By Contributing Columnist Donavan Hall
Tonight I opened up a Blue Point Summer Ale. The label on the bottle tells me I should be drinking this in the summer sun (perhaps even after mowing my lawn -- that little bit of lawn I have), but I'll have to make due with the summer sunset.
My guess is that this beer is intended to be thirst quenching. If I were writing up the specifications for a thirst-quenching beer, I would probably start with something that is just a little bit tart that also finishes dry. I know, a dry beer doesn't sound like it should slake the thirst, but dryness for me is the opposite of sweet, and sweet isn't very thirst quenching at all.
I find the finish on the Summer Ale to be sweeter than I would expect for a summer thirst quencher. But sweet is probably okay for this style. "Golden Ale" isn't an official beer style category (Belgian Strong Golden Ale is, but this Blue Point beer is definitely not one of those). The category I would put Blue Point Summer Ale in is Blonde Ale. And a Blonde Ale can have a malty sweetness, so I would call this beer a success. Typically, these beers are not too high in alcohol, between 3.8% and 5.5% ABV (Summer Ale is 4.4% ABV), so having two or three over as many hours isn't going to impair you.
I can also imagine that people who may not be craft beer drinkers might like this beer as a flavorful alternative to American macrobrew. The sweetness probably works to counteract the bitterness that's present (16 IBUs), making the bitterness accessible, possibly even pleasant for the palate informed by nearly flavor-free macrobrew. Here's what Blue Point says about this beer:
"Blue Point Brewing's Summer Ale has a delicious golden taste. In addition to traditional barley malt, a substantial portion of wheat malt is added to the mix giving this brew a unique tartness that's not found in many beers today. This light, thirst-quenching microbrew is enjoyed by all on a hot, Long Island Summer day."
Does it deliver? If there's any tartness there, it's being killed by the sweet aftertaste. The initial prickly bite is refreshing and there is a suggestion of tartness, but my palate is overwhelmed by the malty sweetness.
Forgetting beer styles for a moment, I'm going to speak freely and subjectively about my personal enjoyment factor. Is Donavan going to buy a case of this beer and ice it down for a fun day on the beach, baking in the summer sun? Probably not. My summer or lawnmower beer is going to be much drier and a more tart. I'd probably be filling my cooler with Witbier. Unfortunately, Blue Point doesn't brew a Wit (or White Beer).
If you don't have access to Blue Point Summer Ale and would like to try other Blonde Ales to see what I'm talking about the BJCP site lists these beers as good examples of the style: Redhook Blonde, Catamount Gold, Widmer Blonde Ale, Coast Range California Blonde Ale, Fuller's Summer Ale, Hollywood Blonde, Pete's Wicked Summer Brew, and Deschutes Cascade Golden.