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Cheeseburger In Paradise: How Well Do These Beloved ‘Summer Beers’ Pair With A Cheeseburger?

Before you take a sip of a summer beer, you should know a few things. All summer ales are summer beers, but not all summer beers are summer ales. Confused yet? Fine, a little background: there’s no set definition for what a “summer beer” can be. But there is a beer style called “summer ale,” and that beer is usually low in alcohol, light, and easy to drink, often with a citrus element. While a summer ale is a summer beer, it’s not the only kind of summer beer.

Technically speaking, a summer beer can be any style, although lighter styles are more common. In the simplest terms, a summer beer is a beer that makes you think of summer.

Along with swimming, sunbathing, and surfing the internet for new A/C units, another activity we typically associate with summer fun is grillin’. Who doesn’t remember dropping cannonballs into the pool while a dad (be it yours or someone else’s) blew his eyelashes off with a lighter-fluid fireball? As logic would dictate, summery beers go great with grilled food — steaks, sausages, veggies, burgers — or at least, they should.

That’s why, for our latest summer beer blind taste test, we tried to make our tasting as situationally appropriate as possible. Instead of just blindly nosing and tasting a handful of well-known summer beers, we decided to pair them with a bite of a juicy cheeseburger. To see which combination was more than the sum of its parts. How else could we finally find the best summer beer?

It’s a little hard to grill up a consistent product while nosing, sipping, and taking notes, so in lieu of making our own, we selected the most standardized product we could imagine, a Quarter Pounder with cheese from McDonald’s. You’ll probably prefer to grill your own, but if you don’t have the time or space a fast food burger and a beer do make a great “mind vacation.” Now then, onto the test!

Today’s Competitors:

  • Samuel Adams Summer Ale
  • Allagash White
  • Victory Summer Love
  • Brooklyn Summer Ale
  • Bell’s Oberon
  • Sierra Nevada Summerfest
  • Long Trail Summer Ale
  • Shipyard Summer Ale

Part 1: The Taste

Cheeseburger
Christopher Osburn

Taste 1

Taste 1
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is loaded with myriad aromas like coriander, cloves, and other spices as well as banana candy, caramel malts, and a light fruity scent. The palate, when paired with a bite of the cheeseburger, is very fruity, yeasty, malty, and has a nice mix of banana and spices. All of these flavors only add to the savory, umami flavor of the burger. It’s definitely a great beer to pair with grilled foods.

Taste 2

Taste 2
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

A nose of biscuit-like malts, wet grass, citrus zest, and slight, piney hops greeted my nose. Sipping it, when paired with a bite of burger, brought forth caramel malts, more citrus, and light, floral hops. It’s crisp and easy to drink and pairs well with a savory, cheesy, fatty burger. But there’s nothing really interesting in the flavor profile that sets this apart from many other crisp, easy-to-drink summer beers.

Taste 3

Taste 3
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

A lot is going on with this beer’s nose. There are aromas of bready malts, earthy grass, fresh hay, citrus peels, and floral, slightly piney hops. After a bite of burger, the palate continued this trend. The juicy, meaty burger paired very well with the Meyer lemon, tangerine, caramel malts, and piney, slightly resinous, subtly bitter finish. This is the crisp, malty, citrusy beer you’ve been looking for to pair with your summer burgers.

Taste 4

Taste 4
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a bit uneventful with some light tropical fruit esters, citrus zest, and maybe some subtle floral hops. But I really had to dig to find them. The palate isn’t much more exciting even when paired with a juicy burger. Some more tangerine, grapefruit, and other indistinguishable citrus flavors are paired with some lightly floral, subtly bitter hops. They all worked fine with the savory, salty meat, but didn’t really wow me. Overall, a lot of citrus and not much else.

Taste 5

Taste 5
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Lemon zest, floral hops, and sweet malts are prevalent on the nose. Otherwise, the nose is a bit light on the aroma. I took a bite of my burger and washed it down with this beer. The juicy, salty meat paired well with the sweet wheat, orange peel, and lemon zest of the beer and the cheese was a good accompaniment to the gentle spices. Overall, it was a decent pairing. But just not an overly interesting beer.

Taste 6

Taste 6
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose has some hints of sweet wheat, lemon zest, and orange peel. But really not much else. It’s not a very good start. I took a bite of the burger and then washed it down with some beer. The meaty flavor of the burger paired well with the wheat, citrus, and slightly floral hops flavors. The problem is that there isn’t really much more going on with this beer. It’s pretty boring and unexciting overall.

Taste 7

Taste 7
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

Complex aromas of banana peels, citrus zest, caramel malts, and light yeast met my nose before my first sip. After a bite of the burger, I took a sip. I found notes of orange peel, lemon curd, banana candy, bready malts, and a nice, slightly sweet, lightly bitter finish. The balance of yeast, malts and light citrus paired perfectly with the meaty, savory, salty burger.

Taste 8

Taste 8
Christopher Osburn

Tasting Notes:

The nose is surprisingly complex with aromas of earthy grass, caramel malts, citrus zest, slight pepper, and subtle, floral hops. This is the first beer that really seemed to mesh well with the umami, salty, cheesy flavor of the burger. The meaty flavor paired well with the citrus zest, sweet grains, caramel malts, and floral, slightly piney, barely bitter hops. I would definitely enjoy this combination again.

Part 2: The Rankings

8) Shipyard Summer Ale (Taste 6)

Shipyard Summer Ale
Shipyard

ABV: 5.1%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

While it seems like there are new summer beers every year. Some have been around since well before the craft beer boom. One of the most popular timeless summer brews is Shipyard Summer Ale. This 5.1% American wheat beer is brewed with Saphir and Williamette hops as well as 2-row British Pale ale malts, Munich malts, and malted wheat.

Bottom Line:

While Shipyard Summer Ale pairs fine with a cheesy burger, it’s the burger itself doing the heavy lifting. The beer is fairly muted and boring on its own.

7) Long Trail Summer Ale (Taste 4)

Long Trail Summer Ale
Long Trail

ABV: 5.4%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

This re-imagined summer ale was created because of the popularity of a small-batch brewery-only release. This pale ale (they call it a “juicy golden ale’) features Cashmere, Mandarina Bavaria, and Amarillo hops. It’s known for its juicy, citrusy, slightly bitter flavor profile.

Bottom Line:

Long Trail Summer Ale isn’t a bad beer. It has a nice citrus profile. It’s just fairly one-dimensional and it works well with a burger not because of, but in spite of it.

6) Samuel Adams Summer Ale (Taste 5)

Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Samuel Adams

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

There are few summer beers as more well known as Samuel Adams Summer Ale. This American wheat ale is subtly spiced and gets its main flavor from the addition of orange, lime, and lemon peels. There’s a reason it’s one of the most anticipated summer beers.

Bottom Line:

Personally, if I was going to pair a burger with any Samuel Adams beer, it would be the classic Boston Lager, with its mix of malts and Noble hops. Its Summer Ale isn’t a bad beer, it’s just a little bit of a one-trick pony with the citrus flavor.

5) Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Taste 2)

Sierra Nevada Summerfest
Sierra Nevada

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $24 for a twelve-pack

The Beer:

Sierra Nevada briefly discontinued this summer staple last spring (and dropped Summer Break Hazy IPA) only to bring it back just as quickly due to demand. This 5% crisp pilsner is brewed with Munich, Pilsner, and 2-row Pale malts as well as Perle, Saaz, and Spalter Select hops.

Bottom Line:

I understand the appeal of Sierra Nevada Summerfest. It’s a great American take on the classic Czech-style pilsner. It’s just that it’s on par with countless others that you could easily plug into this spot instead and be just as happy.

4) Brooklyn Summer Ale (Taste 8)

Brooklyn Summer Ale
Brooklyn

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $11.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

While many breweries opt for wheat beers when crafting their summer beer, Brooklyn instead opted for an English-style pale ale. Available from March until August, this 5% brew is known for its crisp, crushable flavor and balance of citrus and floral hops.

Bottom Line:

I’m not surprised Brooklyn Summer Ale paired so well with a cheeseburger. It’s a combination I’ve definitely enjoyed in the past and will do so in the future. The flavors work really well together.

3) Bell’s Oberon (Taste 7)

Bell’s Oberon
Bell’s

ABV: 5.8%

Average Price: $11.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

One of the most eagerly anticipated beers in the spring and summer, Bell’s Oberon is an American wheat ale made with simple ingredients like water, barley, wheat, hops, and house ale yeast. Unlike some wheat beers, there are no spices or fruit flavors. It’s simple, flavorful, and filled with citrus and hop flavor.

Bottom Line:

There’s a reason Bell’s Oberon is a beloved summer beer. It’s well-balanced and flavorful and the citrus, yeast, and wheat flavors pair well with the burger ingredients.

2) Allagash White (Taste 1)

Allagash White
Allagash

ABV: 5%

Average Price: $12.50 for a six-pack

The Beer:

There’s no American wheat beer more highly rated and beloved than Allagash White. It’s also one of the greatest summer beers of all time. This Belgian-style wheat beer was brewed with malted wheat, raw wheat, oats, coriander, and Curaçao orange peel.

Bottom Line:

Allagash White is such a widely loved beer, I’m not surprised it fared so well when paired with a burger. The gentle spices, yeast, and orange peel play well with the meaty, salty burger.

1) Victory Summer Love (Taste 3)

Victory Summer Love
Victory

ABV: 5.2%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

The Beer:

There might not be a more aptly named beer than Victory Summer Love. This eagerly anticipated blonde ale is brewed with Pilsner and Carapils malts as well as Tettnang and Simcoe hops. The result is a crisp, light, citrus, and pine-forward summer beer.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to well-rounded beers to pair with burgers, it’s really tough to beat the malt, citrus, pine, earthy, floral flavor profile of Victory Summer Love.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Just like with other beer blind taste tests, complexity and balance were key in rating and ranking these beers. A cheeseburger can be very heavy, fatty, and salty and it needs to be tempered with the right beer. It’s clear beers (regardless of the style) that have a broad, expansive flavor profile fared better than lighter, simple beers.

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