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.
With many states having relaxed or removed remaining coronavirus restrictions, this summer marks the first time in many months that a return to some semblance of normal life feels real.
Now, whether a summer with significantly fewer limitations means filling the calendar with visits to bars and brewery taprooms, or settling into a more socially distanced summer of drinking at home, plenty of exciting new beers await to refresh and relax during the season’s longer, warmer days.
Today, the “summer beer” category is larger and more loosely defined than ever, as craft brewers compete for share of palate in an ever-changing beverage world bubbling with hard seltzers and buzzing with booze-free libations. So, what should beer drinkers be reaching for while mowing the lawn, lounging at the beach, or simply trying to beat the heat?
To find the best new releases of summer, we asked 11 brewers across the country to share what they’ve been enjoying this season. From session IPAs to spontaneously fermented and blended saisons, here are the expert’s picks.
The Best New Beers of the Summer Recommended by Brewers:
Keep reading for details about all of the recommended beers!
“The best new beer I’ve had this summer has to be Summer Haze from Powers Farm & Brewery. This open-fermented hefeweizen is super refreshing and extremely crushable. It’s soft, spicy, and packed with flavor while still being light enough to have more than one, or four. I’m a big fan of the hefeweizen style as it reminds me of my younger days, when I started learning more and more about the craft and history of beer, before I started brewing. Trying a hefe for the first time back then was eye-opening; embarrassingly enough, I was blown away when I found out there was in fact no banana or clove added. Frankly, I wish more brewers were making this style, and Powers’ is a great example.” —Jay Bergantim, Head Brewer, Old Bust Head Brewing Company, Vint Hill Farms, Va.
“Memory Voyage from Subversive Brewing stands out for its internal balance and unique characteristics. I’ve been excited to see old-school IPAs cropping up locally but had yet to have one that really hit the mark for me. One thing I love about these old-fashioned malt-hop battles is that they change as your palate becomes accustomed to them, and they change as the temperature of your pint goes up. For Memory Voyage, you’re hit with a solid wall of hop bitterness to start, with some moderate piney character and just a whiff of bubblegum/spearmint aroma that I get out of freshly kilned hops. As your palate gets used to that stiff bitterness, however, you start to notice this incredible caramel candy-like flavor which I assume is from Subversive’s freshly kilned caramel malt. I’m not sure I’ve tasted this exact flavor before in a beer. Pretty rare to taste fresh malt, and it shines nicely in this one, especially since I had the opportunity to drink this just a couple days after packaging.” —Mikey Lenane, Co-founder, Return Brewing, Hudson, N.Y.
“Having moved to Asheville very recently, I was in awe of Zillicoah Beer Company the first time I visited. There are very few things better than drinking beers next to a river during the summer, and I think I could drink the brewery’s Bohemian Pilsner all day. Made with floor-malted barley and Czech Saaz hops, it’s soft and malty, yet still crisp enough to not oversaturate the palate. For me, the best summer beers might have ‘secret’ frills but require little effort to consume and enjoy. Zillicoah really hit the nail on the head with this one. Honestly, I can’t wait to go back and drink another.” —Rachael Morris, Rotating Cellar Operator, Burial Beer Co., Asheville, N.C.
“The best new beer I’ve had this summer is Survivables, a collaboration brew benefiting first responders from Hold Out Brewing and Austin Beerworks. This hoppy lager is perfect for Texas summer, bringing a splash of citrus and stone fruit from Yakima Chief Hops’ CryoPop blend. For me this is the best of both worlds: a crispy pilsner with just enough tropical hop character to make you feel like you might be on an island vacation. The restraint in this beer is what makes it such a winner; everything about it is so clean and succinct. If you’re looking for me this weekend I’ll be in front of a grill with this beer in hand.” —Daniel Pearce, Brewer, Meanwhile Brewing Company, Austin, Texas
“Hands down, the Willamette Pale from Upright. Keg conditioned and served on cask, this beer has hella Willamette hops and a solid backbone of English malt. It’s fermented with Yorkshire ale yeast so it has really delicate and intensely satisfying fruit esters. A well-balanced blend between old-school English pub beer and modern West Coast pale ale, I had it for the first time when our lead brewer Anne Aviles and I met with Upright founder Alex Ganum to discuss a collaboration. I was shocked and impressed to find out it was keg conditioned rather than cask conditioned. It poured beautifully on their cask engine and tasted even better. Seriously, I can’t stop thinking about how great it was.” —Anna Buxton, Head Brewer, Steeplejack Brewing Co., Portland, Ore.
“Sierra Nevada Summer Break Session Hazy IPA is widely available, tastes incredible, and will surely be in my cooler at the beach this summer. It has tropical fruit notes galore, and a low ABV for a hot summer day makes it a winner winner chicken dinner.” —Chris Powers, Co-owner, Trophy Brewing Co., Raleigh, N.C.
“I’m a huge fan of both mixed-fermentation beer and natural wine, and Homage’s latest version of Vin Violetta definitely scratches an itch. Spontaneously fermented jammy Pinot Noir grapes combined with Homage’s rustic saison base is a beautiful combination of fruit and funk. Bright and complex, this beer made a huge impression on me and exemplifies the amazing creativity in our industry.” —Josh McCombs, Head Brewer, Lawless Brewing Company, Los Angeles
“I’m a huge fan of the team at Albright Grove Brewing and Ancient Trees, a collaboration between them and Perennial Artisan Ales, is the most quaffable thing out this summer. This farmhouse saison is ticking all my boxes for a great saison. Amazing aromas of ripe, fleshy mangos, floral lilacs, and light peppery phenols. Using solely Chesapeake pilsner, Abruzzi rye, and red wheat malts from Riverbend Malt House, this beer is beautifully balanced between the fruit-forward flavors and aromas of the Brett Trois yeast and the subtle spice of the rye. Finishes very clean and dry, leaving you wanting for more.” —Alex Rich, Brewer, Pretentious Beer Co., Knoxville, Tenn.
“As the years in this industry go by, my tastes have gravitated toward sessionable beers. We just had a new brewery, Wrong Crowd, open up across town from us in West Chester and we have quickly become friends. Wrong Crowd recently released a ‘dub c’ pilsner at 4.1 percent ABV called The Borough that’s awesome. It’s hopped with Hallertau Blanc and the white-wine characteristics shine through.” —Matt Gilberg, Production Manager, Levante Brewing Co., West Chester, Pa.
“Easily Dizzy Spell from Goodfire Brewing in Portland, Maine. Goodfire describes it as an ‘almost kolsch‘ and that’s spot on. It’s perfectly balanced, insanely drinkable, and just an all-around-awesome beer on a hot day when hanging outside with friends.” —Garrett Chambers, Co-owner and Head Brewer, Cushwa Brewing, Williamsport, Md.
“Petty Thieves is one of Charlotte’s newest breweries and has been thriving despite opening in the middle of the pandemic. After having its newest modern lager, Remember To Feel Real, my immediate reaction was to say it’s the best beer of the summer. Clean and slightly hoppy, it was brewed and dry-hopped with Michigan Centennial hops which give it a touch of citrus and some floral notes, making it the perfect summer beer.” —Andrea Fröhlich, Brewer, Birdsong Brewing Company, Charlotte, N.C.