU)
2. Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema (Boonville, Calif.): 24 points. Though it was part of a three-way tie, this edged out the others by virtue of being Sack's high scorer. She loved that it is "caramelly, toasty, and a bit candyish," and figured, since the coldest winter is a summer in San Francisco, this makes the perfect "San Francisco summer beer." (5.6 percent ABV, 4 IBU)
3. Sam Adams Summer Ale (Boston, but really Cincinnati): 24 points. This wheat beer with lemon zest and grains of paradise ― an adjunct that Slosberg easily identified, while dinging the beer for its "minimal malt character." Sack was into its "gentle perfume." (5.3 percent ABV)
4. Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Chico, Calif.): 24 points. Maybe this scored so low by virtue of being actually summery, since it's a Pilsner and the only lager among the samples. Still, this blogger appreciated the "grassy tartness" but overall found it "really thin and not flavorful." Enjoyed cold atop a lawnmower? Who knows. (5 percent ABV, 28 IBU)
5. New Belgium Skinny Dip (Ft. Collins, Colo.): 22 points. For this low-alcohol, low-cal beer spiced with kaffir lime leaves, when you get comments like "thin," "weird," "light," and "not terribly deep," don't expect a beer to win any beauty contests. (4.2 percent ABV)
6. Anchor Summer Beer (San Francisco): 21 points. Ouch. Our very own craft brewery, the one that started it all (not least with this beer, America's first wheat beer), crossed the finish line last. Cox felt it was "summery and bubbly," perfect to drink while trying to get some work done, thereby confirming this blogger's opinion that it "would pair well with a lawn mower," even allowing for some spicy but thin hop flavor. Alexis was "not a fan" of its "funky taste," and Sack deemed it "emptier with no depth." (4.6 percent ABV)
Tune in next month, when a new panel will blindly taste more summery seasonal beers ― ones with added fruit.