So, I do get a lot of requests for beer recommendations, especially this summer. There is so much more out there these days that I get the confusion and not knowing what is too hoppy, sour or sweet! To add to that confusion, beer alternatives have been popping up like the ever so popular Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, the whole Crap-A-Rita line of sugar sweet, super boozy malt beverages and of course the vast world of ciders. But people, rest assured, there are beers out there to drink this summer that are sessionable, refreshing, have hints of fruit and are readily available! So go ahead, this one last time, take a sip of your Bud Light Lime and watch as your summer beer game changes!
Beer Name: Oberon Ale
Brewery: Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Michigan
Type of Beer: American Pale Wheat Ale
Cost & Availability: Ranges from $7 for a 4-pack of 16oz cans to $180 for a 1/2 barrel keg, also comes in glass bottles for about $10/6-pack.
My Take: This true and tried favorite of mine always marks the start of summer for me. As a matter of fact, every March when it hits shelves and bars, I start to feel summer even if there’s snow on the ground still, which in Chicago is pretty likely. This beer has always been consistent year after year, although there were some seasons that are slightly better than others. I love the color first off and it smells like summer oranges ripening in the sun on a picnic table, not in the Orange Glo soap kinda way, but that hint of sweetness you smell when someone starts peeling an orange. The beer has a nice body, not too light or overly heavy, but definitely has some bread notes and finishes with a slight bitter taste and orange notes, like biting into an orange rind…sweet, bitter but not lasting enough to ruin your taste buds. This beer is everywhere and even gas stations carry it. It comes in bottles for those that want glass and cans for all your rooftop/boating/picnic and other “no glass allowed” soirees. It’s becoming an iconic beer for summer and certainly has become a staple in most summer coolers.
Beer Name: Hell or High Watermelon
Brewery: 21st Amendment, California
Type of Beer: Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Cost & Availability: Ranges from $10 for a 6-pack of 12oz cans to $18 for a 12-pack of 12oz cans.
My Take: My first introduction to this beer was in 2012 as not a beer, but as an ingredient in a craft vinegar I had purchased. I knew the beer existed, but could never drink it as it was only available on the West Coast. I knew however, that it made an amazing component in my salad dressings! Later that year, I went to San Francisco and finally go to drink this elixir and just fell in love. I am a huge watermelon fan, always has been, so anything watermelon is hugely favored…Jolly Ranchers, BubbleYum, Lip Smackers… if it came in a watermelon variety, I was buying it. So, if you don’t like watermelon at all, stop reading and skip ahead to the next beer. Now, for those that are still with me, this beer is perfect on a nasty hot summer day. The scent of the watermelon when you first pop it open is undeniably sweet, but that’s where the sweetness ends, which is what I love about it. The beer isn’t sweet! It pours out a nice straw bale color…so, no, it’s not pink! It tastes like a nice walk in the grass with a slice of cold, juicy watermelon in your hands. I love how this beer plays with my senses taking me from sweet watermelon, to straw and lush grass and then back to watermelon at the finish that lingers a bit after your last sip. It reminds me a lot of La Croix, where you can smell the fruit, taste subtle elements of it, but not overbearing sweetness. It’s perfect for any summer day time activity, it’s super refreshing to keep you cool, the low ABV won’t get you wasted and it comes in cans for easy transport! The only downside, it’s not available everywhere yet, even Chicago only got it last summer, finally…so check your local stores before you set your heart on it.
Beer Name: Le Pink Sock Monkey Raspberry Wit
Brewery: Haymarket Pub & Brewery, Illinois
Type of Beer: Witbier
Cost & Availability: Only available at their brew pub in Chicago, but you can carry out a growler for $26 bucks, which is about 32 oz.
My Take: Up until now, I haven’t tasted a raspberry beer as good as the Raspberry Tart from New Glarus. Those guys have nailed down fruit beers to the T. The only issue is that sometimes it’s tastes more like a sweet wine than a beer as there is quite a bit of sweetness in the beer. I recently visited Haymarket and tried this fruit delight and fell in love. First of all, the fact that they use 120 gallons of real raspberry juice during the brewing process is amazeballs. You know that the flavor isn’t fabricated and is true to the fruit. I mean we all know what fake raspberry tastes like, ahem…Nyquil. I love the rosy color that is just enough to show that there is legit raspberry juice in there, but not bright red that suggests that color was added. You get a little bread and raspberry on the nose, but when you drink it, it tastes like the best raspberry jam on toast on the planet. The balance of sweet, tart and beer is remarkable. They did this beer so well, I was floored. I felt like I was eating breakfast in a B&B, on the front porch, in Michigan with fresh homemade jam. It drinks easy and is super complex, which I know is such an oxymoron in itself. If you are every in Chicago, check this place out, they have some of my favorite summer beers which include a Peach Wit that was scrumptious!
Beer Name: Greenwood Beach Blonde
Brewery: Temperance Beer Company, Illinois
Type of Beer: Fruit/Vegetable Beer
Cost & Availability: Currently, only available in 6-pack of 12oz cans for $10, not sure how far they distribute, but most Chicago stores should have it.
My Take: This beer is as sassy as its name. The color is sun kissed peach and the taste and scent is ripe, bright pineapple. The beer is super light and fragrant and the pineapple just lingers and makes you feel like you are on a beach in Hawaii. When you drink this beer, you can’t help but want a piece of the sweetest, juiciest pineapple you’ve ever had. Again, this beer isn’t sweet, but it takes the attributes of the perfect fruit and transforms it into this potion that takes your senses to a whole different place. If this was available in the winter, it might rid me of my winter blues. It’s an escape to the beach, for real. That being said, this beer is true to its name and definitely belongs in your beach cooler this summer!
Beer Name: Orange Avenue Wit
Brewery: Coronado Brewing Company, California
Type of Beer: Witbier
Cost & Availability: Ranges from $10 for a 6-pack of 12oz cans or bottles to $210 for a 1/2 barrel keg.
My Take: So I started this list with a true and tried beer with orange notes, I will end with a newbie that comes in close second for a great citrus summer beer. This wit is beautiful in color, a nice golden hazy orange, kinda like sunset in the dead of summer. The initial whiff smells like fresh clover honey on homemade biscuits…sweet, floral and a hint of bread. When you drink this beer, don’t think fresh orange, because it’s not bright like that. Just like the dog days of summer, the orange is laid back and comes in slow sultry waves that you would get from orange blossom honey. The beer is relaxed and has some malty notes with lemon and orange peel, coriander and even a hint of cinnamon that keeps the beer interesting enough but not complicated. It’s the perfect beer to chill out with on a sunset cruise or on your patio after a long summer day just winding down. This beer is a summer sunset in a bottle, a picture perfect ending to a summer day.
I wanted to mention a brewery that just came up here in Chicago, called Dovetail Brewery. These guys are making some amazing hefeweizens that go back to age old recipes from Europe. I love the tradition these guys are preserving for Bavarian style beers. This summer I tried their hefeweizen, one of their first three releases and it blew me away. I loved how true to the style they kept the beer. I am a true fan of Weihenstephaner Vitus, which is a bock that I can never get enough of during the winter months at 7.7% ABV. This beer is definitely the summer equivalent at 4.8%! I would have put this on my countdown, but this place is too new and these beers are only available at the tasting room and a handful of bars around Chicago. I can’t wait to see what more they produce, especially as the Oktoberfest season approaches!
Ok, so now that you have probably finished your lackluster Bud Light Lime as you have read through this list, I hope you feel horrible about your choice of beer as of late. I do agree that in this vast sea of overly hopped bitter beers, barrel aged everything and now pucker up sour elixirs, it’s easy to go back to what you used to know. However, there are some amazing beer options out there this summer that won’t break your bank and will keep you hydrated all summer. Now, some of you are probably like, what’s with all the fruit? Well, it’s summer, get over it. Take a break from your Cinnamon Chocolate with Vanilla Bean Dark Lord aged in 100-year-old rum barrels, and take a fresh juicy bite of orange, pineapple, raspberry or peach! Think of it as palate cleansing 🙂 For those of you that struggle with what to drink because of the fear that something may be too sweet or have had it with the super sweet versions of crap beer, I hope this subsides some of the fear, and really what is the worst case? You don’t like it? Then use is to marinade something you grill this summer, you really can’t lose!