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Ranking The Best Beer Styles — And Best Bottles — For Summer ’19


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Summer and beer go together like summer and swimming holes or summer and lakes or summer and burgers. The sudsy beverage is the perfect, light counterpoint to a hot day. An ice cold beer quenches that summer thirst better than pretty much any drink on earth (except maybe a Paloma).

But not all beer is created equal. Some beers are better summer sips than others. You really don’t want to start downing a creamy, hefty Imperial stout that’s chock full of Christmas baking spices when you’re in the backyard with your feet cooling in a kiddie pool. Barrelled porters don’t sound too appetizing either. Nor do — shocker — winter ales.

As a general rule, lighter beers are the play all summer long. But that still leaves scores of options. To help you make the best beer-related-decisions this summer, we’ve ranked our ten favorite beer styles for the summer. These are the frothy cans and bottles of suds that we love drinking this time of year — refreshing, light, and very crushable.

Summer starts this Friday so let’s go get it!

10. Pale Ale

Why Summer:

A pale ale can be a light beer that hits on big, fruity notes, bringing along fresh juiciness. While your average pale ale doesn’t hit the huge hop notes of an IPA, it still has a nice hoppy depth to it. There’s a clear sense of sweet malts as a base that accent the crispness of a hop-centric beer.

What To Buy: Citra Pale Ale Upslope Brewing

Out in Colorado, Upslope brews up a defining can of pale ale for the summer. Citra Pale Ale brings the ruckus if you’re looking for a fruit-forward summer refresher. Grapefruit is the biggest presence in the beer, with a nice tropical fruit base. There’s a buttery caramel malt background that works as the perfect accent to all that juicy fruit.

9. Saison

Why Summer:

A Belgian-style Saison is brewed specifically for summer sipping. These are some of the most refreshing beers out there. The light, amber beer utilizes wild yeasts to bring a funky and crisp dry beer sip. In the U.S., you might find these beers labeled “farmhouse ales” due to the old-school way of fermenting these beers on farms with open tanks that draw in wild yeasts from the farm air.

What To Buy: Saison Dupont

Saison Dupont is the perfect backyard barbecue companion. The beer has a weightlessness to it. It’s dry and crisp with a grassy, farmhouse funk. There’s a solid malt base that leans towards a sweet biscuit. The hops are present and offer a light bitter counterpoint, tying the whole thing together.

8. Pilsner

Why Summer:

A Czech Pilsner is lager dialed up to eleven. The hop-centered brew relies on the perfect balance of sweet barley malts and sharp yet subtle hops. Bottles of pilsner served ice-cold are quintessential summer beers that quench thirst and get you nice and lit.

What To Buy: Pilsner Urquell

The king of the style is Pilsner Urquell. The beer has a clear hoppy nature that leans towards fresh cut grass on a summer’s day. Under that bitter layer is a solid base of rich grain malts. There’s a definite sweet edge to the malts that sit in balance with the hops. Best of all, the sessionable 4.4 percent ABV helps this one go down very easily.

7. Wheat

Why Summer:

A simple wheat beer — hefeweizen in German, witbier in Belgian — is the epitome of summer sipping under a shady tree on a hot day. The slightly spicy and bold fruity edge that the wheat brings to the table helps make this a great choice in the summer.

What To Buy: Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7

Schneider Weisse’s Original is a solid place to start any wheat beer journey. The classic notes of a wheat beer are front-and-center. Banana and cloves come through most prominently. Notes of sourdough bread, banana bread sweetness, and more spice come in next. Finally, there’s a full-bodied velvet nature to the beer that helps it go down all too easily.

6. Lambic

Why Summer:

Okay, now we’re getting into super refreshing territory. A Belgian lambic is the dry and crisp fruit-forward summer sipper of your dreams. This funky sour can be like taking a drink of a fruity-aide that’s spiked with grassy alcohol. It’s complex yet simple enough to quench any thirst.

What To Buy: Coolship Cerise, Allagash Brewing

While the Belgians dominate the lambic game, there are plenty of great samples of the style being made here too. Allagash’s Coolship Cerise settles on locally grown Maine cherries, giving this one a tart and sweet balance. The sour of the wild yeasts has an earthy undertone that leans towards a funky barnyard cheese. Then those cherries come in and cut through all that tart funkiness and add a beautiful balance of sweet and even more sour notes.

5. Gueuze

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#oudegeuze #3fonteinen #beerlovers

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Why Summer:

A Belgian gueuze is the best of the best lambics combined into one great beer. Basically, variously aged lambics are blended and then aged yet again to create a gueuze (pronounced, roughly, Goo-zzz).

What To Buy: 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze

3 Fonteinen’s Oude Geuze is the mountaintop of great sour beers. There’s a lot going on here. The beer has a distinct sour funk that leans between a farmhouse after the hay has been harvested and a brisk vinegar sourness. There’s earthiness next to citrus zest next to musty libraries. Overall, the tartness and sour nature lead to a bright dry finish that’ll have you saying, “ahhhhhhh…” all summer long.

4. Kölsch

Why Summer:

A German kölsch is a slightly lighter lager than a pilsner. The style from the German city of Köln has a distinct hoppy nature that never overpowers the almost spicy and vinous malt base. This is a beer that’s best served cold in small glasses that you can drink a lot of.

What To Buy: pFriem Family Brewers Kölsch

Kölsch is picking up in popularity in the U.S., especially during the summer season. pFriem brews a classic example of the style here in America. The golden bottle of suds has a very light nature. There are notes of sweet biscuits in the malts and bright fields of summer florals above the grain. You’ll be transported to an apple and pear orchard on a hot summer’s day where honey bees buzz around in rays of sunshine.

3. Pale Lager

Why Summer:

This is the easiest answer to “what beer should I drink all summer?” A pale lager — think PBR, Miller, Coors, etc. — is the light beer that’s crushable all day and night. The lower ABVs make this an easy choice that’ll dial back any chance of a heady hangover the next day. Plus, ice-cold cans or bottles of this quaffable beer style screams “summer relaxin’ by the pool.”

What To Buy: Rainier

You need something light and local. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, that’d be a Rainier. If you’re in Rhode Island, it’d be a Narragansett. If you’re in Pittsburgh, it’d be an Iron City. You get the point. Grab a case of your local brew, fill a cooler with ice and said beer, fire up the grill, and get summer started. The mild hops and malty base should always be subtle, making this one easy to drink without demanding much thought.

2. Smoked Beer

Why Summer:

The likelihood of sitting next to a campfire, smoker, or grill during the summer is very high. To compliment that experience, you need a great smoked beer in your hand. By using smoke in the malting process, a clear smoked nature is imparted into the beer. This gives you a real sense of fire in the beer that works wonders as an accompaniment to a real flame.

What To Buy: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen

Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen is a stone-cold classic. The beer has a lightness to it that works wonderfully in the summer. The dark glass of suds has a clear smoked nature that leans towards a fatty smoked piece of meat sitting in a smoker. There’s an echo of hops in the background, offering a slight counterpoint to the smoky malts. Overall, this is a very easy-drinking beer that just works when you’re sitting next to an open fire all day and night.

1. Berliner Weisse

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It's a Berliner Weisse sorta day.

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Why Summer:

Berliner Weisse has a lot going for it as a summer sipper. The beer is a sour refresher that has a very low ABV. The beer should clock in at around three percent, meaning you can drink a lot of this super refreshing beer. It’s amazingly thirst quenching and low alcohol. That’s a win-win if you ask us.

What To Buy: Berliner Kindl Weisse

Our advice is to start with the original, sans any berry or fruit sweetening. The basic Berlin Kindl Weisse has a creamy sour base. It’s tart, malty, and effervescent. There’s a nice dry edge to the end of the sip alongside a clear tartness that’ll leave you with a pucker. Once you try the style in its original form, then you can start adding fruits and herbs to the mix (don’t sleep on wild woodruff).

It’s a bit like taking a journey through a summer orchard of your choosing.

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