Ah summer, when us coastal elites celebrate several hours of partial afternoon clearing by staggering around in a sweaty haze. Heading inland to our innumerable, magical swimming hole is, of course, a Humboldt County custom that must be observed annually.
(Before I go any further, I must urge every single person reading this to be extremely cautious in and around our local waters, sober or not. Much has been written about this but it's always worth a reminder that our most alluring swim spots are unpredictable and dangerous, and claim lives every single year.)
Summer is the North Coast's second best season for weather (what's up, autumn). But how does it rank for local beer releases?
Just so my biases are out front: I'm kind of a hophead and I'm not usually one for non-barley beers (aside from the occasional rye). This leaves me a bit cold for traditional summer-y beers, which tend toward low alcohol, wheat and other grain bases and "light," low-hop flavors.
That being said, here are some local beers for your summer explorations. They're all available in stores, in cans or bottles, so I am overlooking some lovely beers on tap (sorry!) for the purposes of summertime travel convenience.
The Booth, Eureka's newest brewery, is absolutely cranking out new and interesting beers in tall cans around the county. Here are a few of the most recent offerings.
LGTBQ Smoothie IPA — You could cynically write this off as commercial appropriation of Pride Month and/or a recipe gimmick. (LGBTQ, in this case, stands for Liberty and Glacier hops, Blackberries, Tart cherries and Quinoa.)
Putting aside the personal beer biases mentioned above, I've mostly learned to cast off my beer traditionalism. We live in a time of innovative brewing and just because I may not like it doesn't mean it shouldn't be made or that no one else will like it. Plus, nothing about this release feels disingenuous when it comes to celebrating an inclusive community spirit and Booth has said proceeds from the sales will go to LGBTQ groups.
I digress. What exactly is a smoothie IPA, you ask?
It seems to remain largely undefined. Draft Magazine identifies it as a new subgenre in rapidly expanding "culinary IPA" styles. It's related to East Coast (or hazy, or juicy) IPAs, often, and may contain lactose, which gives it a creamy texture.
It's a good fit for Booth, which is cranking out solid hazy ales with an inventive spirit. While I'm not convinced that quinoa makes a backbone for a beer that fits my tastes, the LGBTQ Smoothie IPA is mellower than its ingredients suggest, making for a light sipper that will please fans of wheat beers.
Speaking of wheat beers, Booth simultaneously released its lemongrass and peppercorn-undertoned Fun Follower Witbier. This, too, is remarkably balanced — the lemongrass and peppercorn, developed to complement Asian cuisine according to a press release, are mellow and complement the wheat.
Finally, the latest in Booth's EurekaSeoul series, the Huell Melon Hop Ale, follows the brewer's trend of tasty, juicy, hazy ales. These are mellower on the hops, generally, without that crisp edge of West Coast IPAs. It's a nice break from the norm, even if it'll never replace that local favorite. The Huell melon of the title isn't actually a melon — it's a variety of hops and it carries a fruity aroma and mildly melon aftertaste. Any of the EurekaSeoul brews are worth tracking down.
Eel River Clarity
I didn't know what to expect when I saw Eel River Brewing Co. was releasing three varieties of a "craft brewed hard sparkling water." The idea appears to be alcoholic La Croix and the packaging prominently promotes that it's low carb, zero sugar and gluten free.
Again, I'll commend the inventiveness here. As a certified La Croix Boy, I can see appeal in a light, crisp, unsweet libation. I can also see the appeal of a "healthier" drink, even if I don't think such a thing truly exists.
But even with low expectations, I was, let's say, surprised by Clarity. Opting for the ginger-lime variety, I thought those flavors came through well when it first hits the tongue, but there was a strange, sweet aftertaste that lingered too long. I'm guessing that came with the dextrose, which is listed on the ingredients (and makes the zero sugar claim somewhat dubious, but I'm no chemist).
I'm not sure there's an audience for Clarity. It's gotten some good customer responses online, but it's hard to imagine people preferring it to a mixed drink, or it's more-soda-like cousins in Mike's Hard Lemonade, etc.
Clarity also comes in raspberry and tropical flavors — and I'm willing to give those a shot if any readers care to try to convince me.
Mad River Tropi-cal IPA
Coming in 22 ounce bottles, this IPA bucks the trend of light summer beers, packing a 7.8 percent punch and a hefty malt, bitterness and hops profile. It doesn't differ wildly from Mad River's flagship IPA, so if you like that, you'll probably like this. The tropical notes — somewhat floral to me — are so mild as to be nearly imperceptible. For me, that wasn't necessarily a drawback.
Another good summer trend: Many of our local breweries are canning their flagship beers, so you can pack along your favorites more easily and carry them back out, too! (Broken glass at the beach sucks.)
And as always, you can nurse your fogburn with a great array of varietal beers and ciders at local taprooms and beer bars. Happy summer!
Redwood Curtain in Myrtletown
It's no huge secret — there's a giant banner hanging off its Myrtle Avenue building (across from Myrtlewood Liquors & John's Fine Cigars) — but Arcata stalwart Redwood Curtain Brewing Co. is bringing its family vibe taproom to Myrtletown.
Co-owner Amanda Mollberg and crew are busily preparing for a late July opening. There will be 24 beers on tap and it'll operate the same days and hours as the Arcata location (Sunday through Tuesday, noon to 11 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 12 a.m.).
In addition to outdoor patio space, partner in good times LoCo Fish Truck will open a second food truck for lunch and dinner.
Amateur beer drinker Grant Scott-Goforth usually counts on the World Cup for haircut inspiration but this year ... yeesh.