Sure, any beer can be a summer beer if you truly want it to be, but some are better suited to the task than others. So what exactly makes a beer ideal for warmer temperatures?
“You want something that’s refreshing, easy to drink and thirst-quenching,” says Roger Mittag, a Prud’homme beer sommelier.
Come summer, you’re often reaching for a cold one under circumstances that call for lighter choices — at an afternoon barbecue, for example, or after mowing the lawn.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best beers to enjoy in the summer.
What makes a beer thirst-quenching?
While all beers can help quench thirst, some do it better than others — for a few reasons.
“Carbonation definitely increases the thirst-quenching, refreshing characteristic,” Mittag says.
“Acidity comes in and out of your mouth very quickly,” Mittag explains. “It creates a dry sensation, which cleanses your palate and makes you want another sip.”
Indeed, a 1998 study found that carbonation and bubble density were the only major factors behind a beer’s “thirst-quenching character.” But it turns out that acidity is also thirst-quenching, which is why you might want to add sours and goses to your list of ideal summer brews.
A touch of bitterness — as found in Mittag’s summer go-to, the German pilsner — can be an ideal thirst-quencher. “I find it very refreshing and palate-cleansing,” he says.
What are the best lighter beers for summer?
- Pilsners: “They’re relatively simple, and they have a little more accentuated bitterness,” Mittag says.
- Wheat beers: Whether pale or Belgian (which often feature notes of spice and citrus), wheat beers are typically highly carbonated and ideally served with a twist of citrus.
- Sour beers: The acidity in sour beers makes them highly refreshing, and many varieties feature delicious, summery fruit flavours.
- Goses: A gose is a sour wheat beer, with an extra tang of salinity. “These take a mixture of acidity and salt in their brewing,” says Mittag, who likens their flavour profile to that of a margarita.
- Saisons: This style originated in Belgium and France, where farmers would make beer for their thirsty workers. “They have sour and spicy notes, they’re extremely dry and have lots of carbonation,” Mittag says.
- Light lagers: If you’re looking for a light, easy-drinking beer that can accompany pretty much any food, a light lager is a good choice.
- Blonde, golden, and cream ales, including kolsches: Light and slightly sweet, these ales also often feature citrus notes.
- Non-alcoholic beers: Thanks to improved technology and brewing methods, there are more styles of non-alcoholic beers that taste better than ever. (And yes, you can find them at The Beer Store.)
- Malt-based seltzers: Admittedly, these aren’t beer, but they’re well-carbonated, dry and incredibly thirst-quenching. (You can also find seltzers at The Beer Store.)
What are the best dark beers for summer?
While Mittag is adamant that dark beer is appropriate all year long, he concedes that most people shy away from porters and stouts in the summer. “You typically want to avoid anything that’s higher alcohol or that fills you up faster,” he says.
However, Mittag does think that black lagers — which have toasty, dry flavours — are surprisingly refreshing when served ice cold on a hot day. “They also make a lot of sense with grilled foods,” he adds.
What makes a beer a light beer?
Some people choose light beers because they often contain less calories; others like them because they contain less alcohol by volume (ABV). Whatever the reason, they’re incredibly popular in summer.
In Canada, the “light” designation is based on ABV. Light beers contain between 2.6 and four per cent ABV, while ultra-light beers contain between 1.1 and 2.6 per cent ABV.
“The big breweries have been doing light beer for a long time and they know how to do it right,” Mittag says, but this style is becoming increasingly popular among craft breweries, too. “There are some really incredible light beers lately that don’t taste like light beers.”
What are the best beers for a barbecue?
If you can choose only one beer for your barbecue, consider an amber ale. “It just might be the easiest thing to work with just about any food,” Mittag says, noting that its caramel-y notes will complement every component of a burger, from meat to bun to condiments.
Here are some other beer styles Mittag recommends for barbecued foods:
- Black lagers and dunkels: The coffee notes in black lagers pair well with the caramelization that happens on the grill. The caramel notes in dunkels are similarly complimentary.
- Pilsners: You really can’t go wrong with a pils. “They tend to go with a lot of different foods without being offensive,” Mittag says.
- Belgian wheat ales: Their banana and citrus notes pair well with planked salmon or grilled trout.
What is the best type of beer for beer can chicken?
Trick question, Mittag says, because whatever beer you use typically doesn’t influence flavour. He suggests spritzing or basting the bird with beer while it’s on the barbecue. He also recommends investing in a stainless steel beer can chicken holder, as cans aren’t meant to withstand high levels of heat. (Psst, try our Herbed Lemon Radler Beer-Can Chicken.)
What are the best beers for a summer wedding?
“A standard North America lager is the easiest choice,” Mittag says. He recommends throwing in a few other options, too, to appeal to a wider range of palates. “I’d probably do 60 per cent lager, and augment with a wheat beer, a pale ale and an IPA.”
What’s a good summer-brew-based cocktail?
The only thing more thirst-quenching than a cold beer on a hot summer day is a cold beer cocktail — consider a shandy, a Michelada, Green Chelada or even a Beer Margarita.
Ice cubes in beer: do or don’t?
Adding a few ice cubes to your beer falls into the “you do you” category. However, know that doing so will absolutely dilute the beer’s flavour. To cool room-temperature beer in a hurry, Mittag suggests submerging cans and bottles in a bucket filled with ice and salt. (The best way to keep beer colder, longer outdoors? Start with cold beer, then submerge it in ice in a shady spot.)
Do I need to store beer differently in summer?
The 101s of beer storage apply year round: store in a cool, dark place, and drink within three months for optimum freshness.
Should I still be pouring my beer into a glass in the summer?
Pouring beer into a glass ensures you get the full aromatic experience, but if you’re lingering over a pint in the hot sun, your beer might turn skunky. Not to mention that cans are often far more convenient in the great outdoors.
The final verdict from our sommelier? “I used to always tell people that beer should be poured into a glass,” Mittag admits. ”But sometimes that’s just not possible.”