Summertime, and the drinkin' is easy. But choosing what to drink is actually kind of challenging. Store shelves fill up with bottles labeled 'summer beer,' but there's no one style that ties them all together, so it's hard to know quite what to expect when you pop the cap. And it could be that your perfect summer beer isn't labeled 'summer beer' at all: breweries constantly release new beers that don't mention an ideal drinking season on the label, and some of those new brews are the true ideal beers for hot and humid days.
The key to finding your warm weather favorite: look toward the lower side of the ABV scale (especially if you tend to do your summer drinking outside and all day long) and choose based on the flavors you crave, and maybe the food that you're bringing along in your cooler.
Toward the bottom of this story, you'll find some of our tried-and-true summer favorites, but if you're tired of the same seasonal offerings and looking for something new, start here: six delicious, recently-released beers that are just the thing to quench your summer thirst.
Smuttynose Hayseed (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
At just 3.8% ABV, this farmhouse ale can provide all-day refreshment without requiring a post-picnic nap. It looks like sunshine in a glass and has a scent ideal for outdoor dining: aromas of lemon zest and hay carry into an earthy but refreshing brew. The light lemony flavors in the forefront are accentuated by hints of peach, cracked pepper, and grassy herbs. The dry finish helps it work wonderfully with a variety of simple foods: whatever anyone brings to the picnic will likely pair well.
Drink It With: A platter of sliced veggies and cooling tzatziki dip. The dill brings out the herbal qualities of the beer beautifully.
Left Hand Introvert IPA (Longmont, Colorado)
If your go-to summer beverage is a fruity or herbal iced tea, you'll adore Left Hand's newest session IPA. This juicy, refreshing beer is just 4.8% ABV, and it smells just like mango and pineapple. Wrapping up with a wave of spearmint, Introvert finishes dry and just bitter enough to remind you it's an IPA. There's no need to be a dedicated hophead to enjoy this one; it's a beginner-friendly brew that balances refreshing hops with just the right amount of sweetness.
Drink It With: Pork kebabs or chicken kebabs rubbed with green curry paste: the citrusy and herbal notes of the beer are meant for the flavors of lime leaf and lemongrass, galangal and cumin. Or try your hand at making green chorizo.
Parallel 49 Tricycle Radler (Vancouver, Canada)
Broiled grapefruit with brown sugar is a favorite dessert of mine: I love the combination of fruity, caramelized, sweet-tart, and bitter. Parallel 49's new radler is basically a liquid version of that, blending a light lager with grapefruit juice concentrate to make a 4% ABV beverage that goes down a bit too easy. The juicy grapefruit flavors are enriched with hints of lychee and melon, making this stuff tasty and supremely refreshing with a finish that's clean and just a little mouth puckering.
Drink It With: Kale and avocado salad or other some other salad made with bitter greens. This bittersweet beverage can balance the bite of the greens while cutting through the richness of avocado.
Abita/Del Ducato Two Boots Lemon Saison (Abita Springs, Louisiana)
Close your eyes and sip this beer; you may find yourself thinking you're sipping lemonade with a little something extra in it. Abita's newest saison is a collaboration with Italy's Del Ducato brewery, and you know we're pretty pumped about Italian breweries these days. Two Boots is brewed with lemon balm, black pepper, and Louisiana honey. It's an effervescent sparkler with a smooth texture and lots of bright lemon and gingery spice amid the toasted grain. A little tang from the inclusion of wheat leaves the finish dry and food-friendly.
Drink It With: A picnic spread including good ricotta that you've whipped with pepper and fresh herbs. The beer's hints of honey and pepper latch right into the cheese, while its bright acidity keeps things fresh.
Captain Lawrence Effortless IPA (Elmsford, New York)
While the new Left Hand brew above is beginner-friendly, this IPA is for those who really like it bitter. Even though the alcohol is toned down to 4.5%, big IPA flavor and body are very much intact here. You'll get big grassy aromas and a mouthful of grapefruit and pine, plus a hint of licorice if you pay attention. Unlike many bigger IPAs, though, the finish is dry and crisp, ideal for session drinking.
Drink It With: Grilled chicken with barbecue sauce. The bitterness of the beer keeps the sweet sauce in balance.
Victory/Dogfish Head/Stone 2015 Saison du Buff (Downington, Pennsylvania)
From the moment you open this bottle, the herbs from the Simon and Garfunkel tune hit your senses. This beer is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (good luck getting that out of your head, sorry!), and while each element shines in the flavor, they blend together beautifully, too, accentuating the refreshing side of this tangerine-tinged, bready brew. Victory, Dogfish Head, and Stone have been taking turns hosting the brewing of this beer over the years, and with a few additional American hops (most notably Citra) added to the recipe, this newest version is not to be missed.
Drink It With: Herbed turkey burgers. You're matching up herbs in the beer with herbs in the dish: it's an easy call. The citrusy flavors in the beer will help refresh you between every bite.
A Few More Favorites
Of course, your drinking options aren't limited to new releases, and we can't help but give a little love to a few summer classics. If you're craving tart, light, and fruity, start with Dogfish Head Festina Peche a Berliner Weisse-inspired beer brewed with peaches for a distinctly American take on the classic German style. It's peachy and tart with bright splashes of Meyer lemon. It'll make your mouth pucker, and that's a good thing on a muggy day.
Sometimes you need a summer beer that's a little more creamy, especially if you're eating spicy food like jerk pork skewers or Cajun chicken fritters. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice is our pick, leaning toward a malty caramel sweetness that's just perfect for taming heat.
Wheat malt can make a beer uniquely refreshing, and it has us craving Bell's Oberon every summer. The bright tropical fruit aromas, juicy tangelo flavor, and grassy hop character all come together in this easy-drinker. It's fruity enough, hoppy enough, and chuggably thirst-quenching enough to please pretty much every beer lover we know.
One more for your cooler: Grisette is a lesser known farmhouse-style beer, generally lighter than a saison and often brewed with wheat as well as barley for a smooth texture and light tang. Sly Fox's Grisette is bright and refreshing without sacrificing complex flavor. Soft toasty malt is brightened up by notes of juicy lemon and peppery yeast: this is a beer that leaves us wishing we'd brought a second sixpack along for the ride.
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