Much of my summer drinking takes place on my next-door neighbor’s deck. We get along rather well, as do our seven-year-old daughters. He has a pool, which takes a lot of the credit for our parenting during the warm weather months and, as a token of my appreciation, I bring him hoppy beers.
The unofficial beers of our neighbors' summer gatherings are Corona and Corona Light. I counted five cases of the Mexican beer at the 2017 Independence Day cookout. A handful of Labatt Blue bottles and my 15-pack of Founders PC Pils cans were the only contrast to the clear bottles of straw-colored Mexican lager.
The next day, we joined some of his family on the back deck and they started talking about how Coronas were perfect summer beers. I made the case that any beer in need of a lime wedge was suspect, but it got me nowhere.
As I was pontificating on behalf of craft beer, I looked up at my neighbor’s brother-in-law and caught a look at his Cisco Brewers hat. How, I asked, could a person advocate for lousy Mexican lager while wearing a hat from a brewery that most people agree is quite good? It was especially prescient because the first time I ever had a Cisco beer, it was at their house.
My question was ignored. I also haven’t been invited back over for drinks on the deck since then.
I’m sure there is no coincidence.
Cisco’s best-known beer is its Whale’s Tale Pale Ale, an English-style pale ale full of smooth malts.
You don’t need to jam a lime into the bottle to improve this beer’s flavor.”
Copper in hue, the beer pours with a fluffy head that is just a shade off white. Lacing sticks to the edge of the glass and persists to the end. The beer is still and only the slightest bit of carbonation is evident on the palate and tongue.
The balance of hops and malt is present in the aroma and flavor of this beer. Bready, sweet malts dominate the nose, though herbs and grass are there as well. Flavorwise, it’s a malt-forward ale, though evenly balanced with the hops. Its sweet opening transitions to a complex, hoppy bridge. English pale ales often find the malts and hops in a state of conflict, with the sweet battling hop bitterness.
Not so with the Whale’s Tale. Here, the hops are spicy, with floral and herbal notes that you might find in a farmhouse ale. The beer rounds out with additional malts, which help to create a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. At 5.6% alcohol by volume, it’s beyond session beer territory, but it’s an easy enough drinker that you could make an afternoon or evening of this ale.
You don’t need to jam a lime into the bottle to improve the beer’s flavor. If you are invited to a barbecue and plan to bring beer, the Whale’s Tale Pale Ale is the higher-brow choice that will appeal to everyone without explanation, ridicule or shame.
That’s the mark of a good summertime party beer.