I have one friend whose favorite beer style is "summer" and we always talk about--and imbibe--plenty of summer brews together. I was challenged by another friend to name the ideal summer beer, one that is refreshing and light but not without flavor, and with a low enough ABV to drink a few of while at the beach, during a ballgame, or at a backyard cookout. Of course, that made me think, top 10 list. Ten may be too many to name, though there are bunches of beers out there that could potentially fit that bill. So here's my top five.
1. Fransiskaner Hefe-Weisse-This is a case of a strange three way intersection-popular, inexpensive, and fantastic. There are many other hefes out there, but for me this is the quintessential. Cloudy with aromas of bananas and clove, not thin in the mouth but still sessionable at 5% ABV. This one would make almost any beer list I would make, not just summer beers.
2. Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale-4.6 ABV. Refreshing but not without flavor. Contains pale malt, wheat malt, and pilsner malt. The webstite says it's modeled after the "every day" beers of French-speaking Belgium. It's definately an every day beer, and in the Philadelphia area it's a good summer go to if nothing else on the tap list calls your name.
3. Weyerbacher Blanche-A classic belgian witbier. I think some Belgian wheats, pardon the pun, pale in comparison to their German cousins when it comes to flavor. But this is a good example of a flavorful yet mellow Belgian wit, creamy yet light and citrusy. If you like Blue Moon or Hoegaarden give this a try. 4.6 ABV.
4. Troegs Sunshine Pils-Any German or Czech pilsner can be a nice, easy going refreshing brew, and there are other good local Pils, e.g. Victory Prima Pils gets a lot of recognition. But I like this one. Mostly because it's available in my section at the Phillies games. Refreshing but with a few extra hops than your average pilsner. 5.3 ABV.
5. Victory Summer Love-When this came out last year, they made it hard to find to generate demand, and when I actually had it, it was a bit of a letdown. But I still picked up a case of this this summer to give it the old college try. I have to say I really like it. It tastes to me like a pale ale, it calls itself "golden ale." I really like the label with all of the activities we love about summer in cartoon form. I had a few at a tailgate for the Philadelphia Union game last weekend and it hit the spot perfectly. 5.2 ABV.
Brooklyn Summer Ale-based on English table beers. Nice malt backbone and breadiness.
Sam Adams Summer-with grains of paradise, widely available
Victory Helios-fantastic saison but too high ABV for this list. It's funny, bc/ saisons used to be low ABV to rehydrate farm workers, but I don't know many modern saisons that are lower than around 6.5%. In general, saisons are great summer beers, though. But two or three over a long summer dinner party will be enough.