10 Summer Beers to Drink Before Pumpkin Spice Takes Over

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.

Westbrook Gose

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?

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. My #1 summer beer (and honestly all season beer) is Night Shift Whirlpool pale ale. I could drink 1000 of them, so I guess it’s good that they only sell them in four packs so I can stay alive.

  2. I will try any Radler that a place offers. Steigl in the can does the trick when options are limited. That also goes for Schofferhofer grapefruit hefeweizen, which I unshamefully love when it’s on draft.

    Anderson Valley Summer Solstice is my jam, but sadly have not had any this year. It’s like pumpkin beer’s summer cousin.

    10 Barrel Cucumber Crush is my summer shower beer.

  3. I’m not a big fan of beer, but I can tolerate IPA’s and that Southern Prohibition IPA sounds pretty good.

    • I am drinking this right now and am very, very happy.
      It is so good. Especially after an exhausting day of soccer games and beach fun.

  4. I’m so glad to see sour beer represented on this list, not once, but twice. It’s the perfect thing for a hot summer afternoon

  5. Here waiting for the article on what flavor of Vitamin Water to pair with what kind of vodka to make the best summer VodkaWater.
    Zero Shine Strawberry with some potato vodka?
    Essential Orange with Stoli?

  6. Thanks so much for this good info. I’ll be headed to the fancy beer store this weekend and stocking up.
    I’m putting the Dogfish at the top of my list.

  7. the mention of vanilla and spices in the description had me intending to come in here proclaiming my love for fall beer, but damn, heather, you made some of those summer beers sound real yummy. i need to stop just settling for what i can find in my grocery store.

  8. I like almost everything but IPA, which tragically is the most popular thing here in SoCal. This summer I drank lots of gose and cream ale.

    If you like spicy beer, there is a chipotle coffee stout called Black Phoenix made by Bootlegger’s Brewery in L.A. It’s a perfect beer for chilly wet winter weather… it’s rich, cozy, and has a lasting low-key warmth from the chipotle.

  9. These all sound good and I’m sure they’re tasty but if you don’t mind me, I’m just gonna wait for pumpkin beer :)

  10. Dogfish Head made my fave this summer: SeaQuench Ale is made with black lime and has A) a punny name, B) science! in how they developed the salt content of the beer. Plus it comes in a super cute can.

    I wish I could find that summer stout, it sounds dope. Goose Island made a coffee-infused golden ale once and it was so good, but they haven’t made it again.

    Also, that Almanac Tropical Galaxy beer sounds awesome. Seems like it has a similar hop build to Tallgrass 8-Bit and 16-Bit, which I love.

    Imma be in New York in the fall and I’ll try to find some of these brands, thanks Heather!

  11. Holy shit, a summer stout? From Beau’s? I really hope it’s made its way to Quebec City, because I’m pretty sure that’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a summer beer. I pretty much exclusively drink stouts/super-dark beers, but of course they tend to be really heavy for the summer. This sounds like the best of both worlds. Beau’s is usually really good about actually pulling off more ambitious beers like this, too, so I’m excited to try it.

  12. Welp, I was only able to find one of the beers, but it was at the top of the list– the
    Allagash. I hope you’ll have more content like this, maybe with pictures next time to help me in the stacks with a search image… It’s cold in that beer room.

    I’m looking forward to trying the beer tonight with some grilled goodies.
    I will admit a little sticker shock at the price, but I trust your recommendation Heather.

    Just curious, is AS getting sponsored by any of these brewers?

    • I *wish*! Getting sponsored by breweries would be my main dream come true. They’d send me *free beer*!

      How’d you like that Allagash? (I’ll add pics next time!)

      • The Allagash was very good.
        Luckily I found the Dogfish Head yesterday. Mmmm. Good times.

        Maybe on a cost to satisfaction ratio, I prefer the Flesh and Blood, but I’m frugal, bourgeois beer drinker, generally drawing a line at $3/serving.

      • I forgot to add, you DO deserve free beer and I hope you get some soon.

        More than anyone else I know, brewers should give Heather Hogan free beer, all the kinds of beers.

        ****sprinkling fairy dust wishes out into the universe for you*****

  13. Night shift has really good sours too, I had a boysenberry one recently that was just great. Thanks for this list!

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