No backyard barbecue is complete without an ice-cold beer in hand. From chilling on the patio to lazily fishing by a lake, summer beers round out those steamy days with custom flavors for the season.
Whatever style you prefer, I’m sure there’s one to fit the bill this summer. To that end, I’ve taken one for the team and sampled a wide selection to create this list of the best summer beers of this year.
Fat Head’s Bumble Berry
It’s easy to expect the crisp, fruity flavor to overpower you with sweetness, but instead, Fat Head delivers a perfectly balanced beer. As a seasonal favorite out of Ohio, Bumble Berry features notes of honey, fresh blueberries, and slight malt undertones.
Pairs well with: steaks or burgers on the grill or s’mores by the fire pit.
Great Lakes Holy Moses
Great Lakes lands a spot on this list with Holy Moses, a white ale, and another midwestern specialty beer. Though marketed as a white ale, this seasonal favorite is a wheat beer with strong spicy scents and slight banana notes on the back end.
Pairs well with: quesadillas, curried chicken, and cheese plates.
Kona Brewing Castaway IPA
It should be no surprise that Kona Brewing Company out of Hawaii lands a spot on this list. Certainly, several of the Kona beers could steal spots, but I feel the Castaway IPA stands out from the rest. Loaded with hoppiness and a pleasant aroma, there’s something special about a cold glass of Castaway.
Pairs well with: mac and cheese or carnitas.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
As far as American pale ales go, it’s not easy to top Sierra Nevada’s classic. Made with Cascade hops, this pale ale blends floral and spicy tones for a light, clear flavor. Expect slight bitter notes rounded out by a touch of sweetness and citrus.
Pairs well with: anything, including good, old-fashioned stadium dogs!
Founders All Day IPA
When you crave a crisp golden ale but don’t want to take on a high ABV, you can reach for a Founders All Day IPA. Despite the lower ABV, it packs the perfect balance of hops, grains, and malts to create a melody of complex flavors.
Pairs well with: anything, and it’s an excellent choice for adding flavor to food while cooking or grilling.
Maine Beer Company Lunch
Unlike most other beer companies, Maine Beer Company doesn’t commit to flashy labels or marketing. Behind the simple packaging, you’ll find one of the more potent beers in this delicious IPA. Note the strong citrus and fruit tones rounding out the slight bitterness, then backed up by hints of pine.
Lagunitas Little Sumpin’
Yes, Little Sumpin’ is another IPA, but since this beer style remains one of the most popular and tends to taste lighter, it makes sense to us. Of course, Lagunitas took a unique approach to this one by adding in a fair amount of wheat and several different hop varieties. It’s an excellent choice for IPA and Hefeweizen fans who want to try something new.
Pairs well with: pizza or barbecue.
Shiner Strawberry Blonde
Who loves a dessert beer? While some people may argue that’s not a thing, Shiner made a name for itself with some delectable brews that cap off a meal better than cake! Shiner’s Strawberry Blonde is no exception, especially if you love strawberries. This light, fruity beer is reminiscent of strawberry ice cream or shortcake.
Pairs well with: salmon or shellfish.
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon
If you expect this beer to have a pinkish hue, prepare for disappointment. However, beer drinkers seeking a cool, refreshing beverage with traces of cool watermelon, you are in for a treat. The watermelon doesn’t overpower, but it’s a nice summer twist on the traditional wheat beer style. No BBQ is complete without a case of 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon.
Pairs well with: anything barbecue.
Abita Purple Haze
Abita’s Purple Haze represents another low-ABV beer with plenty of flavors. You can easily cap off a long day with a fruity dessert and an ice-cold Purple Haze. The added raspberries provide a slightly purple tint and a pop of flavor to round out the smooth hop and malt blend.
Pairs well with: fruit, desserts, and salads.
Victory Summer Love Ale
From the packaging to the crisp crack of a freshly opened can or bottle, Victory’s Summer Love Ale screams summer. Taking you back to the good old days, this beer celebrates everything summer has to offer in a crisp golden ale. Made with pilsner malts and a two-hop blend, you get the perfect balance of citrus, hops, and pine.
Pairs well with: barbecue and ballpark foods.
Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale
Marketed as the perfect beer to sip on your porch, Deschutes’ Twilight Summer Ale is the ideal summer beverage to round out a long day. With a special blend of malts and hops, this beer provides a refreshing citrus taste without a lot of carbonation.
Pairs well with: salmon or calamari
If you’re looking to take a trip to your personal Margaritaville without leaving the comfort of your porch, Landshark Lager is a great pick. Reminiscent of those summer vacations on the beach, this lager encompasses the best that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has to offer in a convenient can or bottle.
Pairs well with: shellfish and spicy foods
New Belgium Voodoo Ranger
What do you get when you blend tropical fruit flavors with doughy malts and just a hint of caramel? New Belgium’s edgy Voodoo Ranger, of course. Represented by the hipster-styled skeleton with an attitude, Voodoo Ranger embodies a winning blend of citrus and pine thanks to the blend of Mosaic and Amarillo hops. The soft, earthy tones make this IPA a summer starter.
Pairs well with: barbecue, southern comfort foods, and desserts.
The list could not be complete without the original summer beer that is Corona Extra. The light refreshing lager hailing from Mexico. You can’t think beach beers and not imagine sipping a tall Corona with a lime. This was my go to summer beer from the early days and still is.
Choosing a Style of Beer
Maybe you got stuck on one style, say a pilsner, and want to expand your horizons. Or, perhaps you’re new to the game and don’t know where to start. It helps to understand the different styles and what to expect with each one. While this isn’t a comprehensive style guide, it should help you navigate the beers on the list to find the best options for your tastes.
Without getting too technical, lagers rely on unique brewing processes with lower temperatures and sugar. The extremely pale, highly carbonated drinks include some classic American brands, including Budweiser.
India Pale Ale
Commonly called an IPA, these beers represent a rather new style that may be the most popular choice among American beer drinkers. IPAs tend to smell and taste “hoppy” thanks to the unique hop blends and brewing process. Typical IPAs have ABVs around 6%, but if you feel extra adventurous, try a double or imperial IPA for higher ABVs.
American Pale Ales
American Pale Ales represent the lightest beers with generally golden colors, though you could find some amber hues in hoppier selections. This class represents a classic American beer because they taste good with almost any food.
Sometimes listed as a witbier, these beers tend to have herbal undertones with some citrus and spice accents. Expect a golden beverage that tastes light and fresh.
It’s tough to list summer beers without coming across a Hefeweizen. With lower alcohol content than most styles, Hefeweizens make excellent summer beers. Plus, they tend to have banana and clove undertones from their unique chemical compositions.
Though it’s technically a subcategory of lager, pilsners came into their own in recent years. Many pilsners start crisp and round out with a malty and slightly bitter back end. The light golden colors make them some of the lightest beers you can drink.
Sours represent another new addition to many beer lists, even among craft brewers. If you like fruit notes and some tartness to your drink, then these may be the best place to start!
Again, there are multiple beer styles, including browns and ambers, but these remain the most popular. Keep in mind that many of these styles overlap with others on the list. If you want to expand your palate, you may want to try something with a similar flavor profile.
You probably noticed this list trended toward IPAs and pale ales. Summer heat calls for light beers loaded with flavor, and that’s where IPAs and pale ales truly deliver. That’s not to say that a creamy porter or stout can’t quench your thirst this summer, but it’s worth testing out the lighter beers that deliver a crisper taste.
Which is your favorite summer beer? Leave a comment to let me know!