The most horrifying thing happened to me this week: I walked ten blocks in the sweltering heat to my favorite bar and was greeted with two pumpkin beers on tap. Now listen, I am not a pumpkin beer hater. Pumpkin beers have done so much to introduce people to the craft beer scene, which is my most favorite scene. The less people drinking Coors Light, the better. But it’s August in New York City; I need gills to breathe. I want a summer beer because it’s still summer. Alas, vanilla and ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg are encroaching. Here are ten summer beers to try before they take over everything.
Allagash Fluxus 2017
I’m never going to make a beer list without an Allagash on it. It’s one of my favorite breweries in the U.S. because they consistently make some of the weirdest and most unique beers I’ve ever tasted. Fluxus is Allagash’s seasonal saison, which: fine, standard summer beer — but this year it’s brewed with rhubarb. Rhubarb! It’s not too sweet, and it’s actually kind of dry. It’ll make you happy for summer but dewey-eyed about fall too.
Almanac Strawberry Basil
This was a real weird summer for strawberry beers. Weird because there were so many of them. Almanac’s Strawberry Basil was my favorite (Bombshell’s Strawberries and Cream Summer Ale was a close second.) It’s an oak barrel-aged farmhouse ale, strawberry upfront and lingering basil at the end. It’s not syrupy like you think it’s going to be, and because it’s barrel-aged, it clocks in with a pretty solid ABV. (Another Almanac to try is Tropical Galaxy. It’s got mangoes, coconut, and just a touch of lime.)
Dogfish Head Flesh and Blood IPA
We are swimming in an endless sea of fruity IPAs. The problem is that most fruity IPAs do not taste like IPAs. They taste like cider. Blech! But this is a real deal IPA (and you know Dogfish Head knows IPAs) with notes of citrusy grapefruit and lemon. It’s a little tart and a lot hoppy.
Burial Shallow Water Kölsch
A kölsch is a perfect summer beer. Crisp and smooth and bright, often with just a kiss of honey. Bars are stacked with one-note kölsches this year, but Burial Shallow Water’s is full of depth. It’s citrus without tasting like a shandy, doughy without tasting like a hefeweizen. You can also drink it on the beach (it comes in a can) because, bizarrely, it gets more complicated as it gets warmer.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin
I’m a huge fan of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA line and a huge fan of beers with a kick so Habanero Sculpin is my go-to summer fav. It’s not just spicy. There’s something floral going on here too. But it is spicy. A long burn. You’ll wanna sip on this one. (For harder-to-find but world-class beers with heat, I recommend Two Henrys Roasted Jalapeño Blueberry Porter, Jaipur Jalapeño Ale, and Asheville Fire Escape.)
Beaus Tom Green Summer Stout
A summer stout! There’s no way you’re going be able to look at this beer and reconcile what you’re seeing with what you’re tasting. It smells like coffee and chocolate; it tastes like a fizzy imperial stout; it looks like a golden ale. It’s surprisingly light and easy to drink and if you eat a bunch of strawberries while you’re drinking it you’re going to feel like the Queen of Genovia.
Southern Prohibition Brewing Devil’s Harvest
It feels I’m putting nothing but IPAs on this list but, a) how could I leave off a beer named DEVIL’S HARVEST and b) this is just a really damn good session IPA. It’s actually a lot smoother (silky even) than your everyday IPA because there’s some oats in here that balance everything out and soak up some of the bitterness of the hops. Also, the ABV is only 4.6% so you can drink these all day outside, if you want. Southern Prohibition even calls it “a breakfast IPA.”
Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett
If you see a beer with “brett” in the name, you know it’s going be a little funky. Brett is a type of wild yeast strain that’s showing up more and more in craft beers these days. Sometimes it makes beers tart. Sometimes it makes them sour. In Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett, it’s a perfect balance of both. This beer is dark as night and it smells like a campfire. But what it tastes like is a magic potion. It’s black currant and blueberries and balsamic. One second you’re like, “Does this taste like pickles?” And the next second you’re like, “No, it tastes an oaky Chardonnay.” I know that sounds bonkers and also gross, but it’s true and it’s delicious. You can only get it in a big bottle and the ABV is 10% so probably you’ll want to share it with a pal. (If you want to try a more accessible brett bear, Allagash has several to choose from.)
Night Shift Furth Hefeweizen
You gotta have a hefeweizen on a summer beer list and this is my top pick. It’s like all hefeweizens in that it’s banana bread in a bottle, but it’s got a fizzy pop and some citrus in there to even things out. It’s a tangy hefe. Like that Burial Shallow Water Kölsch up there, this beer gets more complex as it gets warmer.
The Great Gose Revolution of Summer 2015 was started by Westbrook’s Gose in 2012. Everybody’s stuffing their goses full of fruit these days (Anderson Valley Brewery is going to be your go-to for that), but this is a classic. The classic, really. It’s citrusy and it’s obviously salty as all hell but there’s a delightful grassy, earthy, hoppiness to this beer that becomes more apparent the more goses saturate the market. If you don’t like goses, you’re never going to like goses, so don’t force yourself. But if you do, you owe it to yourself to sip on this one.
What was your favorite beer this summer?