Naturally, we think beer should be enjoyed all year. However, when the temperatures go up, vacation brain switches on. Cookouts are planned and all-around fun is being had. It’s beer’s time to shine.
But with more than 9,500 craft breweries across the United States, finding and selecting that perfect summer beer might seem like an impossible feat. However, with a little thought and planning, finding the best beer for your summer escapades is not hard. (Don’t forget, hard ciders and seltzers also have a place in the cooler, too!)
But what exactly is the perfect summer beer? Summer beers should be refreshing, pair well with food and be crowd pleasers. You can find these qualities in a range of styles from bright fruity ales and light lagers to refreshing wheat beers and even porters or stouts.
To help you get started, we pulled together some of our favorite summer beers. So, pull that cooler out of storage, fire up the grill and crack open your new favorite brew.
The Best American Craft Beers for Summer Fun
Blackberry Farm Lemon Groove (Cold IPA; Blackberry Farm Brewery, TN)
An enjoyable diversion from the norm of the style with rich lemon herb and a floral herbal quality at the forefront. The lemon comes on in additional layers including candied peel and lemon verbena. It still finishes with a lager snap and dry. Pair with roasted summer vegetables or a simple chicken to bring out the best in both. 97 Points.$11 (6-pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
STS Pils (Pilsner; Russian River Brewing, CA).
There is beauty in the simplicity that comprises this beer. Well-constructed from simple base malts that offer a country bread crust flavor with bits of dough, combined with herbal spicy hops that feature a touch of floral, this is one to drink all day and never suffer palate fatigue or boredom. A well-made and thoughtful pilsner is hard to find so if this comes across your radar: pounce. 97 Points.$7 (16.9-ounce bottle) Total Wine & More
Boulevard Tank 7 (Saison; Boulevard Brewing, MO)
The flagship of this Missouri brewery, it’s a lively well-carbonated saison that has some earthy hops, spicy pepper, and mulled citrus on the nose and palate. A full body hides the high abv well. Pair with mussels. 96 Points.$20 ( 6 12-ounce bottles) Drizly
Grimm Weiss (Hefeweizen; Grimm Artisan Ales, NY)
Break out the tall Weiss glasses and give this a vigorous pour. A spicy clove and underripe banana aroma is prominent and always present, with a herbal spiciness that grows a bit with each sip. It remains refreshing and enjoyable from start to finish. 96 Points.$12 (4-pack 16-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
Firestone Walker Pivo Pils (Pilsner; Firestone Walker Brewing, CA)
A delicate yet hearty pilsner that appreciates herbal and spicy hops but still wants the gain bill to shine through. From the first sip it is easy to be impressed but as it holds steads through several rounds its mastery is fully revealed. 95 Points.$11 (6-pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
Genesee Cream Ale (Cream ale; Genesee Brewing, NY)
Clear and light golden in color with a robust head, the taste is a mix of light corn and faint fruitiness, but overall clean and refreshing. The slightest hint of herbal hops on finish brings a bit of intrigue to the palate. This is a solid example of the style that delivers pint after pint. 93 Points.$19 (30 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
New Glarus Spotted Cow (Cream Ale; New Glarus Brewing, WI)
The brewery has long called this a “farmhouse” ale, but it is more akin to a cream ale than a saison. It’s more complex than a standard cream ale but maintains all the hallmarks. It’s earthy and spicy, but sweet and fruity with a smack of herbal hops towards the finish. Pair with a fish fry, tailgate, or your favorite cheese. 92 Points.$14 (12 pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
Highland Lower Falls IPA (India pale ale; Highland Brewing, NC)
An easy drinking IPA that goes light on the hops and body without sacrificing flavor. A bitter citrusy hop snap on the finish keeps taste buds engaged while the low abv keeps the mind sharp. Pair with your favorite outdoor activity. 92 Points.$11 (6-pack 12-ounce cans) Total Wine & More
Yazoo Locale (Ale; Yazoo Brewing, TN)
Proof that not all low-calorie options have to be lacking in flavor or oomph, this cloudy yellow ale from Embrace the Funk has a hop-derived fruity and spiciness. A yeasty twang comes on mid-palate and boosts up the citrus on the finish. 90 calories. 92 Points.$10 (6-pack 12 ounce cans) Total Wine & More
Industrial Arts Safety Glasses Pils (Pilsner; Industrial Arts, NY)
A ball park beer without the alcohol, this clear golden yellow pilsner has the crispness the style demands combined with an herbal and citrus hop character. 80 calories. 91 Points.$13 (6-pack 12-ounce cans) Better Rhodes
What Is the Best Beer for a Cookout?
Ultimately it comes down to whatever you want to drink. There are no wrong answers when it comes to taste. But, thinking about a cookout menu in advance can steer the beer choice in the right direction.
To start, light American lagers are ideal for just about any menu. Their easy-drinking nature, low hop profile and soft and sweet malt with a bit of crispness on the finish makes for easy pairing, plus they’re ubiquitous, so finding a good one isn’t hard.
If seafood is on the docket, a wheat beer is a natural choice thanks to the fluffy, full-bodied nature of the beer and a slight citrus twang. For salads and other lighter fare, pick up some fruited beer with watermelon, strawberry, blueberry or other seasonal flavors. (For an added kick and visual boost, try adding a handful of blueberries or strawberries to a glass of fruit beer, or using a small watermelon wedge as a garnish.)
For burgers and hotdogs, go for a porter or a stout. Dark beers might seem a bit heavy for hot summer weather, but both these styles have flavors and aromas of coffee, roasted malts, chocolate and a slight sweetness, making them—especially when properly iced down in a cooler—the perfect complement to the fat, char and earthiness of the meats. Also of note, a low-to-moderate alcohol-by volume (abv) helps make these great for lingering at long parties.
What Are Summer Seasonal Beers?
As the name suggests, summer seasonals are beers released during the summer months. (Although there are several, especially from larger breweries that begin popping up on shelves in early spring.) These beers are often tied into seasonal flavors or produce. For smaller breweries, this can mean getting fresh fruit from local farms and adding them to a base beer, like a blonde ale, gose or lager, during fermentation.
Why Is Beer In Cans?
Cans have a lot of benefits over glass. To start, it’s easier to transport them for camping, fishing and hiking trips (and especially easy to carry out) because of their lighter weight. Secondly, cans also keep unwanted flaws from creeping into your brew ,as the airtight seal prevents oxidation, which can give beer the flavor of wet cardboard. Lastly, light can’t penetrate cans, so beer won’t become light struck, which gives it aromas of skunk.
Cans are also a great excuse to break out a favorite koozie to help keep hands dry and beer cooler a little longer.
What Is a Radler?
A radler is a beer, often a lager, that is mixed with lemonade or a lemon-lime soda. This lowers the abv of the beer and creates a refreshing citrus experience. Some breweries offer this pre-mixed in cans, but often the best results are ones made fresh.
Last Updated: July 13, 2023