Sipping a cold one on a hot summer day really is one of life’s great joys. And with more craft brewers making summer-specific beers, finding a seasonally appropriate brew has never been more convenient.
To help you navigate the deluge of seasonal brews, we talked to Devon Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, and Brian Bowden, senior vice president of beer at BevMo. “For summer, we’re always looking for beers that are refreshing, crisp, and session worthy,” Broglie says. “Session worthy” basically means that the beer is low enough in alcohol by volume (ABV) that you can drink a few and still toss an accurate horseshoe.
We like Broglie’s sentiment, but we also like strong beer. So many breweries jumping on the seasonal beer train that it can be hard to distinguish the truly exceptional on the long rack of blonde brews by label alone. Here are ten of our favorites for this summer.
AleSmith’s .394 Pale Ale
6 percent ABV
The recipe for .394 Pale Ale was created with input from professional baseball player Tony Gwynn. This beer is what you wish they served at all ballparks. It’s hoppy but balanced—the kind of summer brew aggressive IPA drinkers can get behind. Plus, it’s a beautiful color, has just the right amount of malt, and goes down easy but isn’t totally washed out.
Upslope Belgian Style Pale Ale
7.5 percent ABV
This one could wreck your horseshoes game if you’re not careful, but it’s worth it. This pale was the first beer to win an award for the Boulder-based brewery, back when, founder Matt Cutter says, “we were still essentially home brewers ourselves.” It’s available only seasonally, and it’s easiest to get in the Mountain time zone, but the nice balance of yeast, coriander, and just a hint of sweetness makes it worth seeking out.
6 percent ABV
Brewed with lavender, lemon thyme, lemon peel, and habanero peppers, this golden beer starts aromatic and finishes dry with just a touch of heat. For this year’s release, Stone used a German pilsner malt, which gives the beer more of a malt character than in previous years. If it’s like last year’s summer Saison release, expect a full, foamy head over a gorgeous golden beer.
Ska Brewing Mexican Logger
5.2 percent ABV
Once you’ve had this Mexican-style lager, you will never go back to drinking the competition. It’s light and crisp, with just the right amount of Saaz hops. It would be perfect served ice cold next to some righteous enchiladas.
4 Hands Brewing Send Help
4.5 percent ABV
You don’t know hot until you’ve lived in the South. So the folks at 4 Hands Brewing in St. Louis know a thing or two about beers that satisfy after a steamy summer day. This blonde ale was created in partnership with Randy Ploesser and Todd Bratrud of Send Help Skateboards, and it’s exactly what you’d crave after a few hours of yard sale-ing terrifically on the halfpipe. Brewed with Pacific Northwest hops and dry-hopped with orange zest, it’s lowish in ABV but doesn’t taste that way.
Founders All Day IPA
4.7 percent ABV
Summertime is when IPA lovers are shortchanged. Both Broglie at Whole Foods and Bowden at BevMo mentioned that IPAs are too heavy to make them worthy of cooler space in the warm months. I respectfully disagree. Especially if you can find one with Amarillo and Simcoe hops and comes in a 15-pack of cans. Yes, please.
Independence Brewing Company RedBud
4.2 percent ABV
Sour beers aren’t for everyone, but if you’re into them, seek out this Berliner Weisse–style beer. Named after a local Austin swimming hole, RedBud is brewed with a lactic acid culture, giving it a sour lemon flavor. It’s also highly carbonated, which makes it feel even more refreshing on your tongue. Perfect for sessioning at your local swimming hole.
Lagunitas New DogTown Pale Ale
6.2 percent ABV
If Bowden was having a summer cookout, this is what he would serve with dinner. “It’s something that is going to pair well with food and not be too heavy,” he says. DogTown Pale Ale is a bit like a session IPA with the malt definitely taking a backseat. Hints of grapefruit keep it crisp without actually being sweet.
Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale
5 percent ABV
This is one of Broglie’s summer go-tos. “It’s a light-style pale ale that’s super refreshing,” he says. “It’s snappy and fresh with a bright profile.” German and American hops plus British malt keep things interesting, but nothing is so pronounced that it’s overpowering. It’s one part bitter, one part bready, and completely drinkable.
Oskar Blue’s Mama’s Little Yella Pils
5.3 percent ABV
Made from 100 percent pale malt and Saaz hops, this has been a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts forever. Highly carbonated, smooth but not boring, and oh so drinkable. In the months leading up to summer, I dream about the sweating can of Mama’s Little Yella Pils waiting for me when the season starts.