Summer goes down easier with a chilled glass of white wine or frothy glass of beer.
Or both. Why not both?
So say local wine and beer experts, who have spent years learning exactly which wines and beers taste best in the hot summer atmosphere.
Summer, they say, is a good time for even casual wine and beer fans to discover their own favorites and entertain their friends at the same time.
John Michael, a chef and the lead instructor at the new Butler Community College culinary arts program, has lots of summer traditions when it comes to adult beverages.
He likes to sip beers that are light but have body – German hefeweizen or Saison specifically. (The Weihenstephaner hefeweizen is a favorite.)
He likes to drink his reds slightly chilled – just above cellar temperature. (None wine-cellar owners can achieve this temperature, he said, by putting a bottle in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.)
He also likes to buy an entire case of Rose wines at the beginning of the season, sample them all, pick the two he likes best, and spend the rest of the summer drinking those two.
“This is the time of year when I personally make a big switch in my drinking,” said Michael, a certified sommelier. “I’m off big reds of winter. It’s time for beers and roses and light whites.”
Local wine expert Guy Bower, who hosts a weekly radio about wine and food called “The Good Life,” has found several ways to celebrate summer sipping over the years.
He and his wife, Beth, are famous for their annual “Chardonnay Shootout,” a party they host each summer in which guests bring Chardonnays and everyone samples them, looking for a favorite. There’s also a contest to see who can identify specific wines in a blind taste test.
They also have been known to throw more spontaneous themed parties, such as inviting several guests and asking each one to bring a different variety of wheat beer, for example. Everyone samples small pours of everyone else’s beer, looking for a favorite.
Bower has several summer favorites on his list – wheat beers, whites grown on the U.S. west coast, and slightly chilled reds.
There are no rules when it comes to summertime drinking, he said.
“Most people think that summer has to be white, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “It’s a good place to start.”
Rob Miller, a local beer expert who is the brains behind Rob’s World of Beers at Goebel Liquor, 352 S. West St, said that for beer drinkers, this summer is about fruity flavors.
He’s most excited about a new Samuel Adam’s beer called Porch Rocker that’s the American version of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – beer infused with the flavor of fresh-squeezed lemons.
Abita is making a strawberry lager that’s one of the company’s best seasonal, he said, and he also loves the Tree Shaker Imperia Peach IPA from O’Dell, which is made with 3,000 pounds of fresh peaches from Colorado.
Even beer geeks and beer snobs are embracing fruit, Miller said.
“They’re just unique in their flavor,” he said. “There’s something that’s different from amber or pale or whatever you’re normally drinking. The geeky craft beer drinkers need our palates challenged all the time.”
Following are some of the local experts’ specific recommendations for beers and wines, all of which can be purchased locally. Check with your favorite liquor store to see if they carry these picks.
John Michael’s wine and beer picks
• Gazella, Vinho Verde, Portugal: Not a lot of people are familiar with this wine, he said, which is made out of grapes picked when slightly under ripe and is a little bit spritzy. But once they try it, they often drink it the rest of the summer. It’s affordable, too – about $6-$8 a bottle, he said.
• Centine, Rose, Tuscany, Italy: Rose wines are underrated, Michael says, and this one is one of his favorites. It has a strawberries-and-cream character and is great with picnic foods.
• Burgans, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain: This wine compares to fruity, citrusy California Sauvignon Blancs. Michael describes it as a “real crowd please.”
• Berger, Zweigelt, Austria: This is a red wine that’s best slightly chilled, he said. “It’s as light as a Pinot Noir but has a spicy pepper quality that makes it a little more versatile.”
• Uvaggio, Barbera, Lodi, Calif.: This wine is light and spicy and good with burgers and ribs, he said. People who like Red Zinfandel will like Barbera.
• Felino, Vina Colbos Malbec, Argentina: Argentinian Malbecs are big and full bodied but also good year-round, especially if slightly chilled.
• Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen: Beer in the summer should be light but have enough body to stand up to food. This German beer does, he said.
Guy Bower’s summer wine and beer picks
• Joel Gott, Unoaked Chardonnay, California:
• Line 39, Sauvignon Blanc, California
• Pine Ridge , Chenin Blanc, California
• King Estate , Pinot Gris, Oregon
• Van Duser Pinot Noir, Oregon
• Boulevard Wheat
• Goose Island 312 Wheat
• Stella Artois
Rob Miller’s summer beer picks
• Samuel Adams Porch Rocker
• Abita Strawberry Harvest
• O’Dell Tree Shaker Imperial Peach IPA
• Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout mixed with Wells Banana Bread Ale