If it’s June, this must be Brew Fest.
The festival — the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival, as it’s known at length — traditionally marks the start of summer events season in Reno.
This year, Brew Fest (June 16-17) features beer in a diversity of styles from more than 50 breweries and microbreweries, both domestic and international (scroll to bottom for highlights and cost).
That diversity got us thinking: People tend to drink what they drink, but what beer styles are actually well-suited to summer, the season of Brew Fest, and to the rest of the year?
Greg Hinge, brewmaster of the Eldorado, took time from his tanks to give us a primer on pairing beer with the seasons.
Light lagers work well for summer sipping, Hinge said. So does a good saison (French for “season”), from the family of Belgian beers brewed with fruity aromas, low to moderate acidity, and effervescent mouthfeel.
“These lighter beers also have a citrus flavor to them,” Hinge said, “a hint of lemon sometimes. I’m a big fan of saisons lately.”
For the festival, Hinge and crew at Brew Brothers, the Eldorado’s brewery and pub, are crafting an IPA, lighter in color and endowed with citrus.
“There’s not fruit in it, but the hop varieties we use will have the citrus fruity notes. Everybody likes IPAs”
Against the grain: For summer sipping that’s less expected or familiar, Hinge suggested Gose (goes-uh) beer, a style of German origin that unites coriander, saltiness and a sour lemon finish. Very refreshing.
Oktoberfest lagers take folks into fall, Hinge said, their malty character ideal for drinking in cooler weather. Hinge also recommended amber ales for the fall; like Oktoberfest lagers, “they’ve got good malty content that goes with heavier foods.”
The Brew Fest will offer some of these darker pours, even though they’re not classical summer beers.
“If people are fans of darker beers, they’re going to drink those whether it’s 100 degrees outside or 40 degrees,” Hinge said.
Against the grain: A sour stout. “You don’t see a lot of them, but they’re always interesting,” Hinge said.
“You get that roasted malt coffee flavor from the roasted barley that’s used with that mix of tartness from the lactobacillus,” a bacteria that converts sugar to lactic acid, Hinge added.
Think barley wine, which isn’t wine at all — being made from grain, not fruit — but a strong ale that’s typically around 12 percent alcohol by volume, Hinge said. “They are very rich, have a lot of body and you can age them because of the alcohol content.
Speaking of aging: Go-to cold-weather pours like porters and stouts have become increasingly popular when they’re aged in rye whiskey barrels. “It lends incredible flavor, even overpowering flavor,” Hinge said.
Against the grain: After Brew Fest is over, Hinge will take some of the festival IPA and “send it to a chardonnay barrel,” he said.
“It gives it a really nice oak with a bit of chardonnay flavor, especially if you get new barrels. The longer you leave it in there, the oakier it gets.” By winter, the aged beer will be ready to drink.
Beers you drink for spring are going to be much the same as those you sip in summer, according to Hinge. That said, beers fashioned with spring fruits like strawberries, rhubarb and California cherries can be worth a try.
And whatever the season, whatever the sips, Hinge said, you start drinking with light beers and finish with dark — if you last that long.
THE GREAT ELDORADO BBQ, BREWS & BLUES FESTIVAL
When: 3 to 9 p.m. June 16; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 17
Where: Outside the Eldorado Resort Casino, 345 N. Virginia St.
■ Pours from more than 50 breweries and microbreweries
■ A dozen food booths featuring barbecue, pizza, street tacos and more
■ 10 bands playing on two stages over the course of the festival
■ One-day unlimited beer tasting package, $40 advance, $45 day of event
■ Two-day unlimited beer tasting package, $65 advance, $75 day of event