We are in the peak of the summer, the dog days if you will. This part of the summer brings beach trips, BBQs, picnics, and lots of other fun events outside. And what better accompanies these summer activities than beer? Very little. While I will never advocate the use of macro beer, it is hard to argue that a Coors Light is not refreshing on a 95 degree day. Of course it is, so is water. It’s like the old joke about American beer: “Why is American Beer like having sex in a canoe? It’s fucking close to water.”
So what is one to do if they want a quality sessionable, refreshing, summer beer? Luckily for the consumer, it has never been a better time for this question.
There are a few particular styles that are best for summer. Pils or Pilsner is a classic style that is crisp, clean, and refreshing. No wonder this is the style that the American macro brewers have chosen for their beers. One of the best American Pilsners on the market today is Victory’s Prima Pils, some might even call it the modern benchmark. It is a clean yet spicy German style Pils. A large hops presence provides the spicy, earth, and vegetal flavors, while the German Pilsner Malt creates a touch of biscuit. The beer finishes with a dry hoppy. At 5.3% ABV it is a great summer refresher.
My personal favorite pilsner is a Czech Pilsner from Oscar Blues. Mama’s Little Yella Pils is a great summer beer, and what’s even better is that comes in cans. Oscar Blues loves to put their beer in cans, and it is a great way to package beer to be outdoor friendly. Pack in, pack out has not, until recently, included the likes of good beer. But Oscar Blues changed that for everyone. Pours like a classic Pilsner with a bright white head that is retained well. Smells of sweet biscuit and cracker with underlying notes of hops. The taste is what you would expect. Noble hops, biscuit, sweet yet dry. Classic. A versatile summer beer that can go anywhere with you.
Being a refreshing summer beer doesn’t mean that it has to be a pilsner though, or even a lager. The Belgian’s know what to do for a summer beer, saisons are one of my favorite things to drink all year long, but in the summer it’s a wonderful treat. There are so many good Saisons it is really difficult to focus on any. Recently I had a BFM √225 Saison. This isn’t the easiest Saison to find, but if you see it, I highly recommend it. Or of course if you find any Tired Hands or Hill Farmstead get those and forget the rest of my recommendations.
A recent addition to the saison market might not be the best saison on the market, but it does a great job fitting the bill of summer session beer. Victory Brewing’s Swing Session Saison is remarkable light at 4.5% ABV and delivers that spicy Belgian flavor in a crisp, clean package.
This beer pours a brilliant gold, with a nice fluffy white head. The smell is somewhat perfumey with notes of citrus, hay and hops. Taste is of spicy, citrus, and a touch of soap. Some ester presence of tropical fruit. The medium bodied saison finishes dry with some mild hop bitterness. Very enjoyable.
One of hottest style of beers out today is the fractional or sessionable IPA. One of the newest to market is Oz from DuClaw Brewing Company. A true featherweight in the IPA division weighing in at a mere 4.4% ABV and 132 calories. Miller Lite boasts about being less than 100 calories, but adding only 32 calories will get you a whole bunch of taste. A large portion of that taste comes from the generous additions of Simcoe and Citra hops. Likely utilizing a lot of hop bursting and dry hopping.
The only unfortunate thing here is the lack of alcohol means lack of malt, so there is little malt backbone to support the hops. While the hops aren’t overwhelming this beer is basically water and hops. That being said it is pretty enjoyable, just might not be the best in class. But that’s okay, not everything has to be the best.
Another enjoyable session IPA is DayTime from Lagunitas Brewing Company. This is also a very light beer at 4.65% and only 140 calories. This has a little bigger taste than DuClaw’s offering. But big is a comparative term, since there is generally nothing BIG in this category of beer. This is a pretty heavily hopped beer. Which you might not think having only 54 IBU. But my general guideline for balance says for an IPA, to be hoppy and balance it would have ABV × 10 = IBU. Once again the malt backbone isn’t really enough, but hey, it’s a good beer on a hot day, and that is what this is about.
Of course any beer can be a beach beer. Last summer I drank a Great Divide Yeti while playing cornhole on the beach, and it was awesome. So choose what you want. Choose wisely, and enjoy!