Sometimes you have to make do with what you have. Or, more famously, in the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.” I find myself repeating this mantra over and over again in the warm summer months; every time I wish I wasn’t dripping with sweat, or my hair wasn’t a big ball of frizz from the humidity, or my brain didn’t feel like a Corvina grape drying on a straw mat, I think: while this might not be the most ideal situation, I can certainly live with it.
Not only that, but I can make it better. How? With proper refreshment, of course.
Summer brews are perfect remedies to such sweltering days. They are not a specific style, though there are more typical offerings for the season such as wheat beers, fruit beers and pale ales, among others. Frequently lighter in color, vibrant on the palate and immensely refreshing, they are just the thing to have on hand to unwind after a long, hot day.
I’ve also included a couple more robust selections here, like the GUBNA Imperial IPA, that will pair perfectly with outdoor dining on those cooler summer nights. There’s truly something for everybody in this bunch.
So here’s to summer, all of its beautiful beer bounty, and taking the time to enjoy a nice cold one. Prost!
93 Southampton Black Raspberry Wheat (Fruit Beer; Southampton Publick House, NY); 5.5% abv; Draft only. Pours a gorgeous dark cranberry color with a nice pink head. The aromas are fruity but deep at the same time—not common for the style, which is frequently perceived as a girlie quaff. This smells like it has an attitude, with notes of dark berry preserves, softly roasted cocoa nibs, hints of spice and faint hop oils. The mouth is full of more raspberry flavor with a real freshness to it as though there are actual berries floating in the glass, and it’s all well-supported by a firm wheat backbone and moderate carbonation. Not sweet or cloying, this is a great example of how fruit and beer can be perfectly married. Available July–August, draft only at the Southampton Publick House.
91 Telegraph White Ale (Witbier; Telegraph Brewing Company, CA); 4.5% abv, $8/750 ml. Originally a summer seasonal that’s now offered year-round, though its peak season for enjoyment is still the summer months. Cloudy yellow in color with an over-the-top head that takes its time to subside but leaves little lacing. It’s quite fragrant with typical witbier aromas of white florals, chamomile, orange pith, soft pear and a touch of coriander. The mouthfeel is full and round with similar notes found on the nose but with more flavors of banana peel, sweet grass, tart citrus and a kick of white pepper on the finish. Crisp and refreshing with strong, lively carbonation, this would be a great pair to heavier fare such as cream-based seafood dishes and chicken stuffed with cheese like chicken Kiev. 2,000 cases produced.
90 GUBNA Imperial IPA (American Double/Imperial IPA; Oskar Blues Brewery, CO); 10.0% abv, $15/4 pack. Given its weight and strength, this brew is available a bit longer (March through October) in four packs of cans. Pours a rich but clear golden sunset color with an off-white head that shows true staying power and leaves beautiful lacing. The nose is loaded with hop aromas: pine resin, sap and resinous spice. You can also find a hint of cured leather and grilled meat, which is different and intriguing. The mouth is big and a touch oily, with strong leafy hop notes along with pine, lightly caramelized malt, grapefruit citrus, and a touch of mango tropical fruit. The sweetness is balanced well by the astringent hop flavors (100 IBUs) and prominent alcohol.
90 Left Hand Brewing Good Juju (Herbed/Spiced Beer; Left Hand Brewing Co., CO); 4.2% abv; $9/6 pack. Brewed seasonally with organic ginger root from Whole Foods. Pours a medium golden copper color with a small head. The ginger really comes through on the nose as one would expect; this is one spicy brew! You can also find notes of blood orange oil, gingerbread cookies and earthy hops. Light and effervescent in the mouth with a good amount of spice, it reminds me of a pumpkin beer sans pumpkin. The finish is crisp but lengthy, lingering for a bit. Unlike most summer seasonals out there, this is a nice choice for those breezy days or cooler summer nights. Good juju, indeed.
90 Victory Sunrise Weissbier (Hefeweizen; Victory Brewing Co., PA); 5.4% abv; $10/6 pack. True to its hefeweizen origins with all-German malts, hops and yeast. Pours a slightly hazy pale straw color with assertive, almost violent-looking carbonation. A large, frothy head forms, then falls like soap bubbles in the sink, popping and fizzing out all over. The nose offers aromas of orange citrus, wheat, sweet spice plus soft, barely ripe banana and green apple. The mouth is full and strongly carbonated, with notes of tangy orange essence, wheat, dried grass and a soft presence of hop on the back of the finish. A touch dry on the end but very refreshing and enjoyable. Approximately 5,000 cases produced; available June–August.
89 Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale (American Pale Ale; Deschutes Brewery, OR); 5.0% abv, $9/6 pack. Deschutes remains true to its character here by offering a Pale Ale as its summer seasonal, available April through September. Being in the Pacific Northwest where hops are king, they definitely take center stage here with a blend of four hops in the kettle topped off by a dry-hop of Amarillos. That’s not to say this is all hops, though, as the rich caramel-tinged malt backbone balances out the orange resin astringency. Secondary notes of fresh-cut grass and golden honey liven things up on the palate, while the finish leaves behind a beautiful bittersweet sensation. No food needed with this one, just open and enjoy.
88 Victory Whirlwind Witbier (Witbier; Victory Brewing Co., PA); 5.0% abv, $10/6 pack. With approximately 10,000 cases produced, this summer seasonal should be readily available from April through August. Its color is hazy golden yellow with a large, airy head that
falls fast and leaves no lacing. Soft aromas are of lemon zest, grain and a touch of sweet spice, especially clove. The mouth is light and highly infused with citrus while notes of yeast and faint floral hops dance in the background. Fairly assertive carbonation and a light profile make this a very refreshing and easy-to-drink summer brew. Light and short with a crisp, clean finish; great for hot days at the pool and for pairing with heavier bbq