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Summer Beer Guide: Wheat Beer

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As the weather warms up, every beer blogger and his cousin are compiling lists of their summer beers for 2013. This isn't inherently a bad thing, and often it might lead you to a new beer you had not tried before. It could also leave you crying into your lager, as you don't have access to any of the specific beers on a particular list. So while I'll suggest some specific beers, I want to present to you my list of ultimate summer styles, and why you want to drink them. I'll also include a recipe to accompany the beer.

Today I'm going to cover Wheat Beers. Over the next six weeks, I'll also cover off Fruit Beers, Saisons, Lawn Mower Beers, BBQ Beers, and Campfire Beers.

Wheat Beer

One of the most obvious "summer" styles are wheat beers. These beers are generally bright, slightly tart or sour, quite refreshing, and generally weigh-in at 5 per cent or less. The general division in the style is between the Belgian-style Wit (white) beers and German-style Weisse beers. In the Belgian-style, the beer is unfiltered and cloudy, and in addition to malted barley and wheat, hops, water and yeast, they can also contain un-malted wheat and oats (which give a silky mouthfeel) as well as herbs and spices.

The German-style is made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (The Bavarian Purity Law), and therefore can only contained malted grains, hops, yeast and water. It, too, is cloudy and tart. In both cases, special ale yeasts produce spicy notes when they ferment, often giving flavours of clove, allspice, coriander and cinnamon, as well as bananas and bubblegum. Both styles lend themselves well to grilled fish, salads of fresh garden vegetables, and BBQ chicken or pork. You could also have the Bavarian classic sausage, Weissewurst. Made with veal and bacon fat, it is always served with a local wheat beer and pretzel. Oh, and it's generally served as a mid-morning snack. On the rare occasions I get asked what an ideal "breakfast beer" is, it's to the wheat beers -- particularly German weisse -- that I point. They also make tremendous summer time brews.

For Belgian-style whites, Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly is incredible and has wide distribution. A bit more regionally specific, look for Mill St Wit (Ontario), Dieu du Ciel! Blanche de Paradis (Quebec), or Driftwood White Bark Ale (BC).

If you prefer the German-style, Granville Island Robson Street Hefeweizen (BC) has Nation-wide distribution. The mighty Denison's Weisse beer was, for years, the highest-rated German-style Weisse on Ratebeer.com. It's mainly available in Ontario, but is worth seeking out. Also look for Howe Sound King Heffe (BC), Muskoka Summer Weisse (Ontario) and Propellor Hefeweizen (Nova Scotia).

Orange Glazed Pork Chops

Here's a little pro-tip: Marmalade is a BBQ'ers secret weapon. Packing a heap of sweet, bitter and sour flavours, even if you don't like it on your toast, keep a jar of this in your fridge. Used in glazes, BBQ sauces, or right out of the jar, once you start using it, you will wonder why you didn't sooner. In this simple recipe, it's cut with bright citrusy wheat beer to make an excellent glaze for pork chops, though it would be equally well suited to a light white fish fillet.

1/2 cup marmalade (best quality you can find, home made if possible)
1/3 cup wheat beer (I like using a German-style weisse)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce (Tobasco, Frank's et al)
4 medium-sized pork chops (bone-in, if you can)

Stir all ingredients other than the pork well to form a syrupy glaze. If you don't like the rinds in the marmalade, feel free to pass the glaze through a strainer to remove them. If the glaze seems too thin, add a bit more marmalade. Over a medium-hot grill, cook the pork to your desired doneness. When the chops are within one minute of being done, brush them generously with the glaze, turning to cook it. Let the chops rest for five minutes, and serve them with fresh local vegetables.

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Summer Beer Taste Test, 2013
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