Food & Drink

19 Beers You Need to Be Drinking This Summer

Sip these in sunshine.

summer beer
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally summer. That means the air conditioner is blasting and everyone outside smells kind of like sunblock. To tackle these seasonal developments, you’re going to need a few good beers at the ready. Lucky for you, we had some time on our hands to test some out for you and share the results.

Because we’re available to readers anywhere with internet access, we’ve decided to pick stuff that’s relatively accessible to larger chunks of the country. No offense to your local one-off, taproom-release-only brewery! We’re also not sticking to just summer seasonals (though there are some only season stuff on here too), since then we’d be covering basically nothing but kolsches and session IPAs. These beers are from all over, representing a wide array of styles. The main thing they have in common is they're all extra great to drink out in the sun, on during a twilight cookout. Clear up some cooler space -- these are the best summer beers:

Left Hand Flamingo Dreams

Berry blonde ale, 4.7%
Longmont, Colorado

Distribution: Most states… find it using Left Hand's beer finder
Typically, a summertime glass full of something pink is paired with somebody dropping the phrase "rosé all day" into casual conversation. This unexpected treasure out of Longmont seeks to change the dialogue. Flamingo Dreams resides in a strange alternative universe where somebody re-imagined Founders' coveted Rubaeus as a session beer, one whose notes of raspberry and blackcurrant swing things to the sweeter side, but get mellowed out by the in-can nitro, which gives it the consistency of well-poured Guinness. Even better, that nitro results in the trademark cascades you'd expect on a pour from a nitro tap, only this time it's neon pink, showing you can make a psychedelic, colorful, delicious beer without resorting to glitter.

SpindleTap 5% Tint

IPA, 5%
Houston, Texas

Distribution: Texas
You might’ve noticed that anywhere there is beer now, there are juicy NEIPAs by the boatload (and to think just barely two years ago this was considered a niche trend!). This also means that whenever one is good enough to stand out among the sea of hazebombs, you’re likely to take note… especially when it’s on the lighter side of ABV. SpindleTap’s sessionable take is just that: Bright, citrusy, and easy-drinking, with plenty of tropical fruit flavors and a smooth mouthfeel that finishes nice and dry. It’s a great way to get your hop fix without having to dive head first into the boozy DIPAs that make up the bulk of the style.

Barrier Lomax

IPA, 5.8%
Oceanside, New York

Distribution: New York
IPAs are the style that knows zero limits: Not base ingredients, not ABV, and certainly not seasons. But Barrier’s summer seasonal release stands out in a genre that is crowded with less-than-impressive takes on craft beer’s most popular style. Instead of taking the warmer months as an excuse to water down flavors, Lomax retains a clear, hop-forward-yet-balanced profile with bright citrus flavors and a medium-light body. The lower-than-usual ABV makes this a great option for packing along for a day hike or hitting the beach, too.

Mikkeller San Diego Raspberry Blush

Berliner weisse, 4%
San Diego, California

Distribution: 14 states, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee
The food and beverage world has no shortage of weird mashups these days, with most erring on the side of shock value over actually working. But Mikkeller isn’t just stunting with this Berliner Weisse, which is a sour ale brewed with rye barrel aged coffee and raspberries. Please don’t let that scare you off! It pours a hazy pink in the glass with a tart, unmistakable flavor of bright berries over a light body, finishing with soft, freshly brewed coffee that comes through as an aromatic aftertaste. A unique flavor combo? For sure. Does it work? Absolutely.

2nd Shift Technical Ecstasy

St. Louis, Missouri
Czech pilsener, 5.4%

Distribution: Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia
Amid the wave of craft lagers we’ve seen hit shelves in the past couple years, I’d love to see more Czech pilsners in the mix. They’re not quite as dry as their German counterparts, and generally offer more flavor and oomph than American pilsners. St. Louis’ 2nd Shift makes one of my favorites, a Saaz hop-driven crusher that’s right in line with what I expect from the style. The herbal-spicy hops dance over smooth, cereal-like malts with just the right level of refreshing carbonation.

Hitachino Nest Yuzu Lager

Fruited lager, 5.5%
Konosu, Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

Distribution: Nationwide
Even as American beer interests trend more towards hyperlocal offerings, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of import options that still hold a solid fan base. Kiuchi Brewery is precisely one such brewery. They've played a relatively major role in expanding the footprint of Japanese craft beer through the American market for decades. While many know them for their White Ale or Dai Dai IPA, it’s the release of their Yuzu Lager that might help them win over an even bigger audience. Bright flavors of yuzu (which tastes like ripe orange with a dose of lemon, and is having a huge moment in the beer world at the moment) work over a smooth, dry lager base that refreshes the palate. Don’t let the addition of fruit juice fool you: this is way more a beer than a radler, even though it’s equally easy to enjoy. Have these cans on hand for the first day it hits above 90 and you’ll be happy you planned ahead.

Reuben's Brews Summer IPA

Seattle, Washington
IPA, 6.5%
Distribution: Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
You can’t go wrong with the hoppy offerings from Reuben’s Brews -- shout out to the single-hop Crush series, especially -- but when the sun's out the  Summer IPA is king. It toes the line between IPA and session IPA with a slightly thinner body than a normal IPA and a 6.5% ABV. But it still delivers all the grapefruit and orange-zest notes I look for in a warm-weather IPA (thanks, Mosaic hops!) with a way less sticky body. If there’s such a thing as a beach IPA, this is it.

New Belgium The Hemperor

Fort Collins, Colorado
IPA, 7%

Distribution: Most states, find them near you here
The first time I ordered this beer on draft, a few patrons at the bar all turned to look around the room so they could find out who’d lit a joint. That’s how pungent this hemp-laced IPA is, and it raises the bar in terms of how much sticky, resiny flavor you can pack into one beer. The beer owes that to a combination of de-shelled hemp seeds plus a dry-hop with Simcoe and experimental HBC 522. Admittedly, this isn’t a beer I’d drink five of in a sitting, but for a pure sensory experience, it’s pretty wild.

Maui Brewing Coconut Hiwa Porter

American porter, 6%
Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Distribution: National… use Maui's beer finder tool here
No matter what you may think, dark beer works in warm weather. It simply does! (And if you disagree, we will politely directly you towards that little trend of rich stouts pouring out of Florida as fast as OJ.) The fact is darker beers can be some of your best options for pairing with grilling, which also tends to come back into fashion during the summer. Maui Coconut Porter stands as a great accompaniment to burgers, brisket, or blackened catfish with deep, roasty flavors of coffee and cocoa, balanced by earthy baked real coconut (this doesn’t taste like sunscreen, we promise!) and subtle vanilla. At the very least, this goes well with s’mores around your campfire.

Green Bench Saison De Banc Vert

Saison, 6.5%
St. Petersburg, Florida

Distribution: 21 states, including Florida, Colorado, New York, Illinois, and Alaska
Saison literally means “season,” and while there is certainly no time of year where drinking one is inappropriate, summer practically screams for them. Finding one with such bright, fruity notes dusted with peppercorn as Saison de Banc Vert is a real treat: This beer is refreshing and comforting, slightly rustic, and firmly effervescent, perfect for sipping while tending to the grill or after coming in from a workout. It also makes for a great brunch beer, so if you have any morning adventures planned, consider taking this along.

Bayern St. Wilbur Weizen

Missoula, Montana
Hefeweizen, 5.6%

Distribution: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming
Hefeweizens are a quintessential summer beer -- at least in Bavaria -- but it can be surprisingly tough to find a version brewed stateside that isn’t loaded with fruit. Bayern’s version hews about as close to authentic as you can find without booking an overseas flight: It’s unfiltered, with the telltale moussey head and hazy, orangey-yellow glow. A house hefeweizen yeast makes this wheat beer distinct from the others lining shelves; the brewmaster claims the recipe dates back to the Brauerei zum Schiff, located 60 miles southwest of Munich.

Night Shift Whirlpool

Everett, Massachusetts
Pale ale, 4.5%
Distribution: Massachusetts, Maine, and New York
All the innovation in the IPA world hasn’t rendered pale ales obsolete -- at least not where Night Shift’s concerned. This little gem of a 4.5% beer packs a ton of hop aroma and flavor into a teenie package: lemon, pineapple, kiwi are even brighter on the tongue thanks to a slightly scaled down malt bill that lets the hops do the talking. Zippy bubbles and a pared-down mouthfeel make these 16-ounce cans disappear even faster than you’d think on a hot day.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist

pFriem Nectarine Golden Ale

Golden ale, 6.9%
Hood River, Oregon

Distribution: California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington 
A while back, when we named pFriem the best beer in hops-rich Oregon, we cited the ability of the Hood River-based brewers to do pretty much everything, including crowd-pleasing populist beers, barrel-aged experiments, and anything in between. This fruity golden ale basically makes that argument with each sip. It's a stunner, a beer that should bowl over casual drinkers and nerds alike thanks to its massive flavor profile, which lilts across the tongue, giving off everything from a slightly sour funk that puts its Belgian influences to the fore, a sweetness from those nectarines, and a little woodiness courtesy of the nap the stuff takes in chardonnay barrels. This sucker won gold in the World Beer Cup's competitive Belgian fruit beer category in 2018. It deserves a permanent place in your cooler. 

Rothaus Pilsner

German pilsner, 5.1%
Grafenhausen-Rothaus, Germany

Distribution: Nationwide
There are probably few styles of beer Americans are more comfortable returning to the import fridge for than pilsner. Even as world-class lagers begin to fill their share of the craft market domestically, there’s an underlying trust for refreshing beers from the Old World (especially Germany, where history and price point can make it an easy decision to make). Rothaus stands as a perfect example as to why that trust hasn’t been lost. Sure, having been founded in the '50s may make it a relative toddler compared to some of its medieval-born counterparts, but isn’t that the kind of thing that makes European beer quirky in the era of the overnight American beer rockstar? But you didn’t pick up a pilsner to stew on history: You picked it up because you wanted a bright, grassy beer with a light body and a crisp finish, which is exactly what Rothaus is. There’s no reason not to have a few tucked in your fridge at all times through Labor Day.

Anderson Valley Framboise Rose Gose

Gose, 4.2%
Boonville, California
Before you get all giddy about the pink-ish can, do note the lack of accent on rose here. There's no real clever rhyme scheme. But for folks who want something pink that also packs that salty, refreshing flavor of a gose with a little extra sweetness, look no further. Anderson Valley is one of the nations' finest purveyors of the style (and one of the most widely available), so if they decide you should drink a gose with added rose hips and raspberry puree that's sweet and tart and refined, you should really just trust them. And who knows, maybe you can come up with a catchy rhyming hashtag after a few, though we wouldn't recommend it. This one really broke us. We tried. All day.

Kros Strain Helles Creek

La Vista, Nebraska
Helles lager, 4.8%
Distribution: Nebraska
It takes a deft hand not to overdo either the malt or the hops in a subtle lager style like a German helles, but Kros Strain does an admirable job with this crispy brew. At just 18 IBUs, the earthy hops contribute just a brushstroke of floral-herbal greenness before the sip finishes with a quiet touch of honeylike malt sweetness. The brew is named for Hell Creek, which flows into the Papio Creek behind the La Vista, Nebraska brewery; it also provides the inspiration for the colorful bottle artwork.

21st Amendment El Sully

San Francisco, California
Mexican lager, 4.8%

Distribution: 26 states, find out if you're one of them
Mexican-style lagers are everywhere on beer shelves, from OGs like Corona and Modelo to craft breweries’ newcomers. But few are just as purely chuggable as El Sully, thanks to its pilsner and Vienna malts as well as a bit of flaked maize which gives it a kiss of sweetness. The Vienna malts lend just a touch of complexity, but they’re at a low enough level to never read as rich or doughy. Everything about this beer is engineered for summertime, from the sweet grainy-corn maltiness to the 4.8% ABV to the eye-catching can design.

Urban South Get Off My Cloud

Pale ale, 5.5%
New Orleans, Louisiana

At this point, the hazy IPA has become a staple of the American beer landscape, but sometimes you need a little less bitterness with your juice box. Enter the juicy pale ale. You'll be seeing a lot more of these around this summer as the hops obsession continues to subside, and if you're in Louisiana or Texas, you'll want to grab this little beauty from NOLA's Urban South, which has seen massive growth in recent years. More importantly, though, their beer is on point, and this Mick Jagger-quoting refresher is a prime example: It's everything you want from a hazy IPA -- citric, slightly sweet and with a little bite -- with considerably fewer IBUs, meaning you're considerably less likely to cop a bitter beer face and come off looking like Keith Richards.

Stillwater Insetto

Dry-hopped sour with Italian plum, 5%
Stratford, Connecticut 

Distribution: 32 states… check out where to find it here
Summer drinking usually takes place in a rotating set of venues that range from beach to balcony, so finding a beer with versatility should be high on anyone’s list of priorities. All things considered, Insetto pretty much as it all nailed: It achieves the sweet and sour balance of biting into a perfectly ripened plum, making it an incredibly thirst-quenching and approachable beer with the refreshing qualities of well-balanced cocktail. The next time someone in your group of friends tells you they hate sour beer, make them try this and watch them eat their words.

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Kate Bernot is the associate editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge. She loves German lagers and lives in Missoula, Montana. Follow her @kbernot.

Zach Mack is Thrillist's contributing beer writer, the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in NYC, a Certified Cicerone, and nothing else. Follow him @zmack.  
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