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Crisp, Clean and Refreshing Summer Lagers

Although we haven’t gotten to the truly hot months yet, June is a great time to take a look at some of the beer styles you should get to know ahead of all of the upcoming season’s outdoor entertaining. Although personal preferences vary, the beer category that’s sure to quench your thirst on those hot days at the park, the barbecue or the poolside bash is lager.

Known for being crisper, cleaner and more refreshing than ales, lagers shouldn’t be misinterpreted as being boring or watery. While they are lighter in body and alcohol than their ale brethren, and are moderate to high in carbonation, they still offer masterfully balanced flavors and subtle complexities that should be appreciated, not overlooked.

Known for being crisper, cleaner and more refreshing than ales, lagers shouldn’t be misinterpreted as being boring or watery.

What makes lagers such an excellent choice for warm weather as opposed to ales? The main difference is that ales are brewed with top-fermenting yeast while lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager yeasts are inherently more fragile than ale yeasts, with a lower alcohol tolerance, and undergo fermentation at lower temperatures. This leads to a slower, longer fermentation and storage period (hence the name lager, from the German lagern, meaning “to store”).

Lagers typically have fewer esters and aromas than ales and greater clarity. They’re full-bodied beers with a mellow palate that’s crisp in character and less fruity.

Lagers can also range in style and intensity, from crisp Pilseners (also known as Pilsner, or Pils for short) to robust Vienna or amber lagers or even bold doppelbocks. No matter how intense the profile, they are always considered to be clean, well-­balanced selections.

For a twist on the classic European-style lagers, look for American brewers that are using flavorful new hop varieties to bring added depth and character to these refreshing brews.

Deschutes Pacific Wonderland Lager (American Pale Lager; Deschutes Brewing, OR) $11/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Deschutes is more known for their assortment of ales, but this lager shouldn’t be overlooked. Made with Hallertau Herkules, Hallertau Mittelfruh and Tettnang Mandarina hops, it’s well balanced between the bright citrus and floral hop characters and the clean biscuit-malt core. Pleasant accents of orchard- and stone-fruits add depth to the nose and mouth, combining harmoniously with the orange, grass and herbal hop tones. It’s a little more than light in body, though not much, with crisp carbonation and a dry, subtly spiced finish. abv: 5.5 %

Photo courtesy of Founders

Founders PC Pils American Hoppy Pilsner (American Pilsner; Founders Brewing, MI) $12/12 oz 6 pack, 90 points. Made with Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops, this summer-friendly selection—available in bottles and cans—is crisp, clean and so easy to enjoy. It’s a great representation of a classic Pils with an American twist (hops), showcasing the style’s classic clean, malty core with an overlay of vibrant, citrusy and slightly astringent hop characteristics. Citrus, breaddough, sweet grass, soda cracker and a hint of fresh pine weave throughout the nose and mouth, framed by brisk carbonation and a medium-bodied mouthfeel. The hops take center stage on the finish, expressed in flavors of pine and citrus peel, suggesting a bit more of an IPA-like close than that of a Pils. abv: 5.5%

Avery Brewing Joe’s Pils Hoppy American Pilsner (American Pilsner; Avery Brewing Co., CO) $11/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. This canned nod to the classic German Pilsener style comes with distinct American influence, thanks to the abundance of hops used in the brew (though they are Noble German hops). It screams Pils from start to finish, from the pale yellow color to the malty, crackery nose and mouth, though with pleasantly forward citrus peel and grassy characteristics throughout. Light in body, the mouthfeel is crisp, with medium carbonation and a soft, pine-like flavor that unfolds on the dry, clean finish. The throwback label (which a black-and-white image of a ’20s-era, fedora-wearing gentleman) will also likely please most guys at your gathering. abv: 4.7%

Coronado Brewing Seacoast Pilsner (American Pilsner; Coronado Brewing Co., CA) $12/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. This new addition to Coronado’s canned lineup is remarkably fresh, clean and easy-drinking. Made with Czech Saaz, Cluster and German Hallertau hops, there’s a distinct hop streak throughout, showcased in waves of grass, lemon and grapefruit peel, though it’s never overly assertive or out of balance with the clean malt and grain core. It’s light and crisp on the palate, with good carbonation and a subtle orchard-fruit character alongside a lingering citrus tone on the finish. abv: 4.9%

Samuel Adams Fresh as Helles (Munich Helles Lager; The Boston Beer Co., MA) $10/12 oz, 88 points. A relatively new addition to Sam Adams’s seasonal lineup, this lager is brewed with Mandarina hops and orange blossom petals, lending an unmistakable sweet and floral mandarin character throughout the nose and mouth. Additional notes of honeysuckle, sweet grass, fresh lemon and grapefruit flesh out the profile, while crisp carbonation keeps the mouthfeel fresh and balanced, finishing smooth and clean. An ideal option for dining al fresco, as it will pair well with assorted dishes and chicken preperations. abv: 5.4%

Blue Point Toasted Lager (American Amber/Red Lager; Blue Point Brewing Company, NY) $10/12 oz 6 pack, 87 points. This classic Long Island lager pours a clear golden-amber color, with upfront aromas of toasted grain, cereal and malt that are woven with notes of floral, citrusy hops. Bitter hop flavors take more prominence on the light- to medium-bodied palate, countering the sweet malt flavors and giving some astringent length to the finish. It’s enjoyable and easy to drink while still offering some grip and hoppy complexity. abv: 5.5%

Golden Road 329 Days of Sun Lager (American Pale Lager; Golden Road Brewing, CA) $10/12 oz 6 pack, 85 points. Made in LA, this has a light and easy vibe, suggesting these cans were made for enjoyment on a hot day at Venice beach or the Sunset Strip after a rocking show. Pale yellow in color, light aromas of hay, pale malt and floral hops lead the charge on the nose. A subtle bitterness unfolds on the lightweight mouth, framed by high carbonation and a hint of yeasty fruitiness. It finishes crisp and clean, making it an undeniably sessionable selection. abv: 4.8%