Top 8 Beer Styles for Summer Sipping
Summer, with its slower pace and longer days, calls for spending plenty of time basking in the company of good friends. It also calls for an ample supply of cold beer.
But not just any beer: When the mercury rises, it’s safe to assume most people want a beer that’s refreshing and easy to drink.
To find out which styles of beer best meet this criterion, we tapped into the genius of beer expert and master cicerone Pat Fahey. He says that a “refreshing and easy-to-drink” beer (i.e., an ideal summer brew) is typically one that boasts lower alcohol content, high carbonation and acidity, as well as some bitterness.
So before we all get too thirsty, here are the eight beer styles that top his list for summer sipping:
One of the hallmarks of the traditional IPA style is its higher alcohol content. However, Fahey notes that several breweries are brewing lower-alcohol, hop-forward beers, and calling them session-style IPAs. This “pseudo-style,” as Fahey calls it, has become widely popular, especially as a summer brew. “It’s bitter, but not so bitter that you can’t drink more than one,” he says. “It’s almost like a hoppier version of an American pale ale.”
Also known as a Belgian-style white beer or wheat beer, this pale, cloudy style is brewed with coriander and orange peel. Fahey notes that the inclusion of coriander lends a floral, citrusy profile to the witbier, making it “super-refreshing and perfect for a day on the patio.”
This German-style wheat beer undergoes a lactic-acid fermentation during the brewing process, giving it a tart, almost citrus character. Plus, it’s very low in alcohol, usually clocking in at 2.5 to 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. “So if you like things that are tart and sour, this, in my opinion, is one of the ultimate beers for summer,” Fahey says.
Although the Gose style of beer hasn’t been on the American beer scene for long (someone in the United States picked up on it from Germany within the last two years), Fahey says it’s just about everywhere. “It’s very likeable and very drinkable, so of course it’s great for summer,” he says. Fahey likes to describe Gose as the “weird stepchild” of the Berliner Weisse and Belgian witbier styles. “It’s a German-style wheat beer brewed with coriander as well as salt, which gives it a slight roundness or sweetness,” he explains. “It also undergoes a lactic-acid fermentation, so it has a bit of refreshing tartness to it too.”
If you’re looking for something a little more classic, Fahey is convinced you can’t go wrong with a Pilsner. A relatively highly hopped lager, Pilsner has a fair degree of bitterness and carbonation. “It’s easy to drink because it’s not super intense,” Fahey explains. “But it’s somewhat assertively bitter, so it leaves you craving more.”
Often referred to as the ale version of a Pilsner, Kölsch has less yeast character than a typical ale-style beer and a flavor profile Fahey describes as “lightly fruity with moderate bitterness.” He adds that it’s exceptionally refreshing and easy to drink — a true summer thirst quencher.
There’s no reason to write off dark beers in the summer, Fahey says, and especially not dry stouts. “These beers are relatively light and thin in body, making them fairly easy to drink,” he says. Plus, their roasted, malty flavors pair up nicely with grill fare such as burgers.
Schwarzbiers — or German black lagers, as they’re often called — typically boast lower alcohol content and a lighter body, making them an ideal dark-side choice. “These beers tend to have a bit of bitterness,” Fahey says. “And they’re always very refreshing.”