Have you declared your drink of the summer yet?
If not, we completely understand. Even the professional prognosticators still seem uncertain of a clear champion in this hotly debated annual contest. Speaking of hot, perhaps the cause for such confusion is that most of the country has been under the spell of oppressive temperatures for the past few months. Or maybe it’s the pressure of a persisting pandemic making everyone feel deflated in the face of bold predictions. With summer coming to a close, the entire world still needs to know: Should we or should we not embrace the Dirty Shirley?
While we’re waiting on that answer, let’s turn our attention to the beers that are refreshing and (hopefully) relaxing us this summer.
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With the number and creativity of craft breweries both at an all-time high, the “summer beer” category is larger and more loosely defined than ever before. That’s why we think a laissez-faire attitude when considering what to choose is best. In this writer’s humble opinion, the qualifications for a summer crusher should be nonexistent past availability between the season’s first and last days.
Yes, the beer needs function as a thirst quencher, a welcome accompaniment to beloved activities such as backyard grilling or beach-going. To that end, lighter styles like pilsner and pale ale will always be prime for picking, in addition to an emerging segment of booze-free libations guaranteeing no one is left thirsty on the camping trip. But, perhaps more than at any other time of the year, drinking in summer is an activity in itself. So, if you want to sip on a rare sugar-laden pastry stout in the dead of August, have at it.
To find the best beers that this season had to offer, we asked pros at 17 breweries around the country to share what they’ve enjoyed above all the rest. Unlike last year, we decided to broaden the eligibility criteria beyond brand-new releases and allow older titles that our experts may have recently discovered or never forgotten. From wood-aged lagers to West Coast-style IPAs and chile-spiced cream ales, here’s what they had to say.
The Best Beers This Summer, According to Brewers:
- Roaring 20s Tropical S.M.A.S.H.
- Enlightened Cream City Brix
- Land & Lass Comet Sunset
- Black Narrows Bramble Bush
- Torch & Crown Almost Famous
- Highland Park Osmocosm
- Rockwell Sugar Creek
- First State Lost Ubiquity
- Fair Isle Harlen
- Other Half Enfants Du Mais
- Cellarest Haywood Haylife
- Upstate Lake Road
- Transplant Milli Vachilli
- Maine Thank You 2022
- Five Wits Trust Fall
- Almanac FLOW
- Twin Elephant Ease Back
Roaring 20s Brewery & Taphouse
“I’ve been a fan of Roaring 20s’ S.M.A.S.H. series because it helps showcase the complex flavors a single hop can produce. Tropical S.M.A.S.H is the newest addition, brewed with Hudson Valley Malts pale malt and Chimney Bluffs Hoppery Cascade hops. I was enjoying this while soaking up the sun in an Adirondack chair in the brewery’s large outdoor space, and the combination of passion fruit, orange, and guava flavors made this beer a great summertime sipper.” —Sarah Real, co-founder, Hot Plate Brewing Co., Pittsfield, Mass.
Enlightened Brewing Company
Cream City Brix
“My friends were visiting from Wisconsin and were nice enough to bring me a plethora of well-known beers from the state. I wasn’t expecting to have a cream ale prevail as my favorite over my usual go-to, which are hazy IPAs. But this take from Enlightened is single-hopped with Willamette, which gives it just the right touch of bitterness to balance out the lingering sweet, malty taste and was not too heavy. Cream ales are an old-school, super-solid style of beer I wish I’d see more of in Minnesota. After becoming hooked to this underappreciated category, I’m hoping it makes a comeback to the market.” —Sophia Missaghi, brewer, Pryes Brewing Company, Minneapolis
Ladd & Lass Brewing
“I loved this all-Comet-hopped IPA from Ladd & Lass, a new, very small brewery in Seattle. It perfectly showcased the attributes of Comet: very citrusy with a mixture of pine and dank. Comet is an interesting hop to me. First, I feel like it’s a hop that developed at the wrong time. It has very unique flavors that are perfect for modern IPAs but it came along in the ‘70s before craft beer, when mostly what was being brewed were pale lagers from the large macrobreweries. At this time, brewers were mostly concerned with the bittering qualities of hops and less concerned with any flavor or aroma qualities, and so it got marketed as a high-alpha hop for bittering. But when I first started at Métier, I took it upon myself to brew good beers that weren’t too expensive, and Comet was a hop that I used often because I was aware of the big citrus-grapefruit flavors it can contribute, and it wasn’t as expensive as the high-demand hops like Citra, Galaxy, etc. But as I kinda proved myself, I got the green light to be bolder with my recipe development and I went after more in-demand, trendier hops for our new IPAs. And I gradually stopped using Comet. But after trying Comet Sunset, the variety is definitely back on my radar, and we have plans for new beers it’s going to play a big part [in].” —Michael Daly, head brewer, Métier Brewing Company, Woodinville, Wash.
Black Narrows Brewing Co.
“This sour with blackberry and blueberry is one of my favorite beers in a long time. In today’s world where fruited sours are all the hype and done to excess, this one was kind of nostalgic and very crushable. I met the head brewer and co-owner Josh [Chapman] back in April at Fine Creek brewery for its Wild & Weird Festival. We’ve been keeping in touch ever since and intend to do a collab later this year. His brewing tactics are inspirational to me. He aims to make great beer while also rebuilding and conserving nature, using local ingredients to the extent he’s able. Bramble Bush is crisp, refreshing, slightly tart, and incredibly delicious. Blueberries and blackberries are very prominent, but not in that thick puree sense. Just a simple sour with great fruit character.” —Jack Ferris, brewer, Oozlefinch Beers & Blending and Nost Brewing Project, Fort Monroe, Va.
Torch & Crown Brewing Company
“I saw Torch & Crown listed as one of the breweries participating in a collab for Barrel & Flow Fest in Pittsburgh, which we also collaborated to attend. It’s an awesome fest highlighting Black art, culture, music, and brewers! So, I saw Torch & Crown’s Almost Famous at my corner beer store and thought I should try it out. An IPA; what could go wrong? I’m notoriously picky about canned IPAs and always check the can date. And usually, I put it right back on the shelf. But this one was just packaged and true to everything it should have been! Juicy, hazy, just the right balance of fresh hop character and smooth without being sweet. I hadn’t tried any of Torch & Crown’s beers, and this one was a perfect score for a pretty random Sunday selection. Props to the team!” —Brittany Lajoie, general manager, Remnant Brewing, Somerville, Mass.
Highland Park Brewery
“Highland Park and North Park are two California breweries absolutely crushing the West Coast IPA game. Whenever I can sneak away from work for a day or two to visit family in SoCal, these are must stops, so while in Los Angeles last week I had the chance to enjoy this new, ultra-crushable, dank, tropical collab under Highland Park’s banner. You can expect boundaries are constantly pushed and innovation is always at play, and here is no exception; they utilize a new YCH experimental frozen fresh hop with Cryo technology. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and drink a few of these by the pool!” —Andrew Sabatine, founder, Around The Horn Brewing Company, Groveland, Calif.
Rockwell Beer Company
“St. Louis has long been a favorite summertime destination for me due to its familiar atmosphere, fun-loving people, and proximity to Memphis. I visited Rockwell Beer Company this summer and tried an amazing foeder Vienna-style lager called Sugar Creek. It’s a full malt bomb, but the tannins from the wood and age make it complex. Yet it’s still very easy to drink. I don’t see too many wood-aged lagers and this one really wowed me with richness folded into chuggability.” —Davin Bartosch, head brewer, Wiseacre Brewing Co., Memphis, Tenn.
First State Brewing Company
“There’s nothing like a summertime lawnmower beer, and the team at First State knocked it out of the park with this New Zealand-style pilsner. Sometimes, a well-done crispy boi just speaks for itself. This one certainly does as Motueka, Southern Cross, and Waimea hops add just the right touch of lemon-lime to my new favorite beer of the summer.” —Ben Farrar, co-founder and head brewer, Forgotten Road Ales, Graham, N.C.
Fair Isle Brewing
“I was initially shocked and excited to see Harlen show up here in Virginia, as I had heard a lot of great things about Fair Isle, a saison-focused brewery in the Northwest. Harlen is a simple table saison, but packs the perfect amount of refreshing lemon-citrus and bright wildflower notes while being balanced with a peppery, herbal hop character and slight oak funk. At 4.5 percent ABV, it’s very easy to put down, and I’m a fan of seeing this come in a 16-ounce can. I wouldn’t hesitate grabbing a 4-pack of this for a hike or cookout in the heat of summer.” —Tyler Wert, co-founder and head brewer, Blindhouse Beer Co., Roanoke, Va.
Other Half Brewing
Enfants Du Mais
“Brewed with local pilsner malt and malted corn and fermented with a house yeast culture originally captured from pears growing on Other Half’s Finger Lakes property. Lovely stone fruit aromas and flavors, perfectly balanced acidity, and highly sessionable considering the ABV. Just an all-around great farmhouse ale. Love the name too: French for ‘children of the corn.’” —Sam Zermeño, owner and brewer, Brujos Brewing, Portland, Ore.
Cellarest Beer Project
“It’s a 3.2 percent light lager aged on hard maple wood. It was delicate, nuanced, and the wood character was beautiful — not overpowering, it played perfectly with the base beer. Truly impressive. Everything I’ve had from Cellerest has been killer!” —Meth Gunasinghe, brewer, Atlas Brew Works, Washington, D.C.
Upstate Brewing Company
This crushable, hazy pale ale is super bright and aromatic with notes of berries, stone fruit, and a sweet citrus characteristic. Perfect for going camping, to the beach, or after a long day’s work. I love supporting the local breweries around me, and Upstate killed it with this one.” —Dave Knapp, brewmaster, Beer Tree Brew, Port Crane, N.Y.
Transplant City Beer Co.
Litchfield Park, Ariz.
“Our family spent an afternoon at Transplant City this summer, where I had a cream ale coined Milli Vachilli by brewer Justin Egbert and his team. The roasted Hatch chiles provide a nice bite that doesn’t overwhelm you. Even though we live in the Southwest, we don’t see many pepper beers. It’s a crisp, easy-drinking 5.4 percent ABV that’s perfect for summer.” —Trevor Bolstrom, brewer, Front Pourch Brewery, Phoenix
Maine Beer Company
Thank You 2022
“The recipe for Maine’s anniversary beer, Thank You, changes every year, but it is always a great IPA. The 2022 version features Maine-grown malts, as well as some new-school hops, HBC 472 and Loral. The experimental HBC 472 comes from neomexicanus hop lineage, meaning it’s going to offer some unique flavors, and with its awesome coconut and cedar notes, this new cultivar is no exception. The local malt means it’s fresh and has a great toasted bread backbone that is fairly unique from the triticale, a rye-wheat hybrid, lending to a great hint of sweetness to balance the bitterness of the hops. My wife and I were on a great beer trip hitting some of the best breweries in New England for Memorial Day, and this was definitely the standout for me, a great IPA from a brewery known for making great IPAs.” —James Bruner, director of production, The Bruery & Offshoot Beer Co., Placentia, Calif.
Five Wits Brewing Co.
“I usually opt for pilsners during the hotter months, but this Czech-style amber lager brewer in collaboration with OddStory finished just as crisp and refreshing — a remarkable feat considering the malt complexity and medium body on full display. Achieving such balance and nuance is an indication of a thoughtful, process-driven approach. Hats off to my colleagues!” —Jarrod Szydlowski, head brewer, WanderLinger Brewing Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.
Almanac Beer Co.
“It’s a West Coast-style pale ale that does a great job balancing fruity hop flavors with a legitimate West Coast backbone. It drinks crisp and clean with moderate alcohol; supremely drinkable and perfect for summer. I’m really digging it. Almanac nailed this one.” —Kevin McGee, president, Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, Calif.
“I found myself going back to Ease Back, a collaboration between Twin Elephant and a New Jersey brewery called Oakflower Brewing. Ease Back was originally Oakflower’s creation and won a gold medal on the local homebrew circuit, which gave them a chance to make it professionally with Twin Elephant. This new take adds Phantasm powder into the mix, which really brought those Southern Hemisphere flavors to the all-Citra IPA. My hoppy sweet spot is 6.5 percent so I drank a ton of it. A slightly chewy and bright IPA. Really well executed.” —Ronnie Scouten, co-founder, Autodidact Beer, Morris Plains, N.J.