Summer is an important time for beer.
In the oppressive summertime heat, a light refreshing ale can be critical in the wake of any sweat-soaked activity, from lawn mowing to 100 miles of bike riding. The mark of a great summer beer is its ability to be consumed en masse and still float comfortably atop a stomach full of brats and burgers. Oh, right, and, it should taste good.
Judging by these criteria, 10 Barrel Brewing Co. nails it with its new beer, Swill, a light, citrus-y, low-alcohol concoction I could drink all day long. Best part? It's not an IPA or a pale ale. Not even close. The brilliant Tanya Cornett, 10 Barrel's R&D brewmaster, created a mild sour wheat beer, made in the spirit of Austria's Stiegl Radler, a 2.5% ABV concoction that's half golden beer and half lemonade soda.
"I love that beer," enthused Cornett. "It's an easy beer and it tastes like summer."
Cornett made Swill (4.5% ABV, 13 IBUs) using her award-winning beer Sparkle Party as a base (it's a Berliner Weisse, a cloudy, low-alcohol German sour wheat), then doubled the recipe to achieve nearly 9% ABV, then cut the mixture with a house-made grapefruit soda. The resulting brew is a cloudy, straw-colored sour citrus swill that is as refreshing as a summer thunderstorm.
"It's a fun beer for summer," Cornett said. "It's a lawnmower beer. And your tongue doesn't get blown out—it's just super friendly."
Here's the thing—10 Barrel has such confidence in Swill that it's bottling it, both in six packs and 22-ouncers. Bottling such an unusual beer—a flagship summer beer, and one that's difficult to reproduce, no less—is a bold marketing move and a vote of confidence. The beer was released May 15 and is available locally ($4 for a 22-ounce bottle at Whole Foods and Newport Avenue Market).
And it sounds like we can expect more commercially available sours from the little Galveston Avenue pub.
Cornett said she's working on a high-end line of sours that should be ready in five or six months. The beers will be offered in handsome 750-milliliter bottles with cork stoppers. More immediately, Cornett said she just finished a cucumber sour that should be on 10 Barrel's taps soon. Is this the new direction for 10 Barrel?
"I think it's one of the directions, for sure," Cornett conceded. "[With Swill,] we were just trying to show the diversity of the brewery and the depth of our talent." SW