There is nothing — nothing — better than a cold beer on a hot summer day, but for many years, most craft brewers mainly specialized in heavier beers, like IPAs and porters, that didn’t have a great appeal in the summer, especially in one as long and hot as ours.
All that has changed, however, as craft breweries, both nationally and locally, have adopted more summer-friendly styles — lighter, but with unique flavors that one expects from craft brews. A number of these beers are marketed specifically as summer brews and only out for a limited release, while others just fit the spirit of summer, whether they be year-round or seasonal selections.
A number of national breweries put out not just a summer style, but whole summer sampler packs including Boston’s Samuel Adams and Atlanta’s SweetWater. Sam Adams’ Summer Variety Pack includes its flagship, Boston Lager, and year-round Sam ’76 (which is the best beer brewed by Sam Adams), along with its seasonals, Summer Ale and Porch Rocker. The Summer Ale is a very nice wheat, lighter than most wheat beers, with some citrus notes. The Porch Rocker, Sam Adams’ take on a shandy (a mix of lemonade and beer), is way too heavy on the lemon, however.
If you are interested in a shandy while sitting poolside, Wisconsin’s Leinenkugel’s is a better choice than the Sam Adams. Leinenkugel’s is well known for its lemon Summer Shandy, which is light with good-but-not-overpowering lemon flavor. The brewing company has expanded its summer collection to include orange, berry and grapefruit versions, as well as in its variety pack.
Summer styles are not just from the big brewers, however. From Houston, not Ridgemont High, Karbach Brewing Co.’s Jeff Spicoli-inspired Tasty Waves is a light ale (4.9 percent ABV) with some grapefruit and sea salt flavors. It was quite good — reminded me a bit of Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, another great summer beer. Both are readily available in cans in our area.
Closter to home, Fairhope Brewing Co.’s year-round Cheap Sunglasses, a light kölsch (4.4 percent ABV), is a wonderful summer selection, and is available all around our area in cans and on tap. This week, Fairhope will also release its annual summer favorite, Hop Hogan, a double IPA on the other end of the spectrum, at over 9 percent ABV. It will be available in the taproom, on draft and in 16-ounce, four-pack cans to-go on Aug. 2; there will be music and a food truck to celebrate the release. The next week it will be available at locations all over Lower Alabama, in cans and on tap. A Mobile release event is planned for Aug. 7 at Cottage Hill Package Store.
Finally, two of the most unique summer beers that I have found anywhere are the Lovebug Sour from Gulfport, Mississippi’s Chandeleur Island Brewing Co., and Gulf Shores’ Big Beach Brewing Co.’s Bombpop Gose. The Lovebug, which is available in four-packs in local grocery stores, doesn’t even look like a beer. Brewed with passion fruit and mangos, it looks more like a glass of orange juice, but it was tasty, kind of like a mimosa … you could probably get away with drinking a glass at breakfast!
The Bombpop is a small batch available only in the Big Beach taproom, and only for a limited time. Based on the classic red-white-and-blue popsicle, it is brewed with raspberries, cherries and lime. I’ve not had a chance to try it out yet, but it sounds fantastic!
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