It can be overwhelming to put together a warm-weather tap list that stays on-trend while satisfying every palate, especially with more than 5,000 national, regional craft, and micro breweries—according to the Brewers Association’s 2016 data—producing new and seasonal brews. Here’s what beer experts across the country are loving for summer 2018.
“Summer beer choices need to be light and refreshing but certainly shouldn’t be boring,” says Kraig Torres, founder of Hop City Craft Beer & Wine in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama and Barleygarden Kitchen & Craft Bar in Alpharetta, Georgia. He recommends the gose from Westbrook Brewing Co. in South Carolina. “[It] is simply a great choice on a steamy Georgia afternoon … [and] is a fantastic pairing with almost any green, leafy summer food like a watermelon salad or arugula with sliced sirloin. The past two years they have released a key-lime version that is, well, just like a key lime pie. Fingers crossed we see it again this summer.” Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez gose-style ale and Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Briney Melon Gose are also top picks of the lightly sour, slightly salty brew from beer buyers.
“There’s a palate trend forming—people are gravitating towards cider and cider-type flavors,” says Andrew Edmonson, tech adviser at Pour My Beer, a self-serving drink system company. After reviewing statistics compiled by the company’s self-pour software in a number of locations, Edmondson found that ciders were quickly rising in popularity. “Even in places where there were more beer options than cider, it was all the ciders and sours that are killing the rest of the beers.”
A good option is Boston Beer Company’s Angry Orchard Rosé cider, says Cindy Busi, beverage director at national brand Yard House. “Subtle notes of raspberries and a hint of sweetness complement the clean cider profile,” she says of the brew recently added to the restaurant’s national menu.
Blonde and white ales are the ideal alternatives for beer lovers who seek balanced brews. Allagash Brewing Company’s white ale is considered one of the icons of the style, but the Fat Tire Belgian white ale from New Belgium is a nationally available choice that is sure to impress. “This hazy, cloudy, coriander-and-citrus concoction is perfect for summer months and offers a new, fresh choice in the witbier/wheat beer category that is dominated by Blue Moon,” says Jesse Claeys, public relations coordinator at New Belgium. Nick Pizzimento, co-owner of Horseshoe Pub & Restaurant in Hudson, Massachusetts, also recommends Brewery Ommegang’s Witte beer and Dogfish Head’s Namaste White ale in the category.
Every summer, pale ales and their big brother India Pale Ales (ipas) surge in demand. A huge variety of flavors are available—from piney and dank to tropical and juicy—but two quintessential summer brews are the Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery and Founders Brewing Company’s All Day IPA, which plays off the IPA craze and the trend toward low-ABV offerings. “So often we hear from fans that hate IPAs or other hoppy beers but love Two Hearted,” says Josh Smith, communications manager at Bell’s. “Two Hearted is our best-selling beer.”
Samuel Adams’ new hybrid Sam ‘76 is also “sure to be a great addition to any tap wall this summer,” says James Meadours, restaurant and bar manager of Krause’s Biergarten & Cafe in New Braunfels, Texas.
Move aside, hops. Beer drinkers are demanding funky fermentations, and Allagash’s Little Brett ale is a fantastic first for anyone unfamiliar with tart beers. “It’s a light, relatively low-ABV beer [4.8 percent ABV] that doesn’t sacrifice anything in taste,” says Brett Willis, marketing specialist at Allagash. “The Brettanomyces yeast adds a huge depth of flavor that spans from bright notes of pineapple to really subtle hints of tartness and funk … [and] has enough flavor and depth to match the robust flavors you’d find in a classic ceviche.”
“Lagers are often forgotten in the mix as a less sexy beer,” says Dave Delaplaine, general manager and beer director of Washington, D.C. taphouse Roofers Union. But beer drinkers are slowly gravitating away from high-ABV brews in favor of lighter, lower alcohol options like session beers, which are generally 5 percent ABV or less.
“Solid Gold [lager] is the latest release to our year-round lineup,” says Francesca Jasinski, communications manager at Founders. With an approachable flavor profile and 4.4 percent ABV, it’s a great beer to pair with sushi, a variety of soft, pungent cheeses, or summery desserts like lemon meringue pie.
Bell’s Oberon Ale, an American wheat ale, is widely available during summer, but remains as in-demand as many rarer releases. “It literally is summer,” Smith says.
Tucker Beglin of Blatt Beer & Table in Omaha, Nebraska and Dallas agrees with Smith’s sentiment. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better American-style wheat beer for hot summer days than Oberon.”
In this category, Pizzimento of Horseshoe Pub & Restaurant also recommends Harpoon Brewery’s UFO White ale and Paulaner’s Hacker-Pshorr Hefe Weisse as solid picks.