June is already here and before long, summer will be upon us along with a smattering of summer seasonals. Summer craft beers aren’t a genre per se, but they tend to have similar characteristics: light, crisp, refreshing, mild to moderate hop profile, and many use wheat malt in the grain bill. This is a beer for a warm and sunny day. It should pair well with a day at the beach, the park, a picnic, a backyard barbeque, after an afternoon of yard work, you get the idea.
Most summer craft beers are pale wheat ales, blonde ales, or pale ales of some sort. Pale wheat ales are light in color with hues ranging from straw yellow to a brilliant golden. Flavors include a characteristic wheat tanginess, cereal grains, possibly some fruitiness including bananas, citrus, or apricots, and a fairly light hop profile. The texture tends to be light bodied and a fairly effervescent carbonation. Pale wheat ales tend to be pretty light and can be easily overwhelmed by strong outside flavors or aromas. Pale ales are more varied and can be as pale as a kölsch or pilsner with a very delicate flavor to as bold and strong as an IPA. Blonde ales are very light beers that look similar to pilsners but have a slightly less hoppy profile and sometimes can have a touch of estery fruitiness to them. I’ll discuss several summer beers that have pretty good distribution and perhaps you’ll find some of these might pique your interest.
My Favorite Summer Craft Beers
Brooklyn Summer Ale
This is a nice refreshing English Pale Ale brewed by Brooklyn Brewery. True to the style, it is fairly light in body with notes of citrus zest, pale malts, and a mild earthiness in the finish. A very balanced beer but has enough flavor to pair with burgers, fish and chips, and pulled pork. This is a solid “anytime beer” that is neutral enough to compliment a variety of foods.
Oberon is a widely anticipated summer release. It is a pale wheat ale, but don’t be fooled! It’s one of the most flavorful examples of the style available. Pouring hazy yellow, it sports the characteristic wheat flavor along with pears, apples, and spicy/herbal hops. It drinks mildly dry, very crisp, and quite a refreshing beer. I found this to pair wonderfully with beer battered fish fry with French fries and cole slaw. If you’re feeling adventurous, try cooking cod or flounder with rosemary, lemongrass, cracked peppercorn, and a splash of Oberon.
Three Floyds Gumballhead
Like The Big Lebowski, this is a cult classic beer brewed by Three Floyds in Munster, IN. It is classified as a pale wheat ale, but it’s bursting with flavors of honey malt, wheat, and a citrusy lemon hop profile fit for a hoppy American Pale Ale. This is a great beer for everyday drinking, but also does well with a grilled chicken and mango chutney. Throw a mixed green salad and raw snap peas on the side for a big refreshing taste.
Let’s pour a nice glass of sunshine! This is a saison style beer and saisons are extremely versatile beers with which to pair food because of their inherent complexity. This particular beer has a light malt profile, a good dose of lemony and peppery hops, a mellow yeast character, and even a touch of funkiness that so defines the flavor profile of saisons. I’ve made a nice tuna salad sandwich (with potato sticks on top) with jalapeno poppers on the side and it pairs very nicely. I’ve found that chicken fajitas also pair well with this particular beer.
Southern Tier Hop Sun
This is a personal favorite. I remember the first time tasting this at the local pub and being blown away by how it was so flavorful, yet delicate. A biscuity light malt backbone with a slight hint of wheat with a lot of lemon and spice, with a touch of earthy hops in the finish. The body is light and crisp with a spritzy carbonation. This is one I could pair with some yard work, a car wash, or better yet: cedar plank grilled salmon with paprika, dill, and a splash of lime juice and a skewer of grilled Cajun shrimp.
Anderson Valley Summer Solstice
This midsummer drink is a very nice example of a cream ale: a light ale commonly finished with lager yeast. Summer Solstice is light and refreshing with a very mild flavor profile indeed. A touch of pale malt, cream soda, and a very slight hop profile makes for the ultimate quencher for a hot day. This is another one you could pair with the beach or hanging out on the patio, but I thought it worked nicely with a casual plate of homefries, macaroni salad, and burgers topped with chopped onions and meat hot sauce (a Rochester, NY favorite called a Garbage Plate).
Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Another pale wheat ale that is fairly ubiquitous starting in late Spring when you walk through the grocery stores, Sam Adams Summer Ale is a lemony, citrusy, and spicy beer that gives you all the classic characteristics of the style. It starts with a citrusy bitterness but that quickly unfolds into lemon zest and a touch of pepper. This quaffable beverage pairs well with most light chicken dishes, seafood salad, and burgers; however, I really liked this with a California club sandwich of sliced turkey, avocado, swiss, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, applewood smoked bacon, and chipotle mayonnaise.
My name is Daren and I am a craft beer lover, not unlike all of you! Beer is a hobby and a passion and I enjoy sampling all kinds of beer as well as homebrewing. One of my first craft beers was Ommegang Three Philosophers in 2008, which introduced me to the extensive aromas, flavors, and textures that the world of craft beer has to offer. I started off exploring the Belgian styles, which led me to Chouffe Houblon. That began my foray into IPAs and DIPAs. One of my first IPAs is still on my favorites list: Alpine Nelson. And of course, I found myself quickly immersed in the world of barleywines, imperial stouts, and their barrel aged brethren. I like to brew traditional base beers but with a twist: dry hopping, ice-distilling, adding bourbon soaked oak, blending, etc. I like ‘em big, bold, and barrel aged (although a well made kölsch can hit the spot too)!
I was born and raised in Rochester, NY, but I recently moved down to the Sarasota, FL area with my wife. We both enjoy pairing food with our beverages and it’s even better with good company. My hobbies include playing guitar, snowboarding, cooking, drawing, and painting.