Summer Beers You Can Probably Find

Originally published – July 1, 2013

It’s summer time in Chicago, and that means a lot of outdoor activities. Every weekend is a different fair or festival, outdoor dining and neighborhood gatherings. The weather has been perfect. Happiness requires work life balance, so after you take off your tie it’s time to unwind, kick back and enjoy your summertime, wherever you are.

And as I reflect on this summer, I wanted to share a few seasonal beers that you can probably find at your local restaurant or grocery store.

5. Goose Island, Summertime

Goose Island is somewhat of a staple in Chicago. I was introduced to it my first trip to this city. You can bet on finding at least one of their beers, like Honkers Ale or 312 in any bar or restaurant in the area. And honestly, it’s great beer. I even hear my buddy in Oklahoma came across some 312. They are not everywhere, but the closer you are to here, the more likely you will see that goose head.

Here’s what they say:

“The color of sunshine, with a light fruity aroma and a hint of fruity acidity, Goose Island Summertime is the perfect summer session ale. A Kölsch beer brewed in the traditional German fashion, you’ll find yourself enjoying and savoring each sip of summertime as much as you do those hot summer days and cool summer nights.”

What do I say? Solid choice, really good when it’s hot outside as long as it’s ice cold. This one is an easy drink, though I’ve noticed some of their other ales are a bit hoppy.  Best thing, you can surely find it in Chicago and it’s showing up further and further from the windy city.

4. Big Sky Summer Honey Ale

Big Sky is one of my favorite breweries, most notably for their Moose Drool Brown Ale. That said, I do love their other beers, like this one.

Here’s what they say:

“It’s a full flavored, refreshing summer seasonal. This well-balanced brew has a unique blend of spices, which complement the European hops. The honey lightens up the body and helps to blend taste with aroma without making the beer too sweet.”

What do I say?

It’s nice to see a summer that doesn’t tout lemon or citrus flavors. Not that I don’t like that, I do. But a honey and spice beer is a nice summer change. Plus, maybe it’s the redneck in me, but I love Big Sky. I love their names of beer, there wild life bottles, there snappy saying on their caps (Dispose of in nearest truck bed). Well done, Big Sky.

3. Bell’s Oberon Ale

This brewery gets a lot of mind share around these parts, and for good reason. Bell’s is out of Kalamazoo, MI and makes some solid brews. It’s craft enough that not everyone has it, but common enough that if a place has a good beer selection, they probably have something Bell’s. And they make a ton of year round, specialty and seasonal brews. I also like it because as my wife picks up wine at Trader Joe’s, I can grab a sixer. We love Trader Joe’s, but that probably deserves it’s own article.

Here’s what they say:

“The heart of our summer lineup, Oberon Ale offers a refreshing mix of malted wheat flavor and fruity notes, wrapped up in a distinctively citrusy hop aroma. Brewed around the concept of balance, Oberon brings a moderate bodied yet full-flavored ale to the table that complements all manner of summer activities.”

What do I say? 

Can’t go wrong with anything Bell’s. It’s heavier than other summer brews and a bit hoppier, but for real beer lovers, you’ll like this one.

2. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

I have had some ups and downs with this brewery, but I have to give them props for the selection. I did once have a beer that tasted like Fruity Pebbles. Now I do love Fruity Pebbles (who doesn’t), but I do not love Fruity Pebble beer.  I do, on the other hand, like a refreshing lemonade style beer.

Here’s what they say:

“A Shandy is beer brewed with a little something extra. Leinenkugel’s® Summer Shandy® is crisp wheat beer brewed with natural lemonade flavor which makes it a perfect summertime refresher for those sun-splashed summer days.”

What do I say?

Good, refreshing, serve very cold. Even my wife likes this beer, and she’s not a beer fan. You might consider the  Lemon Berry Shandy as well, though I have not yet braved it. I don’t want a breakfast cereal repeat.

1. Sam Adams Summer Ale

God Bless Sam Adams. Now I know some out there won’t agree. You beer connoisseurs that only want to drink the most obscure craft selection. I get it, you want to try new things. And remind everyone that you try new things. You’re like the speakeasy goer in the beer community. I get it.

But, you have to give Sam some serious respect. Sam Adams took good beer and made it as mainstream as a Miller Light or Budweiser. They have a fantastic selection, you can find it anywhere, and it’s reasonably priced. And, if their commercials are to be believed, they really really really care about beer. I respect that. I always say, do what you love. And so, I give top honors to their Summer Ale.

Here’s what they say:

“Crisp and tangy with refreshing lemon peel and a hint of pepper from rare Grains of Paradise.  Golden, hazy, & thirst quenching, this American wheat ale balances bright citrus, Noble hops & spice for a lively brew that’s perfect on any summer day.”

What do I say?

This is the perfect selection for your summer barbecue, you 4th of July, your lazy Friday night. It’s not overbearing with the lemon, the pepper and spice provide balance.  Plus, when entertaining, this is a great balance between the mainstream or the obscure. I will say, I love the Porch Rocker, which is a lot more citrusy, like a lemonade beer. If your feeling daring, give it a try.

There are a ton of great breweries and summer beers out there, so if these don’t quench your thirst, look around, but these are some great go-to summers that are easy to find. Happy Summer!

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