Let me set the scene for you. It’s 92 degrees outside. You’ve just mowed your lawn. Your kids are in the backyard playing in the sprinkler and a neighbor is going to walk over so you can play some horse shoes. You might grill out later. And take a stroll through the neighborhood. You’re definitely going tubing this weekend. Or maybe you’ll convince that neighbor to let you borrow his boat so you can hit the lake.
Nice scene, right? Summer is coming and you need to be prepared, which means restocking your cooler with summer-friendly beers. Because you can’t spend a day on the boat drinking double IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. You need lagers and pales and wheats. Here are six seasonals to get your summer started in the right direction.
Lagunitas Summer Lager
I’m really happy Lagunitas decided to make this beer because it is a prime example of what a craft lager can be. It is not only crisp and easy drinking, it’s grassy and herbal with a serious fruity element thanks to the Loral 291 hops and a new yeast from Denmark. It’s refreshing and I could drink it by the cooler full if I’m in an innertube and flip flop situation, but it’s interesting enough to savor and contemplate as well. Sadly, Summer Lager won’t be around forever; it’s a limited release that will disappear far too soon. It’s 5%. Look for it in cans.
Sweetwater 420 Strain Mango Kush
Remember when Sweetwater released an IPA inspired by one of their favorite strains of weed? They did it again, only this time, they gave the weed treatment to a wheat ale. And once again, this beer smells exactly like your uncle’s van. It is definitely dank and resinous, particularly for a wheat beer. It’s frothy and unfiltered (look for little yeast bombs floating around on the bottom of the glass) and has a pilsner like crispness and a dry finish. I don’t pick up a lot of mango, but that’s probably because it’s so dank, and the nose is so strong with Snoop Dogg’s cologne, that’s all I notice. It’s 5%. Find it in bottles.
Shacksbury Ginger Spritz
Technically, this isn’t a summer release, but I don’t care because it’s so damn good and it proves why Shacksbury continues to be my favorite cidery. This spritz is made from 100% fruit—basically just apples, ginger and some bitter orange. Anytime you can get a full serving of fruit and a buzz, I’m all for it. It’s only vaguely appley, so you get more ginger than anything, which comes off as a little bit spicy. It’s earthy and herbal and super dry. I could see using this as a mixer in a cocktail of sorts. Or maybe just dropping a shot of bourbon in it. So, I did just that. And the result? Pretty freaking good. The bourbon actually brings some of the apple out from hiding, but it comes off as less sweet and far more refreshing than a bourbon ginger. Apparently, they make a citrus version of the Spritz that might even be more worthy of a summer afternoon. This one is only 3.9% and in cans.
Elysian Salute the Sun Pale Ale
Remember when pale ales ruled your summer cooler? What happened? I guess there are simply too many options out there now to justify giving up cherished cooler space to a humble pale. And yet, Elysian has made a tasty pale that deserves some cooler real estate. This beer was conditioned on sundried black limes. Honestly, I didn’t know that was a thing, but the result is good: It’s a light, smooth beer that’s all about those zesty lime notes. It’s also a little bit tart without going full pucker, which is nice on a hot summer day. It’s 5.2%. Look for it in bottles.
Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Speaking of nostalgia, there was a time when I absolutely demanded a wheat beer in the middle of the summer. But I feel like I’ve moved beyond the style at this point in my beer drinking career and I can’t remember the last time I actually ordered a wheat on purpose. Sam Adams has produced a wheat that has me rethinking my bias. This beer is brewed with orange, lemon and lime peels and all of those fruits are present on the nose and in the sip. There’s no need to add a slice of orange to this wheat beer, it’s juicy enough on its own. But it’s not a one-hit wonder; you get some bitterness from those peels as well, which adds some balance, and there’s a wee bit of spice on the finish. It’s one of the better wheat beers I’ve had in a while. It’s 5.3%. Look for it in bottles and cans.
Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale
I originally thought this was some sort of crossover branding opportunity between Deschutes and the teenage vampire series of novels/movies from last decade because in my heart, I’m a 13 year old girl, but alas, this beer has nothing to do with blood suckers who sparkle in the sun. Sigh. Fortunately, it has everything to do with drinking beer in the sun, which makes me kind of sparkle. This is a straightforward pale that uses some of the Northwest’s most trusted hops (Northern Brewer, Amarillo, Cascade…) to deliver a fresh, citrus-forward profile in an easy drinking package. It’s the kind of beer that makes you wonder why you don’t drink more pale ales. It’s 5%, and I think it’s just in bottles, which is a shame, because this is a beer that needs to be in a can.