Summer has not officially arrived, but summer weather has. That means it’s time to taste some summer ales for the first edition of “What Ales You.”

This column should be a lot of fun. I have been drinking beer for more than 40 years, drinking it with some critical approval since I was introduced to the upstairs bar at the Wursthaus in Harvard Square in 1968, and making beer for about 30 years.

“What Ales You” will include some beer and ale news, some history and some opinion, but it is my plan to critically examine at least one beer a week.

The summer ales being tested this week are Geary’s, Shipyard, Samuel Adams, Gritty McDuff’s Vacationland and Casco Bay. These beers were the craft summer beers that my daughter, Tandy Ratliff, could find at the Mill Creek Hannaford’s, since I was too busy to shop. The price was $8.99 a six-pack for the Casco Bay and $9.99 for the other four. Tandy’s husband, Christian, tasted with me.

A disclaimer: Nancy and I own 33 shares of stock in Boston Beer Co. When Boston Beer was doing its IPO, we cut a coupon off a Samuel Adams six-pack and bought 33 shares for $15 a share. I like most of their beer, but not all, and I think I can judge it fairly.

In the initial pour, the Geary’s was quite a bit darker than the rest. Sammy was quite cloudy, Gritty’s was a little bit cloudy with the best head, and Shipyard was the most effervescent.

The Sam Adams is brewed with lemon zest and grains of paradise, a spice, and those aromas dominated. The Shipyard had the most balanced aroma. The others were fairly mild.

I think a summer beer should be light, without a lot of alcohol, because there is a good chance you are going to want more than one. It should be crisp, have a good malt flavor and be easy to drink. This is not a beer you normally would sit and think about.

Neither Christian nor I liked the Samuel Adams. The adjuncts overpowered the malt and hops. That being said, it is a well-made beer – crisp and flavorful, but full of flavors that I don’t particularly like. Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat is a similar style that I like better.

The Geary’s had a good, sweet first taste, but a sour aftertaste. This surprised us, because we had drunk this same beer on a fishing trip the week before and liked it quite a bit. Which just goes to show that analyzing isn’t always a good thing.

The Gritty’s was the hoppiest of the beers, and I liked it. It was nicely bitter, had a fairly strong malt flavor and good body, and was more of a traditional ale. But it was just a bit bitter for a summer ale. The Casco Bay was the sweetest of the beers. It has an almost silky mouth feel, with not much hops at all. It was complex, however, and the flavors lingered for quite a while.

The Shipyard had a floral hops rather than a bittering hops, and was a smooth-drinking beer. The malt was crisp and well balanced.

Christian and I had a hard time deciding which we liked best, and finally said that if we were having a party of regular people, we would serve the Shipyard. If the guests were beer snobs, it would be the Casco Bay.

And for me, when it gets to August and starts getting cool in the evenings, I’ll be drinking some of the Gritty’s.

NEXT WEEK: Summer beers from national brewers.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]