Hot, hoppy or crisp…these summer brews keep their cool.
(first appeared in The Skinny) Summer means many things to us all, but to craft beer drinkers, it means a new line of warm season thirst quenchers. Lighter, crisper, and most important, wet! This is the time of year we see wits and other wheats, lagers, pilsners and tasty pale ales that impede on the spinal tapping hop-crazed-big-alcohol beers for a more refreshing and energizing indulgence.
The best part of the recent craft beer boom is that there’s never a dull moment when it comes to innovative brewing. Todays small breweries are continually expanding upon the masterful traditions of the seasons and summer is no exception. The shear number of styles can be overwhelming, but fortunately there are some excellent web sites and apps (BeerMenus.com, BeerAdvocate.com, Pintley, Find Craft Beer) that can give us a an edge to make better beer choices for our outdoor parties, backyard barbecues, pub meet-ups and of course, our individual palates.
TIP: If you’re going to one of the many awesome beer festivals around the nation, look for a smartphone app as many events create them to help you stumble through the madness to seek out your favorites…and find your way to relief.
- Summer Love (Victory) 5.2% ABV
Grassy hopped aroma and crisp malty flavor make this appropriately named brew an easy drinker. Smooth, medium, swirly and perhaps a bit dry, the taste is a German malt complex, yet simple with Tettnang lemony goodness throughout. It’s always an easy victory with a fresh blonde on a hot summer day.
- Alchemy Ale (Widmer) 5.8% ABV
Long awaited replacement for the popular Drifter Pale Ale is smooth APA, balanced and distinct. This can hold it’s own-IMO and unlike some reviews out there. Not exceptionally malty or hoppy, but the floral citrusy taste is pleasant, crisp and creamy. A perfect light, zesty-wet summer beer at a great price.
- Dry Hopped APA (Schlafly) 5.9% ABV
One of my new favorites, especially off the tapper. This St. Louis brew is hoppy, bold and full bodied. The mix of Cascade and Chinook hops fit the genre well, right through to the clean piney grapefruit finish. It’s light enough for a hot day, but has the energy of an IPA and goes down super easy (and fast). Not for every one, but I’ll have another.
- Twilight Summer Ale (DeSchutes) 5.0% ABV
Who doesn’t like a hoppy blonde? Lighter, yet full-flavored, this aromatic Ale brings a solid malt foundation that pairs nicely with the Amarillo hops for flavors surprisingly big and crisp. A creamy wet porch sipper, as they should be.
- Summerfest (Sierra Nevada) 5.0% ABV
I love Perle hops, they leave a nice floral and spicy affirmed bitterness that doesn’t linger. This crisp dry pilsner comes at you kind of wispy, yet maintains a complex malty flavor that indoctrinates quality brewing with every watery mouthful. Spicy light refreshing back yard beer that fits the hot afternoon or the Staropramen-less heat of an August night.
- Oberon (Bell’s) 5.8% ABV
I’ve been a fan of this classic summer wheat way back when it was referred to as’Solsun’. It’s perhaps one the most popular and distinct summer crafts you’ll ever taste, and well distributed throughout the US. It’s an orangy, creamy, spicy mouthful of grainy sweet crispness and almost impossible to drink just one. A warm weather masterpiece that out classes any blue moon night.
- All Day IPA (Founders) 4.7% ABV
If you go at this one expecting that big IPA head rush, you may be disenchanted…at first. This “session” beer is brewed with a complex expo of grains and hops well balanced for a light, clean bitter finish, making it the only IPA on this list for summer beers. This earthy and somewhat fruity ale is perfect for the IPA effect on that sunny “all day” fishing boat trek when you don’t want your navigation skills gettin’ cloudy.
- Sundog Amber Ale (New Holland) 6.0% ABV
New Holland, MI is like a mini Amsterdam in the middle of America, festive, unbridled and cultured, just like their beer (Western Michigan is craft beer paradise). This mainstay ale has a toasty caramel character, is subtly malty sweet and has a complex nutty finish. Smooth, dry and more drinkable than expected – a fresh break from the bitter hop madness. Best of all, it’s a great beer with brats, chops or anything grilled for summer suppers.
- UFO White (Harpoon) 4.8% ABV
Nothing to alien here (UFO pertaining to unfiltered), this is a medium bodied, high carbinated spicy citrus wit, but not over the top, probably boosting recent popularity as wits aren’t for everyone. Light and chewy in the tradition of spiced wheat beers with unmistakable orange peel and a curious blend of other spices. Leaves a puckering finish that feels soft. citrus rind forward and a good match for outdoor food on a warm evening.
- Whitsun (Arcadia) 6.2% ABV
They used to make a dry hopped version (to add mild piney, citrusy notes), but it doesn’t need any of that and probably works much better as a summer wheat sans that step. Run off little hops. This unfiltered, translucent orange colored wheat beer rears a creamy, white head. Bready notes and a sweet caramel flavor shape this profile. Orange peel, coriander and a nice hop balance complete the finish. Classic and simple!
- Totally Naked (New Glarus) 4.5% ABV
The name alone says “It’s summer and I’m hot…or fresh?” Anyway, this American Pale Lager is simply pure and crisp. Deep grain breadiness meets a perfect balance of noble hops for a mildly bitter and extremely refined malty summer drink. If your looking for something light, yet masterfully smooth and mature in every respect, this seasonal is a virtue to behold, if you live in Wisconsin:)
There are endless choices and styles for summer sippin’. Our next beer post will feature a comprehensive list of apps, online communities and festivalsl that can help you find them and expand your experience. Until then, insist on American crafts or seek out homebrews whenever you can and always keep your feet far enough from the camp fire.