Just this last Father’s Day, my kids and I visited the Tribes Alehouse down I-80 a ways in Mokena, Illinois. I ordered a flight of beers for sampling and one of the 4-ounce glasses contained a beer called Summer Solstice from Anderson Valley out of Boonville, California. I remember that it tasted like a beer with some cream soda added.
Each successive week, I searched for that beer at the LBSes in town with no success. Finally, last Friday I was in the Morris Beer Store and spotted Solstice in cans on the shelf. That was great. I’m glad that craft breweries are starting to can their beers. They make much less noise getting dumped during Monday morning garbage pickup than bottles do.
This particular sixpack had one of those hard plastic “new style” carrier jobbies holding all the boys together. This would be a great opportunity to not only review the beer, but also to examine the carrier up close and see what it was like to release a can. “Be careful what you wish for” never entered my head.
The cans featured an image of a bear with deer antlers drinking from a stream. At the top of each can was the saying, “Bahl hornin’ since 1987.” Must be some inside joke.
While researching this beer on the Web, I came to find out that this beer was a cream ale in style and the local dialect inherent to Boonville in northern California, called Boontling. Bahl hornin’ translates to Good drinkin’. The brewer’s video near the end of this post goes a little bit into what Boontling sounds like.
I didn’t particularly like the hard plastic sixpack carrier. The cans seemed to be pressed into it. I found it difficult to extract the first can by hand and resorted to a screwdriver assist. I know many craft brewers are now canning their beers and many sixpacks on the shelves across the country have this very same plastic carrier. I’d bet that an old-fashioned churchkey can opener would do the trick in releasing each can by using the little finger on the rounded end. And I suppose these hard plastic carriers would have little chance of getting around a seabird’s neck.
After finally extracting the first can, I popped the top and poured the beer into one of my favorite glasses, the Perfect Pint.
The pour yielded a massive head, one that I had to wait on before taking the first sip. The liquid was a beautiful dark amber almost brown-orange in color and micro-bubbles rose from within. The beer had a slight cloudiness to it. The head was slightly tan but mostly off-white and seemed to dissipate rather quickly. The aroma was slight and nondescript.
The first sip had a real nice body to it and I received a nice slug of sweetness before I even swallowed. A nice malty note followed and then there it was. That hint of cream soda that I remembered. There was nary a sting as the swallow went down. By the third sip, the head was gone and so was the cream soda. Going to keep my eye out for some of this:
The malt taste in this beer had a unique taste. I was reminded of Abita’s Turbodog. The odd malt flavor, however, was not as bold as Turbodog’s was but it was there. Maybe that was a tad bit of caramel that I tasted, I dunno. A little bold in the mouthfeel department for what many consider a summer slammer, a real easy drinker, a session beer if you will, weighing in at 5% alcohol.
There was absolutely no hop presence in any sip. The Anderson Valley website indicates that this beer has 4 IBUs. Hmm. That might be two hop pellets in a 5-gallon kettle. Probably the minimum requirement for a liquid to be called beer. With the head leaving early, there was no lacing on the glass to speak of.
Looking over the BJCP style for this category, this Solstice beer hit on some points and missed on others. It hits on the ABV, being at the high end of the scale. It missed the minimum spec for IBUs by 11. It nailed the lack of head retention and overdid the malt character. But what the hell. Ya brew the beer you want to brew and let someone else classify it.
Sip after sip the beer went right down the hatch. Every so often I’d get a little hint of cream soda but it was fleeting. The dominating force in this beer was the malt with its slightly off the wall flavor profile. It was almost British. I had expected this taste to rival Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy wherein the cream soda would stand in for the lemonade. Nope. Close but no cigar. It was merely a summer malt beverage with no head. I wish I had some memory of Little Kings cream ale so I had something to compare the taste to, but that was a long time ago, back when I was more of a beer noob than I am now.
My overall impression is that this is a decent beer. It’s best to drink this while the beer is super cold. It’s not quite the summer slammer lawnmower beer just for the fact that the heavy malt bill may start to wear on the drinker after a few cans. It would be interesting to revisit Turbodog and Little Kings and compare them to this beer. (Hmm. Little Kings comes in an 8-pack of 7-ounce bottles. The drinker is slighted 16 ounces versus a normal sixpack.)
Pick up this beer if you want to verify your tasting experience with mine. At almost 10 bucks and a recalcitrant plastic carrier, your beer bucks are better spent on a different style of beer from this brewery.
Taste: Unknown malts with a catcher’s mitt thrown into the boil.
Smoothness: Creamy, smooth with no surprise ending.
Drinkability: The malts are talking me into drinking something else.
Bang for the buck:
Paid price: $9.49
Get it again? Don’t think so.
Brewer’s website – age verification
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Cloudy. Not really red. (sniff) Kinda strange. (sip) I can’t place the taste. (sip) A kinda watered-down something. (sip) Like watered down fruit juice. (If you’re going to get some chocolate, get me some.)
Video review from jerichomccune
Anderson Valley Brewery tour and a little bit of Boontling