In early April of this year, the World Beer Championships held their annual tasting of Continental European Ale styles. Maibocks were also included, as they are in season this time of year. A few tasty sessions of an eclectic assortment of brews turned out some excellent results. Thanks again to all of the participating breweries and to our panel of judges.

Let’s start off with Kölsch, a great beer to introduce to your industrial lager-consuming friends, as it is quite approachable, and a great way to reward your self after the yard work is complete. A unique beer that is top-fermented and then lagered, the result is a clean refreshing ale with a slightly bitter finish, but not as much as, say, a German pils. One good Kölsch deserves another, but if you need to pair it with something a bit more substantial, try mild cheeses. A little cured meat wouldn’t hurt here either. A few notable entries included Goose Island Summertime (92 points), Alltech Lexington Kentucky Light (85 points), and Grizzly Peak Victor’s Gold and Roy-Pitz Best Blonde (both 84 points). Excellent session ales to keep on your radar.

We don’t really have much of a spring here in Chicago, but a great indicator to the locals that good weather is around the corner is the arrival of a quality Maibock on draft at one of our great beer bars. I love the malt character and strength of a solid Maibock. I grill roasted a pork loin stuffed with apples and onions and it pairs nicely with either the Full Sail LTD 02 and the Hofbräuhaus München Maibock (both 92 points). As quenching as they are, just remember to watch your intake with these heavy hitters. With an ABV at around 7 percent, you could be spinnin’ round the May pole a little quicker than planned.

Being outdoors is something I crave during the winter months. Come January, the cabin fever sets in and thoughts of picnics, riding the bicycle and relaxing on the patio with a hot grill, good book, and frothy beverage are steaming through my brain. So when the weather finally breaks and life is good, treat yourself to an afternoon outside with a bottle of saison. If there was ever a beer to consume in the beauty of nature, saison is it! Just think of the aromatics and lively character of this style combined with a relaxing picnic under a tree. Bring along a basket full of cheese, crusty bread, and fresh fruit and the experience can’t be beat. Two notable entries this time around included Goose Island 2009 Sofie (94 points) and Grizzly Peak Fille De Fermier (88 points). Take the time to find yourself a nice saison and I’ll see you in the park.

Our Belgian Specialty category is more or less a catch-all for those that don’t necessarily fit the strong ale or abbey style category. This time around, the entries were a real treat. The Belgian Style Red Ale category also gave us a great example of what brewers are doing with wild yeasts these days. Get your guests’ juices flowing with a Grumpy Troll Flanders Ned Ale (93 points), a great aperitif that will get the conversation started. Move onto Brooklyn Local 2 (91 points) and serve up some grilled flank steak with a side of chimichurri. This combination will make your people happy and you’ll be praised for your hospitality! Finish your soirée with a Unibroue Anniversary 17 and be sure to pair it with something decadent such as crème brûléeor maybe those artisanal truffles you’ve been holding onto. A mild cigar with this brew wouldn’t hurt either.

Be sure to check all of the results in the buyers guide following this article to discover even more excellent ales that are sure to inspire, whether they are a simple quaff to quench or a decadent sipper to savor. Cheers!