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On Tap: Experts share tips on the top brews to enjoy as the weather heats up

by on May 31, 2018 2:34 PM

While Christmas is the “most wonderful time of year,” for those who enjoy trying new beers, it’s tough to beat summer. Beer goes with the other three “Bs” of the season — barbecues, beaches, and baseball games.

According to a 2017 story by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, beer sales, on average, are 20 percent higher in the summer months compared to the rest of the year. Chief economist Lester Jones said in the story, “Weather is key. After all, consumers are more likely to enjoy a cold beer if it’s warm and sunny outside.”

Jones said Fourth of July is the top holiday for beer sales in the United States, with Memorial Day ranking second.

Town&Gown talked with a few beer experts to get their take on summer beers. Jess Baker is editor in chief of CraftBeer.com, Kenny Gould is founder of HopCulture.com, and Sue Gummo is the beer and wine leader at Weis Markets in Bellefonte. She has her own Facebook page, “Sue’s Brews,” where she keeps people up to date on the beer at the Weis store.

T&G: What makes a great summer beer?

Baker: In my opinion, a great summer beer is usually a style that has a lower ABV and is approachable so that I can share with family and friends during the inevitable summer cookouts and backyard parties. That means I usually find myself reaching for a gose, Berliner Weisse, a craft lager, or a session IPA more often during the summer.

Gould: Lighter styles are always popular in the summer. The last thing you want on a 95-degree day is a stout. Similarly, many breweries put out low ABV or “sessionable” styles. At 3.5- or 4-percent ABV per beer, you can drink a few of them at the beach without getting hammered. 

Gummo: Something that is crispy, light, and not a heavy beer. An ale is a great summer beer – with wheat being a main factor of a good ale, maybe it’s because wheat is fresher in the summer!

T&G: Are there any summer beers being released this year that you’re looking forward to, or beers that have stood out that have come out in recent summers?

Baker: I live in Georgia, so Atalanta, a tart, plum saison from Orpheus Brewing, and Wild Heaven’s Emergency Drinking Beer are local go-tos. Sam ’76 is a new lager-ale hybrid from Sam Adams that I think people will find super shareable this summer. Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, which is a little tart and a little salty, is another newer release that’s right at home, whether you’re on the water or landbound enjoying from your front porch.

Gould: In the last year, Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon, New York, has become one of my favorites. One of the founders, Jason Synan, is always good for a book recommendation, and their sour IPAs are poolside perfect. I’ve also really enjoyed the offerings from Dancing Gnome in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, their beers are only available at the brewery, so you’ll have to visit upstate New York or Pittsburgh to get them. 

Gummo: For this year, Yuengling Golden Pilsner. It’s not necessarily a summer beer, but with the golden pilsner taste, it will start off as a good one for the summer market but be year-round. Our best-selling summer beers are Sam Adams Summer Ale and, of course, a good shandy is very popular. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy is a great summer beer that stands out very well, as well as their other flavored shandies. Once again, they are a light, crisp, and good-tasting summer beer. They are not heavy like a porter or stout, which can fill you up more quickly.

T&G: Have you noticed any trends in what brewers are doing with their summer beers?

Baker: Not a new trend, but since brewers like to rely on fresh seasonal ingredients for their seasonal beers, you tend to see more fruited beers in late spring and summer. 

Gummo: I think the new trend with brewers are now the cans, whether it is a 12-pack or 15-pack, or 19.2-ounce – everyone seems to be going to using cans. This includes 19.2-ounce single cans. … This brings up the trend from breweries – session ales or session IPAs, which may not necessarily be summer beers, but they are still tasty but not a high ABV. This appeals for summer as it is light enough to have on a hot summer day and not high in alcohol content. 

T&G: Any craft-brewers we should keep an eye on this summer, or anything you’re noticing happening in Central PA?

Baker: My answer is keep an eye on all of them! Small and independent US brewers are known for their experimentation. If you visit your local brewery or brewpub often, you’ll rarely find the same beer menu each time you’re there. If there’s a small and independent brewery near you that you haven’t visited in a while – maybe the weather stunk over the winter or your schedule was simply too busy – the summer is a great time of year to explore.

Gould: Rather than picking up a bottle of craft beer at a store, I recommend going into a craft brewery and striking up a conversation with the bartender. More often than not, this is also the brewer and founder. See what’s new, what’s fresh, and what they recommend. The craft community is super friendly, and people are more than willing to help. That being said, a few of our favorites are Founders All Day IPA and Bell’s Two Hearted.

Gummo: Whether it is close to home or out of state, the New England IPA, or NEIPA, is becoming very popular. I have had Rusty Rail’s Fog Monster NEIPA and it flew off our shelves. Whether any other local brewery will follow suit with NEIPAs I’m not sure. But out-of-state breweries Newport Storm and now Sam Adams have followed suit. Anytime I have had a New England IPA in stock, it is very popular and I can’t keep them in stock.

 

David Pencek is a freelance writer in State College and communications manager for Schlow Centre Region Library.

 



David Pencek is editor of Town&Gown magazine, Town&Gown's Penn State Football Annual, and Town&Gown's Penn State Winter Sports Annual.
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