Don't let summer slip by without drinking these seasonal favorites.
Ah, summer. We've been indulging in one too many glasses of wine, one too many iced teas and iced coffees, and of course, one too many great craft beers because, well, it's summer. But summer is slipping away all too fast (despite the abnormally hot temperatures that seem to be here to stay), and there are just too many beers to drink before Labor Day hits us.
Many of us would rather reach for a light, big-name beer, like Coors or Budweiser, instead of a craft beer during the dog days of summer — but there's no need. Jeff Wharton, the co-founder of Drink Craft Beer and organizer for several craft beer festivals in Boston and the Northeast, explains why summer doesn't have to be the "beer wasteland" of summer — in fact, it can be a beer heaven for craft beer enthusiasts. "It just goes to show you how craft beer has evolved over time," Wharton says.
When people first started drinking craft beer (a "rebellion" to the mass market beers, as Wharton calls it), the craft beers people were drinking were "bigger beers." Think of the stouts and double IPAs, you enjoy during the colder months, the beers that warm you from the inside out. "The flavors were bigger, and stronger," Wharton says. "People loved drinking them in the fall and winter, and even in the spring — but not in the summer." So, craft brewers responded to the market by putting out the lighter craft beer styles we see today: golden ales, pilsners, and hefeweizens. "Basically, the beers you want to drink on a 95-degree day," Wharton says.
Which is why summer is actually a great time to be drinking beer, whether you're a craft beer enthusiast or novice. Wharton says it's the "silent majority" of beer drinkers, the people who rely on the beer brands they know and love but want to try new beers, who are making summer seasonal craft beers more popular. Wharton mentions a Summer Rye Ale from Mayflower Brewing, which he first tried at a wedding. "It was the talk of the night," he says. "The beer was interesting enough to keep beer enthusiasts happy, but palatable so that the 'craft beer curious' would love it." In short, it's the test of what makes a summer beer, well, perfect for summer.
And that's what we found when we polled craft beer experts, cicerones, editors, bloggers, brewers, and Twitter #craftbeer experts on what beers they're drinking this summer: beers that are interesting and refreshing enough to keep everyone happy. On our list, we saw multiple styles and flavors come up. For example, saisons are reaching cult-like status. "It's just so good," Wharton says. "It's light and refreshing." Hefeweizen, Wharton says, is another style he's seen grow slowly this summer, especially Bavarian Hefeweizens. "It's a beer that could get bigger and bigger over the next two to three years," he says.
And the flavors that appear in summer seasonals are the same flavors you want to eat in solid form: citrus, blueberry, watermelon. Sure, the craft beer elite might snub their noses at it, but hey — don't you want to try a watermelon brewed beer just once? "It's just what people are interested in," Wharton says. If you need inspiration for what beers you should be drinking this summer, look no further than our bucket (list) of beers to drink this summer. We're counting down the minutes to 5 o'clock just thinking about it.
1. Pluot From New Belgium
"Every summer, I look forward to stone fruits coming back to the farmers' market: peaches, plums, and all the weird hybrids like plumcots, dinosaur eggs, donut peaches, cherums... so when I stumbled on New Belgium Pluot on our shelves, I was ecstatic! The light, fruity pluot flavor is perfect for summer, but not sickeningly sweet like some fruit beers. It's the perfect way to cool down after a day in the sun. A study malt background gives it wonderful substance, and I love the retro label. Pair with spicy meats (hot off the grill) and charred vegetable skewers. Just watch out for the 10 percent alcohol content... it will sneak up on you!" — Cyndi Monohan, beer specialist for Quality Liquor Store in San Diego, Calif.
2. Blood Orange Pale Ale From Great South Bay Brewery
"My number one favorite summer beer right now is the Blood Orange Pale Ale from Great South Bay Brewing in Long Island. I love fresh OJ in the summer mornings, and I love American pale ales... so this brew is refreshing to me in Houston's hot summers. This is a great tasting beer, and also has a great citrus taste." — Michael Caplan, from Siphon Coffee and Brew in Houston (to open Oct. 1)
3. In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen From Flying Dog
"It's the most amazing summer beer and a great example of an American interpretation of a weizen or white-style German beer. The appearance is golden, cloudy, and foamy; the aroma is banana wheat and citrus zest; the taste is of banana, wheat, and light; and has medium body. It's the best to drink with friends in a beer garden watching soccer and eating barbecue!" — Ben Scorah, head mixologist for Crown Group Hospitality (for Lion, Crown, Bill's Food & Drink and The Windsor in New York City, and London's Red House)
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