Back East Summer Ale (2013 & 2014)
1 Growler, $9.00, 4.9% ABV
Purchased at the brewery, Bloomfield
[2014 new can update at bottom!]
Ahhhh, summer. In my house, its beckoning results in an annual back and forth weighing its merits. My wife loves it, I happen to prefer fall – especially in New England. And honestly, I’ll take a 10 degree blizzard in January over a 100 degree day with air so humid you can see it. Every. Time.
Of course, I grew up in Delaware and Florida so Connecticut humidity really isn’t all that bad to me. People are surprised to learn how much more humid it can get in the mid-Atlantic than it can get up here. My good friend EdHill moved to DC a few years ago and still can’t wrap his head around how warped 85% humidity can be. It just melts your inner organs.
But weather is weather and it’s only getting worse – and I’ve given up on doing anything about it. We’re all doomed, so why not try to relax and drink good beer?
Summer ales are, as one would expect, light and refreshing and low ABV. For what else would you want to drink on a hot summer day. On the rare occasions I get accused of being a beer snob, my go to is that I do enjoy Corona with a lime sometimes. (I realize that’s like when racists say “I have a black friend” but whatever.) And let’s be honest, Corona is undrinkable without a lime, which sorta makes it crappy beer… but still enjoyable.
Some breweries go for infusing that citrus tang in their summers; lemon and oranges and corianders and such. I don’t really like that style at all, but I certainly understand their appeal. And I certainly understand how lame it would be if I had spelled that “a-peel.”
I’m better than that.
Back East says:
Back East Summer Ale is light in color, cloudy, and delicate in body but packed with hoppy goodness Brewed with Citra, Galaxy, and Simcoe hops, it is assertively hopped but not overly bitter, yet bursts with fruity, spicy, and herbal hop overtones.
Hm. Interesting. Gaining that citrus punch via Citra hops? That’s more like it. When I read the description of the new release, I was excited. Since I gauge all beer against New England Brewing’s beers, and since I would crawl over glass to get my hands on their single Citra-hopped Fuzzy Baby Ducks and would nearly do the same for their Galaxy Pale, I figured this beer was a can’t miss. (Simcoe ain’t bad either.)
I stopped in to my Back East friends on my way home from work on the day they released the Summer. I sampled it and while confused, I was pretty happy. Why? Because this is the most non-Summer Ale summer ale I’ve ever had in my life. Reviews on the typical beer review sites are lacking for the Back East Summer and the two on RateBeer.com are again quite negative: ”wow they managed to screw up another beer, even good hops for that matter… so bad, intentionally terrible.”
Haha, I love that phrase: “intentionally terrible.” I include this not to pile on to Back East but to say that I totally disagree. I rather enjoyed the summer ale! The RateBeer guy’s point was that with those three hops, one would have to intentionally make a terrible beer. And he’s absolutely right about that – except Back East didn’t do that.
I get the feeling that I’m in the minority here, but I don’t care. I really liked this beer. In fact, it’s almost like a baby Sea Hag (yeah, NEBCO again, I know) and that’s a good thing. It’s bright and hoppy and crisp and slightly citussy. I dug it.
Just as the Summer was released, Back East unveiled their canning line. This is a big step for the cousins in Bloomfield and one that I’m sure will be successful. I’ve always felt that to grow your market, you need to move past just growlers and bombers. So good luck to them.
Also, I’m guessing that with this release, I’m not sure Back East will be brewing up any more varieties any time soon. For a one year old brewery who is not shy about their production/sales goals, I think they need to sort of focus on what they do really well (porter, stout), beef up on what they do well (IPA, October) and REfocus on some of these seasonals. The winter was not good and the Spring, a Biere de Mars, was pretty awful in my opinion.
And that’s the beauty of being a small craft brewer – you can tweak your recipes over and over until you really nail it.
And here’s to hoping my friends at Back East nail it for years to come.
2014 new can Update
I found it pretty interesting to read the above before writing this update. Like how people disliked this beer when it was first released? Say what? I went on to tout the Back East Summer to some friends here and there and over time, it sort of grew a bit mythologically, at least in my head.
I would say things like, “Their summer is their best beer,” without really thinking about it or believing it.
Yeah, so, my son isn’t wearing pants and he’s pouting. Summertime!
Also interesting that I wrote about Back East’s new canning line last year and here I am updating a page mainly because the beer is canned now. While the flagship Back East beer cans are handsome, they follow a template. They got a little creative with this can… and I like it. It’s summery.
I’m also happy that the decision-makers in Bloomfield decided this delicious Citra, Simcoe, Galaxy seasonal session pale/blonde ale was worth canning. Was it the early and often high-praise of this very beer reviewer?
No. Of course not you clown… it was market forces and smart business acumen on their parts.
So, is this Back East’s best beer? It’s one of them, that’s for sure. Interestingly, City Steam canned their classic Blonde on Blonde pale(?)/IPA(?)/blonde(?) ale at the same exact time Back East canned their pale(?)/IPA(?)/blonde(?) summer ale. Both are hopped up blondes pretty much and both are very good.
And my son hates wearing pants on hot summer days.
Overall Rating: A-
Rating vs. Similar style: A