One of the things I hate about being sick is the side effects of medication.
I recently had a stint in the emergency room and after doctor visits, x-rays, CT scans and a lot of sitting in bland doctor’s rooms staring at posters asking me if I’m really, really certain I don’t have diabetes, I was diagnosed with a kind of infection and prescribed some antibiotics.
I’m feeling better. Thanks for asking.
But the side effects from some of these medications can be just freakin’ bizarre, man. When I picked up my meds at the pharmacy, the pharmacist cautioned me not to spend too much time in the sun.
“Yeah, OK, man,” I said. “I mean, I try not to anyway. I’m a pasty Irish kid so white I almost glow in the dark.”
“No,” the pharmacist said. “This medication will make you really susceptible to sunburn and even sun stroke. Definitely stay out of the sun while you’re taking it. Take that seriously.”
So the weather’s finally taking a nice turn toward summer, and I spent a week and a half dodging the sunlight.
The other thing they tell you is to drink a lot of water. Well, I drink a lot of water anyway, I said. Well, they said, that isn’t enough. You have to stay hydrated.
Well beer isn’t particularly hydrating, so I’ve been largely abstaining during my convalescence. But I’m only human, man. I had to sneak in a beer or two somewhere, otherwise the Knicks’ escapades in free agency would be more depressing than funny and watching the Yankees’ bullpen implode against the lowly Mets would take on a bit too sour a note. So in order to stay hydrated but in good humor, I’ve been sticking, mostly, with some lighter fare of late.
So here I arrive to sing the praises of the occasional light beer.
Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking about silver bullets whose big pitch is “We’re definitely cold,” and I’m not talking about Bud Light or the one that can’t spell Light correctly. There’s nothing WRONG with these beers exactly. They’re not Keystone Light, for God’s sake, or that staple of college parties and intestinal disorders, Milwaukee’s Best.
But I tried to keep some sense of standards while going light, and with the weather getting hot and that need to parch your thirst while also not dying of heat stroke, I thought I’d list a few of my favorites.
Let’s start with the locals and wind our way down toward the Lone Star State and my absolute favorite light beer.
When I went to Empire Brewing Company in Cazenovia last year, one of my absolute favorites of a pretty diverse palate was the Skinny Atlas Light (5.3 ABV, 35 IBUs). The Kolsch has a crisp, clean taste like a nice German pilsner, but there’s a nice, floral hoppiness up front that gives it kind of a bigger, bolder flavor. It’s also pretty easy to find in stores and restaurants throughout the north country, so you don’t have to go out of your way to find it.
Last month when I went to Wood Boat Brewery in Clayton, I completely forgot to get a dose of the Lyman Light (5.2 percent ABV), a tasty blonde ale that makes for some pretty sweet day drinking. The pale lager has a nice, hazy complexion and is a little stronger than you’d expect something so light to be. This is where you land my loyalty, light beer, when you don’t skimp too much on the ABV. I remember getting a sample of this at what might have been the Brew York festival at Maggies on the River last year. Tough to remember some of the details. I was a little bit gleefully sloshed for the middle of the day. But the Lyman was one of the best, most surprising beers I tried that day.
In Watertown, of course, there’s the lemony and lovely Afternoon Delight (4.8 percent) from Skewed Brewing in the Salmon Run Mall. A crisp lager that comes in pretty subtle with that lemon on the nose and the front and finishes pretty clean.
All of these are really good, local options, and I’d always implore you to shop local when it comes to beer. I’m partial to checking out every new edition from Sierra Nevada in Chico, Calif., because I can’t help myself. But when I can help myself, I try to support New York breweries and, heck, with some of the options we have locally and throughout upstate, it’s not exactly a sacrifice.
But if I’m going to tell you about my favorite light beer, I have to be honest and say that it dates from tenure living and working in Texas.
You have to understand that I went to college in Pennsylvania and grew up, so to speak, on Yuengling Lager, for which I still have a great affection. And then after living overseas for a while (the beer scene in South Korea was at least in 2008 ... not great. So when I came back to the U.S. and moved my Yankee self to Texas, I was kind of starting over and had to find out what I liked. And Texas is, like New York, full of great, local options. From Real Ale in Blanco to Karbach and Saint Arnold’s in Houston, I kind of got into craft beer in the Lone Star State, and the first brewery to grab my attention is the great Spoetzl Berery in Shiner, Texas, which brews, most famously, Shiner Bock.
But of all of their beers, and I’ve chronicled a few pretty good seasonal ones here, one of their great distinctions is just how great their light beer is. Shiner Light Blonde (4.25 percent ABV) bills itself as “light done right,” and they’re not kidding. A light version of their normal Blonde, which I liked but didn’t love, Light Blonde gets a lot right when it comes to light beer. It’s just good, easy drinking that, considering its reach (Shiner, unlike some of my other Texas favorites, is sold throughout New York, including the Light Blonde) doesn’t compromise on taste to match the light (or Lite) beer market. It’s a really great beer for a hot summer day, and you could waste away a pretty nice day at the beach or working the grill sharing a 12 pack of this baby now that the weather is starting to heat up.
I’m not saying you NEED to pick up a 12 of Shiner Light Blonde. I’m just saying I’ll race you to it.
So I took the kids to the farmer’s market last Wednesday, and I was pretty thrilled to see Skewed Brewing with a tent set up, offering samples and 32-ounce crowlers the purchase.
While chatting with the staff, I found out that Skewed is going to be distributing to local stores.
“Which stores?” I asked.
“All over,” she said. “We’re going to be in stores all over the area.”
So that’s good news for this father of two turned sort of a homebody if I want something good and hyper local to stock my fridge. If you’re in the same boat, consider yourself advised.