It’s not unusual to find cocktails featuring cucumber. This green member of the gourd family is crisp and cool on its own, and it can add a refreshing boost to summer drinks. Increasingly, cucumbers are finding their way into the hands of craft-beer brewers as well. A cucumber beer is a refreshing summer pour.
Free State Brewing Co.
The ingredients for Free State Brewing Co.’s Garden Party sound more like the base for a gin than an American pale lager, with cucumber, juniper berry and basil leading the charge. But head brewer Geoff Deman knows what he’s doing: In 2015, Garden Party took home a gold medal in the herb and spice category at the Great American Beer Festival. “It starts out like an American lager with this brilliant golden hue, but the aromas and flavors are really unexpected,” Deman says. “It’s kind of become a cult flavor for a lot of people.” Free State uses cucumbers and basil from Scotty Thellman at Juniper Hill Farms in Lawrence, Kansas, and the labor behind Garden Party is fairly intensive. There’s a lot of peeling and deseeding cucumbers and destemming basil. Thanks to its light profile and herbaceous elements, Garden Party lends itself well to mixing into summer drinks; Deman recommends a radler or summer shandy.
636 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kansas, freestatebrewing.com
Mother's Brewing Co.
The cucumber saison at Mother’s Brewing Co. in Springfield, Missouri, got its start four summers ago, when head brewer David Soper found himself throwing handfuls of cucumber slices into gin drinks. “We took that inspiration and started thinking about the flavors that we can get in nice, pale Belgian saisons,” he says. “We put ourselves in this garden scenario of walking through a fresh garden in August and smelling the spices and earthiness; we wanted to put all that into a beer.” Urban Roots Farm, about a
half-mile down the road from the brewery, provides around 100 pounds of fresh cucumbers for the seasonal brew. “They’re harvested and we use them immediately, so there’s no waiting,” Soper says. “We break the cucumbers down into a purée and add them to the beer post-fermentation.” The result? A light, satisfying saison that drinks particularly easily in the hot summer months.
215 S. Grant Ave., Springfield, Missouri, mothersbrewing.com
4 Hands Brewing Co.
In April, St. Louis’ 4 Hands Brewing Co. – in collaboration with Nine Network and Feast TV – held its second-annual Beer Creation Event. The winning team designed a beer that incorporated hibiscus, cucumber, black pepper, grapefruit and orange into 4 Hands’ City Wide Pils. 4 Hands head brewer Andy Burgio wanted to stay as true to this recipe as possible when he developed the cucumber gose. “We wanted everything to be subtle and balanced, especially with the cucumber and hibiscus,” Burgio says. Egyptian hibiscus flowers lend a floral note and a light-pink color to the gose, but the cucumber is the star of the show, driving the aroma and giving the sour beer its backbone. Cucumber, Burgio adds, is a flavor that backs up other ingredients without sacrificing its own profile. “Cucumber beer is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Burgio says. “It was really exciting to have the Feast event push us in that direction. For me, this beer just says summer.” Celebrate the release of the beer, dubbed On Cue, from 3 to 5pm on Sun., Aug. 6 at 4 Hands' tasting room; all sales benefit Nine Network.
1220 S. Eighth St., St. Louis, Missouri, 4handsbrewery.com