Maybe you think that all easy-drinking beers—blonde ales, cream ales, etc.—are interchangeable: they’re light, pale, balanced, and low in alcohol. I’d argue instead that because they’re deceptively simple, these are tough beers to get just right. And given many American brewers’ infatuation with hops, wacky flavors, and barrel-aging, a knockout blonde ale isn’t easy to find these days.
Good thing I was introduced to Family Vacation, a delectable blonde ale brewed by Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s Roadhouse Brewing. It came at just the right time, too, in advance of summer camping, river rafting, hiking, and picnics where a goes-down-easy 4.9 percent ABV beer is just what the doctor ordered.
What grabbed me first about this beer was its fresh but quiet aroma: soft pilsner malt that reads as Cheerios, a hint of key lime (perhaps from the dry-hopping), and a warm dollop of vanilla sweetness. The last two notes are subservient to the pilsner malt—as they should be—but they add some additional intrigue.
The flavor follows the aroma, with less vanilla-lime sweetness than the aroma promised. Here again, it’s the cereal-like pilsner malt leading the charge, with an impression of graham cracker underneath. There’s just enough bitterness to close the sip, but it’s hardly noticeable as the malt has been so steadily driving the first three-quarters of the sip. It dries out perfectly, with some refreshing carbonation to leave your mouth clean and ready for another drink. The best part might be the tiny thread of vanilla-graham-honey that lingers right after the swallow. My final note scrawled at the bottom of my handwritten page: “I could drink 20 of these.”
And that’s what a style like blonde ale is all about: balance, refreshment, the ability to down three or four of them on a picnic and not feel totally wiped out. (FYI, though this beer comes in a stubby bottle, shown above, it’s also available in cooler-friendly cans.) If you, like me, have a bunch of outdoor activities on your docket this summer, consider this beer your sidekick.
Where to get it
Roadhouse distributes its beer to Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and California, and it’s available for purchase nationwide online.
Have a beer you think should we should consider for inclusion in an upcoming Beer Of The Week column? Email details to firstname.lastname@example.org.