Nathan Berrong works at CNN's satellite desk and writes Eatocracy's beer column, "Berrong on Beer." He Tweets at @nathanberrong and logs beers at Untappd.
Summer is in full swing and as temperatures continue to rise, there is a plethora of ways to combat the scorching sun. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable way than a few cold and refreshing craft beers.
The perfect beer for summer should be crisp, light in body and color, refreshing, easy to drink, transportable and have a lower alcohol content. Based on this criteria, I’ve chosen the 13 best beers for summer 2013. This list isn’t exhaustive because, believe it or not, I don’t have access to every beer. However, these are my 13 favorite beers that I’ve had the pleasure to try - and they’re sure to help you beat the heat.
21st Amendment Brewery: Hell or High Watermelon
Simply put, this beer is “summer in a can." This seasonal release from San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery is always stocked in my fridge during the summer months, and it’s one of the few beers I can think of that never gets old. The idea of watermelon in a beer may sound off-putting but the watermelon is faint yet present; it’s there only long enough to taste it without overpowering the wheat flavor. I challenge you to find a better beer to drink when it’s hot outside.
Firestone Walker Brewing Company: Pils
This brewery can do no wrong in my book. Everything they put out is topnotch, and beer nerds all over the country geek out with each new offering. If you think you don’t like the pilsner style, this is the one that will change your mind. Firestone Walker Pils is a pale yellow lager with a clean, mild but pronounced hoppiness upfront; at the finish, hints of toast. As a twist on a traditional pils, Firestone Walker dry hops theirs with German Saphir, which adds a touch of Bergamot zest and lemongrass. Thank you, Firestone Walker, for making me revisit a style that I had mostly written off years ago.
SweetWater Brewing Company: Waterkeeper Hefeweizen
SweetWater Brewery is one of the oldest breweries that is still making beer in the great state of Georgia. The brewery is only 16 years old, which tells you all you need to know about how Georgia stacks up against other well-established beer states. (Sidenote: Hey, State of Georgia! Ease up on the restrictive beer laws and let’s get some more craft breweries in production.) Even if my home state doesn’t have the beer scene akin to Washington or California, we still know how to make some damn fine beer. And SweetWater’s summer release, Waterkeeper, is a testament to that. It’s a German hefeweizen and apart from being a refreshing and incredible beer, it’s brewed (and named) to raise awareness for The Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit that aims to clean up and restore waterways all over the world.
Hill Farmstead Brewery: Arthur Saison
Hill Farmstead is one of the most talked about craft breweries in America right now. This is impressive when you consider the brewery is in its infancy (3 years old!), and it speaks to the high quality of the beers they’re producing. Arthur is Hill Farmstead’s take on a saison and is made with a house yeast and local well water. The beer is named after the founder's grandfather’s youngest brother, Arthur, and the brewery is on the land that was once home to him and his 13 siblings. Arthur is considered one of the best saisons in the world, and has white pepper and grassy notes that are synonymous with the style. What really sets it apart though is the sheer drinkability and balance that is so desirable, but rarely found today in extreme beers.
Maine Beer Company: Peeper
Maine Beer Company is another relatively new U.S. craft brewery and much like Hill Farmstead, they are making big waves in the beer scene. Apart from producing exceptional ales, they also have exceptional packaging. Their labels are classy, clean and simple, and I’m a sucker for a beer that not only tastes good but looks good too. Peeper is a pale ale that contains four different kinds of hops and finishes at 5.5%. It’s a great American pale ale that would be perfect at a barbecue, especially if actual barbecue will be consumed. Hops + spicy/tangy/sweet = delicious.
Golden Road Brewing: Cabrillo Klsch
Los Angeles’ Golden Road has set the bar for American-made Kölsch-style beers with their Cabrillo Kölsch. The style is hard to pin down and falls somewhere between an ale and a lager. Golden Road uses ale yeast but ferments it at cooler temperatures like a lager. The nose of the beer contains some peppery notes but the taste has light citrus flavors and finishes extremely clean and crisp. It’s refreshing and makes for an exceptional summer beer.
Samuel Adams: Boston Lager
Samuel Adams Boston Lager is the staple craft beer. It recently underwent a makeover of sorts, just in time for summer. The iconic brew is now available for the first time ever in cans. But, as founder Jim Koch told me, it's not just any regular aluminum can: The brewery invested $1 million to create their own can - aptly named the "Sam Can" - in order to ensure the quality and taste that Boston Lager fans have become accustomed to. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the outdoors," said Koch. "Some people don’t know that I was an Outward Bound instructor early in my professional life. I can’t wait to pack a few cans of Boston Lager in a pack before I head out on a hike or go camping, as a lot of parks don’t allow visitors to bring in glass.”
Bison Brewing Company: Hop Cuvée
Bison Brewing is an organic brewery out of Berkeley, California, and their Hop Cuvée is the best organic, hop-centric beer I've tried. The 2013 Hop Cuvée includes two new varietals of organic hops, Citra and Simcoe, and the classic Centennial hop. It’s a traditional West Coast IPA that is piney, crisp and finishes dry. And at only 5.5% ABV, it makes for a perfect summer beer.
Boulevard Brewing Company: Reverb Imperial Pilsner
Reverb Imperial Pilsner is part of Boulevard’s Smokestack Series of beers that come in 750-ml bottles (the size of a standard wine bottle). The beers are meant for sharing, and this beer would make for a perfect housewarming gift or picnic beer this summer. Boulevard takes the traditional pilsner and turns it up to 11 with Reverb, clocking in at close to 8% ABV. The pilsner style is extremely hard to brew because any flaws in the beer are immediately detected (unlike beers with a lot of ingredients or are barrel-aged, which aid in covering up off flavors). This beer has no flaws, and for a style that seemingly tastes so simple, this beer stands out as a true work of craftsmanship.
New Glarus Brewing: Thumbprint Berliner Weiss
Thumbprint Berliner Weiss is a German-style wheat beer that has recently grown in popularity in American craft beer circles. This light, effervescent beer is around 3% ABV, and tastes like tart lemons with a dry, almost white wine-like finish. New Glarus describes the beer as “...a kaleidoscope of fresh flavor. Barrel fermentation, Riesling grapes and Wisconsin White Wheat are bottle fermented with five proprietary yeast strains. A connoisseur's rare jewel both spirited and subtle, enjoy your sparkling toast under summer stars.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Odell Brewing Company: Celastrina
The second saison on the list, this one is from Colorado’s Odell Brewery and is called Celastrina, or Hops Blue. The name comes from the tiny blue butterfly that lives on wild hop plants along Colorado's Front Range. Celastrina is a cloudy blonde ale with banana, clove and grassy notes; it has a subtle spicy character in the finish. One of the coolest things about this beer is that $1 from each bottle sold goes to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program to help fund research of the Hops Blue butterfly. The beer comes in large format bottles which makes it perfect for enjoying with a meal (freshwater fish) like you would a white wine.
Westbrook Brewing Company: Gose
Pronounced “Goes-uh”, this German-style beer is gaining popularity here in the states. The beer is unfiltered and contains upwards of 60% malted wheat which creates a hazy, yellow ale that is surprisingly refreshing and usually a bit tart. I use “surprisingly” because the beer contains a decent amount of coriander and salt, and you wouldn’t think a salty beer would (A) be refreshing or desirable in the summer, and (B) taste good. But, it is and it does. I am personally a big fan of this style, but not all Gose beers created equal. Westbrook’s Gose, however, is one of the best I’ve ever had. If you can wrap your mind around the idea of drinking a beer that is slighty sour, salty, citrusy and sessionable at only 4%, this is definitely the summer beer for you.
Surly Brewing Co.: Furious
Furious is an aggressive, hop-bomb of an IPA that makes for a great summer beer. The beer is only available in cans (and kegs) making it perfect for, well, anywhere since cans are allowed in many places that bottles are not. One of the greatest things about this beer is that it packs a ton of flavor and complexity while being relatively low in alcohol at only 6.2%. Another great thing about Furious? Instead of the typical 12-ounce cans, Surly puts this one in pint-sized cans (16 ounces), and more beer is never a bad thing. Sweet honey notes balance the bitter and citrus hops flavors. It’s just an all around perfect example of an IPA in the summer.
That’s my list for the 13 best beers this summer. What are some of your favorite summer beers? Let me know in the comments below.
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Victory HopSun = summer
really? you had "written off" the entire pilsner style? and you call yourself a beer columnist?
I have tried to compose the most complete list of summer beers online. There are currently 120+ summer beers listed and reviewed at http://www.summerbeerreview.com/summer-beer-list.
Want something a bit stronger than a beer to make the summer heat more bearable? Try a classic daiquiri to keep you refreshed during this heat wave: http://brokeandthirsty.com/2013/07/16/classic-daiquiri/
SARANAC SHANDY is the best shandy in the business! Hands down!
Trumer Pils. Clean, crsip, extra bubbly. New fav.
Great list! Figueroa Mountain Brewery's Hoppy Poppy and Danish Lager are worthy of this list! also Firestone's 805.
Anyone ever had GOOD gluten-free beer?!?! If so, what?
Pork Slap Pale Ale
Ice cold Hamm's out of the cooler
Forget all these. As fans of Stone Brewing have righteously learned, "Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies". And that goes for any season of the year. Why bother?
Brooklyn Summer in a can is my favorite so far. Great beer!
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy gets my 1st place vote for best summer brew, followed closely by Shiner Ruby Redbird and Boulevard Wheat (add a small slice of lemon)!
Let me guess, you also have a favorite dress that you like to wear for the occasion...
Summer Shandy is one of the most replied favorites so far.
Good job including the West Brook Gose. It's now one of my favorites (despite being a bit pricy as it comes in 22 oz bottles). I also really enjoy their take on Berliner Weisse.
Summer has become the season of fruity, semi-beer-like beverages that pander to 21-year-old females. Might as well drink Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers at that point. I'll stick with Salzburger Stiegl, even though Stiegl also sells some sort of grapefruit-flavored nonsense...
Sam Summer Ale is the best! Just enough lemon flavor but not overwhelming. And a little background spice to give it real taste!
Every time there is a beer article there are hundreds of people that have to chime in with their list. No writer can ever list the best beers for anything, it is always an opinion, but what articles like this do is educate the public that there is something other than the fizzy yellow crap from BudMillerCoors. I love that there is a gose and berliner described so well in a mainstream article. Now go have a good craft beer, any one you like.
So far my favorite summer beer has been Live Oak Brewery's Hefeweizen but you can't ever go wrong with a good ol' Shiner Bock either!
My everyday beer is Third Shift. It is a clean tasting beer and everyone I ask to try, it likes it also (even people who drink lite beer). Everyone needs to try this beer, if you don't your missing out on something special.
BTW, I don't work for this company.
No no no. Ready to see media exploring "top strain of marijuana" for summer fun.
Another fine article, and I will be enjoying some of these in the studio this summer. 13 – the same number of studio albums we rocked. Nice man. -James
Shiner Ruby Redbird (ginger and grapefruit) & Red Hook Wisecracker Wit.
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Anchor Brewing's Anchor Steam, Speakeasy Double Daddy, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA. ....I like my India Pale Ale's.
what about Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum. Weyerbachers Double Simcoe IPA or Hazed and Infused. I'm surprised no russian river beers on this list.
Left Hand Brewery's Good Juju is very refreshing! It's ginger brewed beer that isn't too sweet and still has that hoppy taste without feeling too full after a couple of them!
Erdinger Pikantus is really good...I also like the Paulaners, and I've even found a taste for Xingu, a black brazillian beer found at bevmo. My favorite IPA is definitely Stone:IPA
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy! or Sunset Wheat! MMMMMM
Summer Shandy is a fine choice on a hot and humid summers day. I just recently tried Wells Banana Bread Beer from the U.K. Delicious.
I'm with the poster above, what would have been great was a regional article of great summer brews. I know every place in this country has local microbrews and pretty good ones but I'm not going to get them locally and if I don't know them and travel, I won't know them locally. I live in the PNW and there's beer everywhere here and I could tell you a bunch of great beers but if you don't live here or know how to fund them if you visit, what does it matter. This list is basically east coast, awesome but I'm not going out there. Yea the list is lacking, you can't put all the great microbrews of summertime into a short list for this country. No way, no how.
Just get on beeradvocate.com and trade for them. The PNW has plenty of ammo to grab them, if you wish. However, that being said, you have plenty of great beers to drink without trading for the average beers he listed, namely, Logsdon, Cascade, Almanac, and many others!
Good list, but you forgot Founders All Day IPA.
I'm a homebrewer and the best summer beer is my soured mango Belgian Golden Ale. Think lemonade only with mango
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. A lot a people say they don't like fruit beers and don't like the sound of a lemon aid beer but I tell you .... this is a very crisp and refreshing beer especially on a hot summer day. It is only 4.2% ABV not overly hopped and has a refreshing lemon aid smell. A must try! Personally, I cannot drink this on a cool/cold day. I need love it when it is hot out though.
Glad to see someone beat me to the punch. Summer Shandy is the best summer beer!!
luv my summer shandy...
Blue Point Summer Ale in the cans is pretty hard to beat super drinkable at a very sessionable 4.3 abv. reminds me of petes wicked summer brew that i havent seen in at least 10 years.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Fat Tire Amber, Alskan Pale Ale, all good beers. As a hombrewer, nothing tastes better to me than the beer I make. I'm sure other homebrewers will say the same about their beers as well. Nothing like a homemade, fresh beer that I invest my time in from start to finish. Taste good and is very gratifying to know I made it.
No mention of Russian River Breweries Pliny the Elder ?
they are just an example of a company trying to take advantage of the ridiculous hop obcession in the craft beer scene right now. Its about balance, not just about how many hops you can cram into a beer. I couldn't even finish a pliny. At best, "bitter" is not the flavor I associate with "refreshing on a summer day." At worst, I'd say they're disgusting.
@rhobere pliny isn't even that bitter LOL
not bitter compared to what? it Generally, they say, greater than about 60 EBUs (a scale of bitterness), the average person can no longer distinguish other flavors. Pliney the Elder ranks at a hair over 100. so what is it "not that bitter" compared to? maybe compared to other over-hopped beers, but compared to traditionally balance beers, its 2-3 times as bitter.
What about one of the original American brewed summer beers, Sierra Nevada Summerfest? This is one fine beer from one of the most consistent and longest lived microbrews in the US. Add to that is available in most "decent" beer and liquor stores.
Sierra Nevada makes some real quality products
To top it off Summerfest is now available in cans (here in NorCal at least). Beer coozie and a summerfest can....people think I'm sipping from a Pepsi (which is a good thing in certain settings)
Sofie by Goose Island is a wonderful summer beer...and Sofie Paradisi, if you're lucky enough to find it!
Goose Island is owned by Budweiser. You can find it anywhere if you like that stuff.
I'm enjoying the "Meridian Session Ale" this summer from Summit Brewing Co. in MN. I believe they're available around the US in various states but not all. They make some seriously good beers. Now if only our summer would last longer in MN. Cheers!
Dale's Pale Ale.....
Dale's is good. Pretty high octane, though.
St Arnold's Fancy Lawnmower .... how'd you miss that one? One of the best beers for summer and aptly titled as well!
The best summer beer is the one you drink when you come in after working out in the yard all day. Style, label, bottle or can...it doesn't matter. It will taste like heaven.
Amen to that! That first truly cold beer on a hot day is always the best one. All the ones that follow are chasing that one....
My personal favorite, Great Lakes Brewing – Burning River Pale Ale.
Widmer Bros' Citra-Blonde.
I like their Drifter, great for summer as well.
Widmer Bros' Citra-Blonde is an AWESOME summer beer. And RealVoiceofReason - Drifter is great too. Widmer Bros' may not qualify as a micro-brewery any longer but they are turning out some top notch beers. I'm glad they haven't lost their mojo like Sam Adams and many others.
Mike from Portland
Yes Drifter and Citra are both AWESOME summer beers, and who cares about the large scale of Widmer? They still consistently turn out great beer. If you are in Portland check out Breakside Brewery, they brew and taste in Milwaukie and are awesome guys with delicious/innovative beers.
Leinenkugel's brews a number of great beers. My year-round favorite is their Red Lager brewed with Mt. Hood hops.
No Shiner Ruby Redbird? Pshhhh.
Agreed! Shiner Ruby Redbird is the perfect combination of refreshing and flavorful...ruby red grapefruit with a hint of ginger. It is the perfect beer for a hot summer day.
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