What’s in a Good Summer Beer?
The summer season is synonymous with a few things: sunshine, the beach, barbecue, and, of course, beer. While we all have our favorites, there are arguably some beers better suited to heat and humidity than others.
To that end, we asked Mary MacDonald, Executive Director of Ohio Craft Brewers Association, what she believes makes the ideal summer beer. Here’s what she had to say:
“Determining what makes an ideal anything is somewhat subjective, but here’s my take on what makes for a great summer beer. Since the summer sun is (thankfully) blazing down upon us and common adjectives to describe the weather include scorching, sweltering, muggy and humid, one is likely to appreciate a summer brew with more merciful descriptors like cool (a given), light, crisp and refreshing. I tend to steer towards pilsners, wheat beers or one of the countless the summer seasonals being brewed which are likely bring some relief to one’s sweaty state.”
With this in mind, here are six local craft beers that fit the summer bill to a tee:
Actual Brewing Photon
In two short years, Actual Brewing, which is located at 655 North James Road, has become one of Columbus favorite craft breweries. They put out excellent beers with nuanced flavors and big personality. So the Photon is a bit of a surprise on first sip. It’s lighter tasting than any other Actual beer I can remember, with less complex notes as well. Photon is an American Light Lager, Actual’s version of a light beer. It has a 3.5% ABV, and less than 99 calories per pint. While this may not immediately sound appealing, think about it: you’re sitting on a blanket at your favorite festival, the sun is beating mercilessly down, you’re enjoying the company of friends – what kind of beer would you want to be drinking, one that’s heavy and loaded, or one so light and pleasant on the palate, it enhances the outside fun rather than slows it down? For that reason alone, the Photon may be the best choice for any outdoor activity this summer.
Four String Brewing Farmhouse Rye
Four String Brewing is known for their Solo Series: two solo batches of a special beer brewed a month that once consumed, joins the ranks of the ephemeral. This summer, the Farmhouse Rye is a special one-off that’s a twist on the classic. American hops meet rye malt to create a refreshing and spritely beer that tastes like bottled sunshine. The Farmhouse Rye is also a potentially dangerous brew that’s 6.8% ABV, but drinks like it’s 5% ABV. Wonderfully peppery notes are perfectly matched with sweet zestiness in this small-batch, which makes this beer ideal for summer concerts, road trips, and family reunions. It’s available only at Four String’s Taproom, located at 985 West Sixth Avenue, and for an extra special bonus, try stopping in for the Farmhouse Rye as an Infusion Keg. Dan Cochran, owner of Four Strings, and his team add fresh ingredients to an empty barrel and then fill with beer till infused and ready to drink. The Farmhouse Rye with Peaches is even more triumphant than the original, as the peaches add a hint of tartness and sophistication to the beer that’s downright winning.
North High Brewing Almost Paradise
There’s nothing wrong with a little inspiration. When North High Brewing’s Brewer, Zack Null, began coming up with a recipe for a great summer brew, he looked to what was already around and popular. Sam Adams’ Summer Ale and Bell’s Oberon are two of his favorites, and with that as a launching point, he created Almost Paradise, a 6% ABV Summer Ale, that truly encompasses what summer is all about. Orange peel adds a pleasant citrusiness to the bouquet, while grains of paradise contribute to an overall smooth, floral flavor that’s light and inviting. Its slight sweetness and clean mouth feel makes this a great beer for mowing the lawn, watching a game, or picnicking. This is the beer that lets you know it’s meant for summer from the first sip; its universal appeal makes it palatably suitable for the ladies, yet manly enough for our summer studs.
Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi
When the Columbus Brewing Company first released the Bodhi years ago, fans of IPAs perked up their taste buds. The Bodhi, which is an 8.5% ABV Double IPA, was a seasonal experiment that was forced into regular rotation by customer demand. It’s got big flavor that’s still refreshing and not overpowering. Its pungent citrus and pine notes do truly accomplish what the name implies, as “bodhi” means “enlightenment”. Many have equated drinking a Bodhi to having a religious experience, and it’s easy to understand why. Smooth while being vibrant, with a tongue-tingling aroma and dry, bittersweet finish, Columbus Brewing Company’s Bodhi is the summer beer other summer beers hope to be when they grow up.
Elevator Brewing Xtra
One of their flagship brews, Elevator Brewing’s Xtra is the beer around which the best summer parties are built. It’s crisp, slightly sweet, and supremely refreshing. Its clear, golden color belies subtle citrus notes that makes this American Light Lager a standout among other summer ales, and a regular at picnics, cookouts, and backyard parties. And at a drinkable 5% ABV, the Xtra is also a great beer to complement most summer dishes, from burgers, to seafood and salads, to barbecue, and all the other delicious dishes in between.
Barley’s Brewing Company Blood Thirst Wheat
The winner of Barley’s Brewing Company’s 14th Annual Homebrew Competition in 2009, the Blood Thirst Wheat has now become a regular summer fixture at the over 20 year old brew house. It’s a wheat beer finished with blood orange zest that produces refreshingly floral notes that go very well with sunshine and summer patios. This hefeweizen is just zesty enough to dance on the palate, just sweet enough to match its hazy straw color and citrusy aroma, and at 5% ABV, it’s the beer you’ll be hard-pressed to put down all summer long.
Of course, there are several other perfectly great summer beers out there, many of them made right here in Columbus, so stop by your favorite watering holes, fill your growlers, and have a exciting, and responsible, summer of beer.
Photo by Ayana Wilson.
Columbus Underground is showcasing the local beer scene with Beer Week! From July 7th to July 13th, we’ll be sharing stories on homebrewing, guides to beer-centric bars, tasting beer how-to, cooking with beer, and more, sponsored by our friends at The Short North Pint House & Beer Garden. Every Wednesday, The Pint House brings in a different brewery to take over their taps featuring a diverse lineup of the best brews for you to try. Oftentimes, these brews are very rare or limited edition so come enjoy them while they have them! Every draft purchase is served in the brewery’s custom beer glass which is yours to keep while supplies last! For more information visit ShortNorthPintHouse.com.