Beer Mailbag: Gordon Biersch Turns 25, SweetWater Takes Pils

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- After the beer industry has placed all of its seasonal summer beers on shelves and reminded Memorial Day shoppers that summer is nearly upon them, things typically settle down in beer world a bit.

Not this year.

Small brewers are not only cranking out seasonal releases as the temperatures rise, but they're putting out variations on summery styles and producing special editions of old favorites. This not only builds their portfolios, but gives them a little more room on beer shelves and bar tap handles during the busiest segment of the beer calendar.

After sending a flood of summer beers in May's mailbag, the breweries switched it up a bit by mixing in their seasonals with some summer standards such as Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen and some mellow pilsner. This month's bag is low on offbeat, big-bottle releases and heavy on everyday drinkers that would be at home in even the most conservative of summer beer coolers. Let's stop blabbing and get to the good stuff:

Happy anniversary, everyone!

A couple of small breweries across the country are making milestone birthdays this year, and we've spoken to a couple of them about how times have changed since they brewed their first batch. It's been a long trip for most of them, but few took a more circuitous route than San Jose's Gordon Biersch.

The brewery is celebrating 25 years in the business, a span that saw it spawn and sell off a chain of nearly 40 brewpub restaurants in 19 states and Taiwan, sell a huge share of the brewery to the owners of Ultimate Fighting Championship, brewed private-label beer for Costco and Trader Joe's and become nearly as famous for serving garlic fries at San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers games as it is for brewing beer. During that span, however, Gordon Biersch stuck to the simple German and Czech recipes that made it famous in the first place. Its Hefeweizen, Marzen, Blonde Bock, Czech Pils, spring Maibock, summer Kolsch and other seasonal and limited releases have kept the label's beer nice and accessible.

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