This month, we’re heading outdoors with the best drinks for the backyard, beach, and beyond. In Take It Outside, we’re exploring our favorite local spots and far-flung destinations that make summer the ultimate season for elevated drinking.
Among those of us who have been drinking craft beer long enough, this time of year turns our attention to a very specific one: Bell’s Oberon. Once a symbol of summer’s arrival even more so than the solstice itself, this American wheat ale from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and Comstock, Mich., has served as a symbol of peak refreshment for longer days and warmer nights to come.
Supermarket shelves comprise a dizzying array of summer beer options today, from citrusy Belgian witbiers, to tropical fruit-scented hefeweizens, and lemony-fresh sour ales with tart and botanical twists. (Even Bell’s Oberon comes in multiple flavors today — we’re hankering for a Tropical Oberon right about now.)
Whether you’re looking for the tried and true or something new for a barbecue, this seasonally inspired list of summer beers is sure to scratch that itch for backyard- and beach-friendly brews. Below are 10 of the best summer beers we’ve been sipping this year.
10. Harpoon UFO Light Force
Fans of UFO White will appreciate this lighter version of the classic American-brewed witbier. It shares some of the spiced, fruity flavor of the original, only with 94 calories and 3 carbohydrates, according to the vital stats. Plus, it’s perfect for the beach (just ask Gina K.), and available in that summer-friendly 15-pack popularized by Founders All Day IPA.
9. Westbrook White Thai
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
White Thai takes the classic Belgian-style witbier and subs in lemongrass for orange peel, ginger root for coriander, and adds the distinctly pungent Sorachi Ace hop originating in Japan for an extra herbal kick. Whereas Japas Cervejaria’s Oishii is subtle, Westbrook’s White Thai brings big flavor and enormous aroma to this Southeast Asian-inspired take.
8. Japas Cervejaria Oishii
“Oishii” is Japanese for “delicious” or the more colloquial “yummy,” and it’s hard to argue with this original take on the classic Belgian wit from Japanese-Brazilian outfit Japas Cervejaria. The aroma bursts with fresh-ground coriander seeds, along with hints of lemongrass. This carries onto the palate with subtle ginger bringing an almost tingly cooling sensation rather than any heat to the palate. It finishes with pithy orange-peel bitterness.
7. Fifth Hammer Brewing Pocket Disco
Long Island City, N.Y.
Pocket Disco lights up the American wheat ale’s dance floor with candy-like citrus peel aromas and flavors — Key lime and Mandarin are most prominent — with a pizzazzy palate to match. Zesty lemon and grapefruit are energetic backup dancers, with Key lime pie the dominant performer. Some tropical fruit notes swirl in the background. Pocket Disco is brewed in support of Pride Month, with a portion of the proceeds supporting the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.
6. SLO Brew Cali Squeeze Blood Orange Hefeweizen
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Fresh orange pulp pops on the aroma of this juicy wheat beer, with the blood orange note reminiscent of Sanpellegrino’s Aranciata Rossa soda. A thirst-quenching sensation of juicy orange flesh bursts on the palate. It’s a blood orange beermosa without the effort — though a curly orange peel around the rim couldn’t hurt.
5. Ross Brewing Co. Manasquan Wit
Port Monmouth, N.J.
This year-round offering from New Jersey’s Ross Brewing Co. celebrates the Manasquan River, and that means fishing, swimming, and even golfing are meant to accompany this brew. A hearty Belgian yeast strain gives this witbier its burst of bubble-gum, banana hard candy, and a hint of orange creamsicle on the nose, leaving the palate with a surprisingly subtle balance of classic Belgian white ale flavors — orange zest, lemon zest, and coriander are mere supporting cast members. Not too fruity, not too heavy, this wit is just right.
4. Great Lakes Crushworthy Lo-Cal Citrus Wheat
Summer crushes come and go, and so will this cutesy can of citrusy light wheat beer from Great Lakes once you yank it out of the cooler. While Great Lakes is best known for its toasty German-style weizens and lagers, this is the brewery’s first foray into “better-for-you beer” — light and refreshing, 105 calories, and it’s available in a 15-pack for camping, backyard partying, or tailgating needs.
3. Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen
Still our favorite among Schofferhofer’s fruit-flavored Hefeweizen hybrids, this bright, grapefruity beverage is a tasty gateway to summer citrus wheat beers. It’s ultra-low-ABV, made with a half-and-half blend of Hefeweizen and grapefruit-flavored soda, and it is essential to every summer outdoor drinking experience. It can also mix with pretty much anything as a fun and friendly beer cocktail base.
2. Sixpoint Apollo Summer Wheat
Apollo is making a summer comeback — and it’s better than before. After retiring this recipe several years ago, Sixpoint reformulated and re-released Apollo for summer 2021, this time with a distinctly yeast-driven German Hefeweizen at its core. Banana and clove aromas, bright and light-bodied, and zesty on the finish, it’s a softer side of Sixpoint that we’d love to see more often.
1. Springdale Brewing Co. Lavenade
This tart lemon-and-lavender ale hits with fresh-squeezed lemonade and a sessionable level of acidity for a sour beer. It’d be a bit of a stretch to say it tastes like lavender, but having a floral, herbal note in the background is better than tasting like a bathbomb, so we’re fine with it. It’s a thirst-quenching refresher on its own, but Springdale also recommends using it as a cocktail mixer with gin, honey simple syrup, and yes — more fresh lemon juice.