5 Great Summer Beer Styles
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, Daria_Nipot

While you’re sure to see Gose-style and IPA beers extend into summer, June through August is also when beer drinkers sit down after an afternoon of yardwork and crack open sessionable, lighter brews. Citrus notes might be present, and as day pushes into evening, the styles may increase in alcohol content, but the one thing many summer beers have in common is their refreshing character.

American Lager

These are the lawnmower’s dream. American Lagers are known for low bitterness, low ABV, straw to gold coloring and high carbonation, making them a summer go-to. Many recipes can be traced back to German or Czech pilseners or pale lagers. Craftbeer.com recommends The Crisp by Sixpoint Brewing, Two Women by New Glarus Brewing Co., and Luchesa Lager by Oasis Texas Brewing Co.

German-Style Kolsch

For a bit more bite (bitterness usually ranges 18-28 IBU) and slightly higher alcohol content than an American Lager, try a crisp Kolsch-style beer. American craft brewers have embraced this German beer from Cologne that is made with German Noble hops and Pilsner or Vienna malt. The result is a highly carbonated, soft beer that pairs beautifully with grilled bratwurst. Try Light of Cologne by Ornery Beer Co., Summer Ale by Alaskan Brewing Co., or German Kolsch by HooDoo Brewing Co. HooDoo uses German malt, German hops and follows the German brewing process to make their version as close to a Kolsch brewed in Cologne as possible.

Belgian-Style Witbier

Often these Belgian-style wheat beers carry a similar color and hop to lagers, but they also provide a canvas for experimenting with other flavors. Enter summer citrus and coriander. The combination does not overpower the palate; rather, the blend leaves your mouth feeling fresh and fruity. The style dates back centuries and has experienced a fair renaissance among American brewers. Poured in a tulip glass, Wit (meaning “white” in Flemish) beers come to a frothy white head and feature a hazy look. Top-rated versions include Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Namaste White Belgian-Style Witbier, Natty Greene’s Brewing Co.’s Wildflower Witbier, and Community Beer Co.’s Witbier.

English-Style Summer Ale

Straw to gold in color, this beer is defined in part by its “refreshing and thirst-quenching”  character. Hop aroma is low to medium and comes across in stone fruit, citrus, herbal or earth flavors. The overall bitterness is evident, but not overpowering. Biscuity or caramel malt might poke into the palate, but a good English-Style Summer Ale balances the malt attributes with the hop flavors. New releases you might find in taprooms or on shelves include English-Style Summer Ale by West Side Brewing in Ohio, Lay Day by Revelry Brewing in South Carolina, and Island Mesa Blonde by Kannah Creek Brewing in Colorado. Of course, Sam Adams summer ale is always a good choice.

American Amber Ale

For an excellent pairing with barbecue, pick up an American Amber Ale. These amber-colored beers are an American version of English pale ales and get their caramel hues from roasted malt. Expect toffee flavor along with balanced notes of pine and fruit, including citrus. The bitterness creeps toward the middle of the scale, hovering between 25 and 45 IBU. Alcohol concentration also ranges a bit higher than some of the other favorite summer styles, but amber ales are still largely sessionable, particularly at a backyard gathering where grilled food and yummy sides are being served. Excellent examples of American Amber Ales, according to craftbeer.com, are HopBack Amber by Troegs Brewing Co., Boont Amber by Anderson Valley Brewing Co. and Red Seal by North Coast Brewing Co.