In some parts of the country, there's been doubt that summer would actually come this year, but beach season is nearly here — finally. And with the unofficial start to summer upon us, we need to start thinking about the beach — what we'll put in our beach bag, which swimsuit we'll wear, and what beers we'll toss into our beach coolers. Well, we can help you with that last question.
Typical beach-bum beer drinkers go for weak and watery light beers that lack in quality what they also lack in flavor. But we'd encourage you to make a higher quality choice and opt for craft beers that will shake things up on your beach blanket.
In general, we're looking at summery brews. This includes a lot of wheat beers but also pilsner and a collection of lighter ales. Anything you're going to drink for an extended period in the sun should also be relatively low in alcohol to keep you from getting too tipsy to walk in the sand. So we're sticking to beers around 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). We also want to avoid leaving broken glass in our trail so we're going for beers in cans — and there are a lot of great beers available in cans these days.
Given these criteria, here are our top picks for the best beach-ready beers:
Cigar City Brewing Co., Tampa, Fla.
Style: White Ale
The brewery's not all that far from the white sand shores of Florida's west coast so we're not too surprised that their Florida Cracker, a white ale, looks good at the beach. It's unfiltered and a little cloudy but don't let that fool you. The flavors of orange peel, coriander, and hints of vanilla combine to bring you a drinkable beer that'll quench the thirst you work up in the sun. Since it's pretty low in alcohol (5 percent ABV), you also don't have to worry too much about over-serving yourself.
Breckenridge Brewery, Denver
Style: Golden Ale
A very light and quaffable brew, SummerBright is made specifically for the summer, of course. The white wheat used in the brewing process joins two different types of malt and hops from the Pacific Northwest in a crisp, clean, light golden brew. The very mild spice that accompanies the flavor is just enough to off-set the slight tartness and the bubbly carbonation are the perfect companion to a day in the summer sun. This is another low ABV beer, coming in at just 4.5 percent.
21st Amendment, San Francisco
Style: American Wheat Beer
By the name, you might think this beer is a bit aggressive. But it's far more friendly than the packaging lets on. And really, is there any better way to celebrate summer and beach season than with watermelon? We say no! That watermelon meshes well with grains and hops into a surprisingly refreshing and easy-drinking brew. For those who may have second thoughts about a fruit beer, let us put your mind at ease: the watermelon is mild — just enough to add a unique element to the flavor. You might be tempted to suck down several of these and the 4.9 percent ABV makes it possible but just be responsible — obviously.
Maui Brewing, Maui, Hawaii
Style: American Wheat Beer
Who knows how to beach it up better than the Hawaiians? Probably no one — not in this country, at least. That's why we have to recommend this refreshing wheat beer from Maui. This one also features a touch of fruit — this time it's Maui Gold Pineapple, a fruit that the brewery sources locally. Hops are added gently to this brew so as not to overpower the sweetness from the fruit and the bready-ness from the grains. The result is a well-balanced beer that'll cool you off in the hot sun. Once again, this beer is respectably low in alcohol at 5.5 percent.
Midnight Sun Brewing Co., Anchorage, Alaska
Style: Belgian-Style Wit Beer
It's going to be hot at the beach. For that reason, we're trying a little mind-over-matter. Think of the cold and you won't feel so hot, right? That's where Snowshoe comes in. Just the name cools us off. The beer's not bad either. The big white head that pours with this brew will keep your beer cool in the sun and the lemony citrus and floral bitterness are complemented by spices of cumin and coriander. It's crisp and flavorful without being too complex for a day at the beach. And it's only 4.8 percent ABV so relax.
NOLA Brewing, New Orleans
Why not throw in a blonde for the beach? Hailing from New Orleans, this blonde ale was once the brewery's summer seasonal but she got so popular, she stuck around all year long. This blonde starts sweet with notes of honey and finishes dry with a hoppy bitterness at the end. It's also got a fun and bubbly carbonation to it that gives it a little extra, added bite. Once again, this is only about 4.9 percent ABV so you can have a few blondes if you prefer.
New England Brewing Co., Woodbridge, Conn.
A straight-up German-style pilsner, this lager is a refreshing combo of German ingredients. New England Brewing added their own personal touches, blending those German malts and floral hops. The resulting beer has a grassy and earthy tone to it, balanced by a light citrus bitterness. The combination is summery, crisp and easy-to-drink. It's also a fantastic alternative to all those weak pilsners everyone else will be packing into their beach coolers. And it's another summer-level ABV beer, weighing in at 5 percent.
Atwater Brewery, Detroit
Another blonde at the beach — can't say we're surprised. This wheaty blonde from Detroit has some spice. Atwater is located in the historic Rivertown area of the city and has been making beer since the late '90s so they've got this brewing thing down. And the Dirty Blonde is a good example of that, complete with a coriander and orange peel bite. But it's also a refreshing option for beach bunnies soaking in the sun. At only 4.5 percent ABV, it's low enough in booze that it won't put you to sleep on your beach towel.