Beyond the Seasonals: Alternative Summer Beers

Posted on August 5th, 2009

Summer is a great time for beer. When the temperature is hot, nothing’s better than a pint of your favorite beer to cool off. Although plenty of breweries do terrific summer seasonals that go great with the hottest months of the year, there are many traditional brews that also go great with summer, and today we’re going to take a look at them.

1. Hefeweizen – This is a wheat beer of German origin, whose name yeast (hefe) white (weiss, referring to the color of the wheat when brewed) is apt considering the strong presence of both elements in this classic beer. Unlike most bottle-conditioned beer, this is one you actually want to pour the yeast into the bottle as it’s a major part of the style’s flavor. It’s great for the summer months because of its light but full-bodied taste and fruity flavor. There are numerous versions of this style but a personal favorite is Paulaner.

2. Wit – This Belgian style is the other major wheat beer alongside Hefeweizen.  Wit beer tends to be lighter and more lemony than Hefeweizen, but it can still be quite refreshing. Coors’ Blue Moon beer has given this style a good bit of attention in the last few years, but try a Hoegaarden for a version more true to form.

3. Saison – A style which originates in southern Belgium, it was originally brewed in the winter months to be consumed in the summer after intense farm work, which is why it’s sometimes known as “farm house ale.” This beer is light but sweet and frequently spicy, thanks to the pepper which is frequently added to it. Saison Dupont is probably the signature brewery for this style, but Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY also makes a pretty mean version known as Hennepin.

4. Steam Beer/California Common – This is the only traditional beer style of American origin. It came to be when California immigrants from Germany and Czechoslovakia attempted to make the lager styles they knew from the old country. Unfortunately the warmer temperatures and lack of refrigeration options In 19th century California meant the beer turned into something new and exciting, a hybrid style that combined the lightness of a lager with the flavor of an ale,  a true American original. Anchor Steam, America’s first craft brewery, has since copyrighted the term “steam beer” so other brewers must refer to their versions as California Common.

5. Belgian Golden Ale – Sometimes referred to as Belgian pale ales because of their relatively hoppy flavor, at least when compared to the other beers on this list, this style is crisp and refreshing.  It’s strong carbonation will also leave a huge head of foam in your glass, regardless of how carefully you pour it.  Duvel is the most famous version of this style, but there are plenty of wonderful American versions, such as Brooklyn’s Local No.1 and North Coast’s Pranqster.

This is of course just the tip of the iceberg when comes to amazing brews for the summer time. There are countless other styles that go great with this time of year. Got any suggestions? Tweet what you’re drinking and add the #mybeer hashtag to it to let us know what your favorite summer brew is and what you think about it.