And who wouldn’t love Bourbon, with its cornucopia of flavors, its versatility, and of course that warming finish that goes straight to the soul?
But sometimes enough is enough. Mixed drinks not only can get a little sweet, and sometimes a Vodka and Tonic is just a Vodka and Tonic. Refreshing, maybe. But if you knock off four or five of those on a balmy July afternoon, you might wind up asleep on the bottom of the boat.
Beer is your friend, no matter what place you call home. Its versatility is different than that of a spirit in that no mixing is required – there’s a Beer already created to fit your mood. And if you’re not versed in what Beer might please your palate, you need not worry, because we’ve got you covered.
Here are seven types of Beers you may want to try this summer when the heat is on.
1. Pilsner or Lager:Pilsners and lagers top the list because they’re not only ridiculously quaffable, they’re also everywhere – bad one, good ones. But you have a discerning palate, so leave those corporate light brews as a last resort.
Find yourself a quality German or Czech Lager, a crisp, clean, straw-yellow brew that might look like one of those gas-station Beers but tastes about a million times better. You’ll taste the grains, find a suckle of sweetness, get just a hint of the hops, and then you’ll see what a real lager or pilsner is all about. And, yes, there are good lager-style Beers also made in America.
Many people pair lager with a shot of Whiskey, sidecar-style, so if Whiskey’s your thing, here’s a natural, palate-cleansing partner.
You may want to try: Pilsner Urquell, Paulaner Munich Lager, Victory Prima Pils.
2. Hefeweizen or American Wheat:A wheat Beer is a summer favorite for many. Some of these Beers automatically get served with a lemon wedge or some other fruit that helps bring out the flavors. Most importantly, like the aforementioned lager, this light style is brewed with wheat instead of simply barley, resulting in a smooth, soft body to go with a refreshingly light “grassy” flavor – at least for the American version.
A hefeweizen, which is a German wheat, will elicit flavors of banana and sometimes cloves for an added flavor experience. Hey, if you’re used to craft cocktails, you want diverse flavors, right? And with these light brews, you’ll be good to go all day.
You may want to try: Bell’s Oberon, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Schneider Weisse.
3. American Blonde Ale:The American blonde is a simple, approachable and universal Beer choice. I put it somewhere between an American wheat and a pilsner, as it typically has a soft mouthfeel to go with bright flavors, along with subtle fruit notes and moderate alcohol levels. In short, this is the kind of Beer I’d hand to a friend who was a devout corporate light drinker who was looking for something to give his or her palate a break.
For you mixed-drink sippers, this basic Beer style often is infused with fruit flavors like watermelon, strawberry and lime during summer months. Put an umbrella in your blonde, and you’re all set.
There are also Belgian blondes that bring added flavor notes such as banana or bubble gum, with the same refreshing results. Cream ales also would loosely fit here.
You may want to try: The house blonde at any local brewery, Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale, Heavy Seas Gold.
4. Kölsch:A cousin to the aforementioned lagers and pilsners, Kölsch Beer is native to Cologne, Germany. Sort of a lager/ale hybrid with a light, refreshing body, dry carbonated crispness, Kölsch is unique in that it almost brings with it a character like a sparkling white Wine.
Like a sparkling Wine, there are fruit flavors to be found in a refreshing Kölsch, along with a bready quality that results from the malt and yeast. But with this traditional style, you’re in it for the dry and clean finish – above all else, it is ultimately thirst-quenching, with low levels of alcohol to keep things moving forward.
This is one of the first Beers I learned to love when I first discovered craft Beer, which is why downing a cold Kölsch is like catching up with an old friend.
You may want to try: Reissdorf Kölsch, Champion Killer Kölsch.
5. American Amber:The American amber ale is an enduring style that pretty much any bar will have at all times because of its universal appeal. It’s the Beer a brew snob can sit and sip with his or her corporate-light-loving pal, and everybody’s happy. The focus here is on the malts, which give the Beer a toasted toffee flavor and, depending on the hops used, notes of citrus or other fruit.
Best of all the amber ale contains moderate alcohol levels and is a blend of crisp and creamy on the palate. Some note that this style might be just right for Bourbon and Whiskey lovers because of its malt quality. Hey, I just think it’s a solid Beer for any occasion.
You may want to try: New Belgium Fat Tire, Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, Bell’s Amber Ale.
6. Berliner Weisse:Another traditional German-style Beer makes the list, but this one is a tad different. Berliner Weisse is known as a sour Beer, but that description sounds off-putting to the Beer newcomer. This is a crisp, refreshing Beer style that to most palates comes across as tart rather than sour.
But for you cocktail champions, this Beer is not only more like a Champagne or sparkling Wine than a Kölsch, in Berlin, it also is traditionally served with a red raspberry or green woodruff syrup to add additional flavor.
American craft brewers tend to pre-blend, but many branch out into cool alternative flavors (peach, anyone?). And if that wasn’t enough, some of these Beers dip as low as 3 percent alcohol by volume – talk about a summer sipper that never ends. You can’t do that with a Margarita, folks.
You may want to try: Cigar City A Beer Named Sue, Prairie Artisan Ales Weisse, Dogfish Head Festina Peche.
7. English Brown:Here’s another entry that keeps the alcohol content low for pub-sessioning. What’s great about an English brown, however, is the biscuit-like – or sometimes nutty – aroma and flavor combined with a light, drinkable body.
Hand one of these to someone who thinks Beer has to be yellow, and the brown color might just turn them off. They shouldn’t be, however, because the brownness (is that a word?) comes from toasting the malts, which in turns provides the flavor.
Much like an American amber, this Beer might interest those who drink Whiskey or Scotch, without the big kick. Summer’s here, and the sun is dehydrating enough on its own, isn’t it?
See also, the English mild or English bitter, which isn’t nearly as bitter as the name wants you to believe.
You may want to try: Newcastle Brown Ale, Samuel Smith Nut Brown.
And that’s just for starters. We didn’t even get into Beer cocktails and other light, fruity Beer styles such as goses and farmhouse ales.
Suffice to say, Beer is more versatile than many give it credit for being, with a style or flavor for most any palate. Happy sipping.