The Idiot's Guide to Summer Beer Drinking
Stop pretending you’re a sommelier or cicerone or whatever. Put away the snifter. Here are some summer beers that showcase utility, drinkability, drunkability, and refreshment.
by Jesse Farrar
Aug 5 2016, 3:00pm
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Mowing the yard is a lie.
No, hopping behind the ol' 2-stroke isn't a lie in the sense that the grass isn't actually too tall, or that the clover in back doesn't truly need a good whacking. Mowing the yard is a lie in the same way that the charitable donations line on your tax return is a lie. Yes, you gave a few kroner to the Humane Society, and it was a good thing to do because you love dogs and your kid is deathly allergic. You needed another deduction on your taxes, though, and you made sure you got a receipt from the lady at the desk, yeah? Yeah. Let's hold off on the sainthood for now.
The same is true of lowering your lawn's ears every week. It has to be done, and everyone knows it. You might even get fined for not doing it, if you live in that special kind of neighborhood that thinks it's just a little bit better than it really is. Unfortunately, the kiddo can't reach the gas pedal yet, and if your dog senses a professional landscaper in HIS yard, he might rip his own legs off trying to get out there. So it's up to you to take care of business. Hey, we all have our crosses to bear. Yours just leaks a little oil.
BUT….but. You can bring beer with you out there. Because it's hot outside! And hey, you gotta stay cool. You had a friend that got overheated while moving a couch one summer and, well, it was pretty gnarly. If you're going to keep chugging a liquid, it might as well be beer, right? No harm in that. It's not like it's Monday morning, either. It's Tuesday afternoon! This is normal and fine.
The fact that mowing the yard will be the most zen and relaxing time you'll have all goddamn week is information you should feel free to keep to yourself. There is no need to tell your wife that you "don't mind at all!", or that it's "a gorgeous day out!" unless you are a huge moron from Planet Dope. Do you like having arguments, my dude?
All your wife needs to know is how much sweat has beaded on your brow by the time you finally come inside, 2 6 hours later, and how tired you are from all that hard work, and how great the lawn looks. You sly son of a gun.
This fantasy out of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine can't happen, though, if you're going through the motions at the beer store the weekend before. That hop-heavy Create-Your-Own you'd normally assemble is nothing short of suicide in the heat of the suburban jungle—you might as well get your corduroy suit out of the attic if you're determined to sweat yourself to death.
So stop pretending you're a sommelier or cicerone or whatever. Put away the snifter. We are going for utility, drinkability, drunkability, and refreshment here—rarity and label coolness do not factor into the equation. You can earn your badges after the job is done; now it's time to work.
You don't have to go it alone, though. Here's how I'm stocking the arsenal for the summer and beyond.
Welcome to The Six Pack.
Sierra Nevada Otra Vez (4.5 percent, $8.99/sixer) Since we ran out of multiples to stick in front of IPA (Belgian Born Sextupel Ale, anyone?), gose (gose-uh) has been the trendy style on the tip of everyone's tongues. What it hasn't been, unfortunately, is, uh, on everyone's tongues. That sad state of affairs began to change earlier this year, when California craft beer powerhouse Sierra Nevada shipped its take on the tart, saltwater anachronism to the delight of Sour Patch Kids fans everywhere.
Otra Vez may not be the most faithful representation of a true German gose, achieving its unmistakable briny bite with the aid of the native prickly pear, but who gives a damn? It's not hoppy as hell, and it's better than drinking Smart Water on a sticky ass chore day. Anyway, maybe if the Wermsdorf Forest grew cacti, the entire history of Germany would be different! The beer history, I mean. The other stuff...it'd probably be a lot of the same stuff.
Yuengling Traditional Lager (4.4 percent, $6.49/sixer) Just crafty enough to not be totally mainstream, and, unfortunately, the opposite is also true of this middle-of-the-road brew. It's wedding season, though, and sometimes you just gotta grow up and drink some beer other people think is good.
Wild Heaven Emergency Drinking Beer (4 percent, $10.99/sixer) Wild Heaven is a Georgian craft brewer that appears to be only in my area for the time being. (Sorry, but as someone who lives in the south, it ain't often that we can brag about exclusives). Since you could swing a dead cat in the Wild Heaven parking lot and hit a few stores that don't stock a single bottle, it's no surprise that I even hadn't heard of their Emergency Drinking Beer, much less filled up an entire growler with it.
And yet, when the clerk at the bottle shop admitted he was less than impressed with the Pilsner-esque "Session Ale", I knew I had to have it. I was rewarded for my rebellion; Emergency Drinking Beer is light and slick but doesn't sacrifice much flavor at all. It's everything you need your hot weather beer to be. Don't be so stuck up about it.
Angry Orchard Cider House Collection, The Muse (7.7 percent, $14.99/bottle) This one is going to have to wait until you come back inside, because in addition to looking and tasting like champagne, it is also bottled like—and incidentally, costs as much as—the classic sparkling wines we all know and love. Still, it makes the list because while many craft beers and ciders are just as good (or even better) somewhere in between chilled and room temperature, The Muse absolutely shines when the bottle is cold enough to stick to you Dumb and Dumber style. It's refreshing, crisp, and so, so worth the Hamilton-and-a-half.
Bell's Oberon (5.8 percent, $8.99/sixer) Yes, it is hyped. Yes, it is good. I don't see the problem. Drink up.
Ballast Point Watermelon Dorado (10 percent, $13.99/sixer) Ballast Point's Pineapple Sculpin gets a lot more play, and that's understandable. At 70 IBUs to the Dorado's 90, and with an acidic profile that doesn't have to work quite as hard to complement the IPA's hop-forward flavor, the Sculpin is arguably a more intuitive remix.
But when it comes to remixes, fortune favors the bold. Watermelon is a total dice roll ingredient, but man does it ever work here. And even if the bottlings are as inconsistent as the quality of actual watermelons—as the reviews seem to suggest—nabbing a bottle from a good batch is worth the onerous Whac-A-Moling. Trust me, you'll be hard-pressed to find another 10 percent that goes down nearly as smooth this summer.