I’ve been inspired by John Cusak in High Fidelity on many levels, but none more so than in my love for top five lists. The number of lists I write seems to directly correlate to the number of times I’ve seen that movie. It’s also got a killer soundtrack.
But I digress. With the early onset of summer, it’s time to start thinking about the best beers to quench your summer thirst. A good summer beer should be dry, but not necessarily astringent or bitter. It should be refreshing – like I just walked 15 city blocks in 90 degree heat and need a beer – and it shouldn’t linger with too much residual sweetness. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated or thought provoking, although a few on this list might make you look twice, as those beers are typically best reserved for a time when you’re ready to savor each sip.
But even while working under that strict criterion, we don’t want simple, one dimensional lagers. Complexity exists in a more approachable form and here is where I’ve found it.
5. 21st Amendment Bitter American - The summer is all about session beers. When the sun is out I need to be able to knock back more than one in a sitting and to do that I can’t be drinking 9.3% Imperial IPA’s. Clocking in at a manageable 4.4% abv, the folks at 21st Amendment Brewery pack a ton of hops into this beer. It is dry hopped with Simcoe and Centennial hops and loaded with pungent grapefruit and citrus aromatics, all the while remaining in balance with a light caramel malt body.
4. Stillwater Ales Cellar Door - Saison is historically a summer style, originally brewed for field hands to drink while working in the fields. Known for being dry and well attenuated, Saison is the quintessential summer sipper. Baltimore gypsy brewer Brian Stillwater uses a combination of German wheat and barley alongside Sterling hops, Citra hops and white sage. The result is a dry, unfiltered beer with tropical fruit and gooseberry notes from the hops and spicy herbal notes from the sage.
3. Monk’s Cafe- The folks at Monk’s Café in Philadelphia know a thing or two about Belgian beers. They teamed up with the BrouwerijVan Steenberge in Belgium to produce Monk’s Café, a Flemish Sour Ale. The use of lactobacilius produces lactic acid as a byproduct of fermentation, providing a tart sourness and drying finish. With aromas of black cherry, plum, and mild vanilla from oak aging, this is one of the more unique beers I’ll be knocking back this summer.
2. Widmer Rotater Series Spiced IPA – A brewery that puts out rotating limited release IPAs? Count me in. The fourth in the Widmer series is the perfect summer beer. Loaded with a classic chai profile of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, and clove, it is balanced and the spice notes compliment a dry profile. With six hops and the addition of lots of unique ingredients, the subtle complexity makes this a great summer beer.
1. Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin – You can’t compile a list of summer beers without one substantial wheat beer. But the days of banana and clove heavy hefeweizens are a bit passé, so we’ve moved on to American wheat beers. This beer from Lagunitas is brewed with three different kinds of wheat and every hop that begins with the letter “c”. With light grainy, bread note s from the wheat and aromatic American hops on the finish, this is the new standard bearer for American wheat beers. It’s dry but not overly bitter, aromatic but balanced, and light in body with enough heft to cut through the summer heat. Winner!