We’ve covered sour beers and spicy beers and terrifying beers. Even barbecue beers. But what about beers for a specific holiday—Memorial Day, a day formally reserved for solemn remembrance and, informally, the beer cooler-or-bust kick-off point of summer? (Yes, albeit three weeks before solstice.)
Bear in mind this isn’t a “barbecue pairing” guide (we’ve done that before, and we’ll do it again). This is about what you can drink to kick off your faux summer weekend, beers that’ll take you—comfortably—through the day and won’t leave you powerfully, if patriotically, hungover when you have to return to work, or the grill, or your Netflix binge.
We’re not trying to suggest that heavier, hoppier, darker, or even smokier styles of beer don’t have their place in your Memorial Day Weekend, or that straight up lagers and pale ales shouldn’t pack your cooler. But these styles will perk you up for a bright, high SPF season. So drink up, ‘cuz it’s almost officially (unofficially) summer.
Wheat and watermelon don’t join up often. Here’s one instance where they meet up, make friends, hang out for a while and exchange Instagram info. This angrily named thirst quencher from 21st Amendment is double fermented with fresh watermelon juice, so you won’t get residual sweetness but definitely some juicy melon notes. And yes, there’s a semi-moderate 4.9% ABV, which is kind of high considering you can drink it down as fast as you can chuck a watermelon at a wheat field.
Kind of like the gose style, the Berliner Weisse is a subtly fruity beer style popularized in Berlin, top-fermented with ale yeast (whereas lighter German lager is bottom-fermented) and dosed with lactobacillus, all of which gives it a subtle fruity roundness and a pronounced tartness. This particular Berliner Weisse is unpasteurized and unfiltered, giving it a bit more heft and complexity.
The name kind of says it all. A Pilsner-style lager, this one’s a bit heavier for your summer drinking, coming at you with 5.4% ABV and a slightly more rounded flavor profile (slightly less crisp than you’d expect). But that makes it versatile, as good for thirst quenching as ingesting alongside some cold pasta salad or even a nice sauerbraten.
It isn’t just that stone fruit will still be in season in summer (which your palette knows and automatically anticipates, right?). Fruits like apricot and peach (see below) have a subtle fleshiness that melds with malt but also balances out crispness and any hop character. Here you get fresh, slightly tart fruit and nice carbonation in a light to medium-bodied organic (bonus points) English ale.
It’s hard not to recommend gose for early faux-summer barbecuing: it’s lighter ABV, refreshing, very much a sip-and-repeat kind of drink. So don’t mind us but here’s another variant of the gose style from Evil Twin. Always good at coming up with something slightly off-kilter, here they pitch the salty tartness against some unexpected (and thankfully subtle) eucalyptus.
To be fair, no beer brewed outside of Belgium can be considered “Belgian.” But Allagash lovingly crafts their witbier in the Belgian style, dry with coriander spice and a hint of citrus. Medium maltiness makes it light enough to drink casually, or pair with some shishkebab.
This is Dogfish Head’s “neo-Berliner Weisse,” meticulously crafted in typical Dogfish Head style for balance between fruit and tartness. There’s no lingering sweetness here, the gose salty tartness is tamed with peach, though it’s still refreshingly mouth puckering.