Summer beers

Soho Kitchen & Bar's Kortney Barbee said there's more to summer beer than wheat beers and shandies. She recommends several varieties that go beyond the lemon-lime-orange profile.

Justin Wan photos, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | When thinking about summer beers, chances are your mind -- and taste buds -- will be prepping for something steeped in lemons, oranges and other citrus flavors.

But would you ever consider a warm weather beer that tastes of ginger, fresh raspberries or parts of a cactus?

Kortney Barbee, resident mixologist at Soho Kitchen & Bar, 1024 Fourth St., is convinced unusual seasonal beer will whet your whistle this summer.

"You don't want to drink lemonade all summer long," she said. "So why would you want to drink lemony beers?"

Summer is the perfect time to push the envelope when it comes to specialty craft beers, Barbee said.

"Traditionally, many people think craft beers will be too heavy or too strong for their palettes," she said. "Summer beers, however, are almost always lighter and more refreshing."

This is why light wheat beers and summer shandies -- beer mixed with citrus fruits -- have always proved popular when the temperatures heat up.

Despite their continued popularity, Barbee recommends equally refreshing beers that go beyond the lemon-lime-orange profile.

Here are some of her favorites:

SHINER RUBY REDBIRD

Produced by Spoetzl Brewery, in Shiner, Texas, Ruby Redbird is an easy-drinking lager that contains the tartness of a Texas red ruby grapefruit with a punch of ginger.

"When people drink (the Ruby Redbird), their taste buds sometime pick up clove, not ginger," Barbee said. "Yet it's the ginger that kicks up this light and refreshing beer."

SHINER PRICKLY PEAR

Don't let the name confuse you; there are no pears in Shiner Pricky Pear lager. No, it's the actual red fruit from a prickly pear cactus that punctures this summertime limited edition.

"Midwesterners automatically think the beer will be made with pears you get from the produce section," Barbee said. "People in Texas know how invigorating a cactus can be."

Indeed, she said Shiner Prickly Pear boasts a bright citrus flavor, a bit of fleshy fruit and a dry, crisp finish.

FOUNDERS RUBAEUS

With its dark, red body, Founders Rubaeus Ale looks like no other summer beer.

"I love the color," Barbee said, holding up a glass. "It looks just like a ruby."

Produced by the Michigan-based Founders Brewing Company, Founders Rubaeus is made with fresh raspberries picked at the height of ripeness.

"You think it's going to be tart but the Rubaeus truly isn't," Barbee said. "Instead, it's sweet, a little bit earthy and very smooth."

KEG CREEK WASEYA CREME ALE

Iowa is becoming an increasingly prolific state when it  comes to quality craft beers, and Barbee said the Glenwood, Iowa-based Keg Creek Brewing Co. is leading the pack when it comes to quality Hawkeye State suds.

"Although the Waseya Creme Ale isn't what many would consider a summer beer, its light crispness makes it the ideal ale to drink after mowing the lawn," Barbee said.

For a beer aficionado like Barbee, so much attention to summertime drinks is definitely a good thing.

"When it comes to variety, beer may be becoming the new wine," she said. "People are more knowledgeable and they are willing to try the next new thing."

And what a perfect way to sample an unusual beer than in the summer?

"Summer wouldn't be summer without a nice refreshing beer in your hand," Barbee said.

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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