Crystal Lake Brewing | Beach Blonde
ABV 5.3 % | IBU: 18
Summer isn’t over yet. There’s still time. There’s still time for cook-outs, boating the lake or river, bonfires, s’mores and a backyard game of bags. With my first child coming hard down the pike and store shelves already bloated with Oktoberfests and pumpkin beers, I keep telling myself there’s still time to tick-off the activities on my summer must-do list. So perhaps that’s in part why I’m completely enamored with an easy drinking, well-rounded, and totally crushable beer from Crystal Lake Brewing.
Beach Blonde, the brewery’s take on the classic Munich Helles lager, has been something of a life raft in my last-ditch efforts to cling to summer. One of their year-round offerings – which by itself is enough to turn heads in a market flooded with hoppy brews as core offerings – Beach Blonde recently took a bronze medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in a category where standard-bearing German breweries won top honors.
That should tell you Beach Blonde is no slouch. When CLB opened their doors just a few years ago, partners John O’Fallon and Ryan Clooney – who is also the brewmaster – wanted to brew beers that were approachable, mindful of the history behind them, and appreciative of the place and tradition out of which the styles were born.
“The idea from the start was that extremely good beers don’t necessarily need to be extreme,” says O’Fallon, who’s also been an avid homebrewer for the last two decades. “We wanted our brand to represent the absolute highest quality, but at the same time be approachable for people just discovering craft beer. Our tagline, ‘Easy to drink. Hard to put down.’ is meant to communicate that philosophy, and the beers are designed to make good on that promise.”
Was that tagline created specifically with Beach Blonde in mind? It sure seems like it.
Beach Blonde pours a brilliantly clear golden with hues of straw or hay just beneath a thick pillow of bright white head. The beer is well-carbonated and looks extremely effervescent with bubbles racing up the side of the glass. The aroma is everything you want in a Munich Helles: a slightly toasted loaf of French bread fresh from the oven with subtle herbaceous, grassy notes close behind all that bready malt character. The taste follows the nose with just enough herbal hop bitterness for balance and a soft, verging on delicate mouthfeel that begs for gulping.
“Beach Blonde is a very important beer for us.” O’Fallon explains. “It’s a super-approachable style that we hope turns a lot of domestic beer drinkers into craft beer enthusiasts. Of course, we strive to make beers that craft beer drinkers will love, but we also want to appeal to a new audience ready for higher quality products. Most importantly, we are fanatically committed to brewing the absolute best beers possible.”
At a little more than 5 percent ABV, Beach Blonde is a to-style German lager made for the stein – this ain’t no sipping beer, but rather a quenching and flavorful brew you want on the back deck, on the party barge, in the fridge at all times. It’s the definition of a six-pack beer, but a six-pack beer that’s aware of its heritage and pays homage to it.
I may be trying too hard to cling to what’s already behind me – hazy mornings at the local farmer’s market, long, slow summer evenings on the patio, or even pre-fatherhood freedom. Time marches on, fall beers are coming fast, but Beach Blonde makes it easy to hang on to summer just a little longer.
Crystal Lake Brewing
150 North Main Street
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Monday – Thursday: 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Friday: 3:00 pm to Midnight
Saturday: Noon to Midnight
Sunday: Noon to 9:00 pm