Best Beers and Ales for Summer
Summer is a thirsty season, one for which beer is tailor-made. Delicious and refreshing, beer is a great way to unwind after a long, hot day. Even better, the finest brews rarely set you back more than a few bucks. From wheat and Fruit Beers to summer ales and brisk lagers, the flavor possibilities are endless, so why not break out of the mass-market mold?
Check out GAYOT’s Top 10 Summer Beers and follow these simple steps: Chill. Sip. Chill. Repeat. And for even more light, refreshing summer-style brews, take a look at our Best Low-Calorie Beers.
> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.
1. Bavik De Brabandere Wittekerke
Origin: Rijksweg, Belgium
Beer type: Witbier
Price: $10 for six-pack 11.2 oz.
Brewed by: Brouwerij De Brabandere
Wittekerke (meaning “white church”) has been made since 1894 by the Bavik brewery in Bavikhove, which is in the southern part of Belgium’s West Flanders.
The Wittekerke does not meet the normal requirement of Belgian beers to have 25 percent wheat in combination with barley. It is also the only wheat beer to use a small amount of oats, which imparts a lemony aroma and a refreshing, fruity flavor. In addition to hops, it is spiced with orange peel and coriander, contributing to a dry, lingering aftertaste with an herbal tartness. Its cloudiness is in keeping with Belgium’s traditionally unfiltered beers. At only 5 percent ABV, this authentic gem goes down easy on a summer day.
2. Goose Island Summertime Kölsch
Origin: Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
Beer type: Kölsch
Price: $10 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Goose Island
This summer seasonal is brewed in the fashion of a true German-style Kölsch.
It’s cold-conditioned after primary fermentation using a hybrid of ale and lager yeasts. Brewed with two-row barley and wheat malt, it pours the color of the bright summertime sun. The beer is bittered with Mt. Hood and Saaz hops, providing a crisp aftertaste. It’s balanced by the typical fruity notes of an ale, along with the sweet grain taste of a lager, making this Kölsch an easy-to-drink summer quencher. And at only 5.1 percent ABV, you may want to put back more than one.
3. Kona Brewing Lemongrass Luau
Origin: Kailua Kona, HI, U.S.A.
Beer type: Blonde Ale
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Kona Brewing Company
Brewed on the Big Island where it’s summer all the time, Lemongrass Luau’s name alone conjures up warm Hawaiian nights and cool island breezes.
This beer is made with generous amounts of lemongrass and fresh ginger added throughout the brewing process along with a mix of Willamette, Northern Brewer and Sterling hops that add layers of earthy complexity. While the lemongrass is more subtle in the background, the ginger is easily detected in both the aroma and flavor, but does not overpower. The modest ABV of 5% enables it to be an easy-drinking session beer. The brewery suggests pairing it with grilled fish, chicken and pork, making it a good fit for your summer BBQ plans.
4. Laitilan Kukko Pils
Beer type: Pilsner
Price: $2.25 for 16.9 oz.
Brewed by: Laitilan Wirvoitusjuomatehdas
Reputed to be the world’s first gluten-free beer made with malted barley, this pilsner is brewed in Laitila, Finland, using pure Nordic water.
An independent study conducted by the Finnish Coeliac Society revealed that the beer was, in fact, gluten-free. Kukko is Finnish for rooster; the bird also appears in the brewery’s emblem. Upon pouring, you’ll find a sweet malt aroma, clear golden hue and lively carbonation with a frothy white head. Unlike many gluten-free beers, which substitute barley with sorghum, rice or corn, this lager tastes like real beer. It’s a refreshing one at that, with a light body, sweet taste and zesty effervescence.
5. New Belgium Blackberry Barley Wine
Origin: Fort Collins, CO, U.S.A.
Beer type: Barley Wine
Price: $8.50 for 22 oz.
Brewed by: New Belgium Brewing Company
Part of the Lips of Faith series, this small-batch brew was New Belgium’s first foray into barley wine.
This new creation is based on English-style barley wines, which are typically sweeter than American offerings. Fresh blackberries are added at the end of fermentation, and subtly emerge in the aroma and aftertaste without overwhelming the senses. Belgian candi sugar, caramelized sugar and Caramel Munich malt also help to make this a sweet sipping beer. This rich ale starts big and finishes dry, smooth and warm, with plenty of potency thanks to its 10 percent ABV.
6. Orlison Brewing Company Clem’s Gold Lager
Origin: Airway Heights, WA, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Pale Lager
Price: $8 for four-pack 16 oz.
Brewed by: Orlison Brewing Company
Founded in 2009 in Airway Heights, Washington, this brewery’s motto is “Brew No Evil,” a statement expressing their commitment to clean, clear and tasty lagers.
Whereas most American craft breweries concentrate on ales, this small operation focuses exclusively on the more difficult and time-consuming art of lager-making. This rendition is touted as a pre-Prohibition style lager, and like those made back in the day, it’s an all-malt version with no added adjuncts (such as corn and rice). Its appearance lives up to its name, coupled with a frothy white head that lingers as you sip. GR Tradition and Perle’s hops contribute to the real beer flavor and help to balance the sweetness of the malt. The full carbonation is the final piece of the puzzle, which makes this a flavorful, satisfying and refreshing summer beer.
7. Stiegl Radler
Origin: Salzburg, Austria
Beer type: Fruit Beer
Price: $9.99 for six-pack 11.2 oz.
Brewed by: Stiegl
Radler’s Austrian-made shandy is 60 percent fruit soda and 40 percent Stiegl-Goldbräu, the brewery’s Premium Lager.
The aroma is full-on grapefruit and its cloudy, pale yellow hue is not unlike that of grapefruit juice. You’ll taste the tartness along with a refreshing sweetness in this hybrid drink that goes down like soda but has a beer-like aftertaste. Those watching their waistlines during the swimsuit-wearing months will appreciate that this quencher is only 35 calories per 100 ml, and at only 2 percent ABV, it nearly qualifies as a non-alcoholic beer.
8. Stillwater Artisanal Ales Cellar Door
Origin: Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.
Beer type: Saison, Farmhouse Ale
Price: $11 for four-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Stillwater Artisanal
Stillwater Artisanal Ales has been wowing the beer world with its unique Belgian-inspired varieties since it began contract brewing in 2009.
The use of white sage in this ale has an interesting back-story: Stillwater owner Brian Strumke was burning sage to cleanse the negative energy left over after his girlfriend kicked him out (she didn’t approve of his opening a brewery,) when he decided to make it an ingredient. The sage (a non-traditional ingredient for saison) plays a starring role in both aroma and taste, joined by the assertive presence of tangerine-flavored Sterling and Citra hops. The pronounced dry finish, which is the result of the saison yeast, has an earthy spice.
9. Stone Pale Ale 2.0
Origin: Escondido, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Pale Ale
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Stone Brewing
In 1995, Stone Brewing Company’s co-founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner crafted the brand’s first beer in a rented condo in Solana Beach, California.
Their Stone Pale Ale, the flagship brand for 18 years, would go on to become San Diego County’s first brewed-and-bottled beer. Fast forward to 2015, and Koch and Wagner decided it was time for an update. Stone Pale Ale 2.0 is a crisp brew that caters to modern hop-heavy tastes. It pours a golden hue with a light body, and offers ample spiciness thanks to a touch of rye. Generous helpings of German hops impart flavors of bright peach and Mandarin orange. The overall result is a complex, hoppy ale that, at 6 percent ABV, is one of the milder beers the brewery offers in terms of alcohol strength. However, it’s anything but mild in regards to flavor.
10. Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale
Origin: Portland, OR, U.S.A.
Beer type: American Pale Ale
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Widmer Brothers Brewing
This ale was originally brewed in 2009 and dubbed Brewmasters’ Pale when the brewing team first experimented with Summit hops, a new hop at the time.
It was retired in 2013, but after fans clamored for its return, this old favorite is back. The aforementioned featured hop is known for its distinctive and delicate undertones of tangerine, mandarin orange and grapefruit, which come through in the aroma and flavor. Caramel malt gives it an attractive copper-red hue and there is just enough bitterness to balance, allowing the mélange of citrus flavors to shine. This is an easy-drinking brew to enjoy in the summer or really, any time of year.