Photographer: Lance M. Yamamoto
Drinks

These Easy-Drinking Craft Beers Will Be Your Best Friends This Summer

Breweries are rolling out beers that are low-alcohol and beach-diet friendly.

Summer’s most popular beverage? It’s not rosé.

Raise a can, a bottle, and a growler for beer. It is, after all, the quintessential drink in hot weather. And according to Bevspot, beer sales hit their annual high in July and August of 2016, while wine sales were at their lows.

Last year, the brew world’s watchwords were triple IPAs and beer milkshakes—the sort of beers that are defined by an extra-boozy and decidedly rich, more filling, taste. For 2017, the beer world has swung in the opposite direction, opting for quaffable, easy-drinking recipes that are low enough in alcohol to keep you from falling down in the middle of the afternoon.

“This summer, I felt like the right move was to go basic, clean, refreshing,” said Augie Carton, founder of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.-based Carton Brewing. Adam Vavrick, beer director of Publican Family in Chicago, agreed. One of his summer beers is the Boulevard Ginger Lemon Radler. “It’s a blend of lemon soda and beer, with ginger, too,” he said. “It’s low alcohol and incredibly drinkable.” 

Here are five beers to help you avoid the irrational exuberance of the big, hoppy brew when temperatures start to climb.

 

The Low-Calorie Thirst Quencher

Seaquench will please margarita and pinot gris drinkers, as well as craft beer fans.
Dogfish Head

Seaquench Ale (Dogfish Head Brewery)
Since it started in 1995, Dogfish has become one of the country’s defining craft breweries, and founder Sam Calagione recently won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. Seaquench took two years to develop, the longest Calagione has ever worked on a beer. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 4.9 percent, and it’s got only 9 carbs and 140 calories per 12-ounce serving. That's a little more than the miniscule 95 calories in a Michelob Ultra, but it comes with a flavor profile that will please margarita lovers and drinkers of pinot gris.

The Reason: “As I’ve gotten older, I want a less-heavy, less-fattening beer,” Calagione said. “This is the most thirst-quenching beer that Dogfish has ever brewed, made with lime and sea salt. It’s also the most low-cal and low-carb we’ve ever done. It’s three beers brewed in sequence—a kolsch, a gose, and a Berliner weisse made with lime zest and juice, and is a great all-day beer that doesn’t fill you up. A six pack might not be inappropriate. I can honestly say that it’s one of the fastest-growing beers in the history of Dogfish.”

What Else He’s Drinking:  Carton Boat, the best-selling beer from Augie Carton, described as an IPA “for everyday drinking, when you’re thirsty from softball, fishing, or explaining why your team is best.”
 

The Low-Alcohol Hefeweizen

 

Andechser Hefeweizen  (Klosterbrauerei Andechs)

Chicago’s Publican is famed for its dedication to beer, oysters, and pork, with a special focus on brews from Belgium and Chicago. Its beer director, Adam Vavrick, says the brew to drink this summer is table beer, which comes from the Belgian tradition of low alcohol brews (1 percent to 3 percent ABV) that are made for children and to drink with meals. The enjoyment comes via its subtlety, he says. “This is the year all the breweries are making table beer.”

The Reason:  “I see beer consumers calming down a bit from the ‘irrational exuberance’ of buying every extreme barrel-aged whatever they see. On tap at Publican, I have a hefeweizen from the Klosterbrauerei Andechs, a monastic brewery in Upper Bavaria, Germany. Hefes are the perfect beer for summer: low-alcohol, soft, and quaffable with an aroma of banana that adds a fruity pop to it.”

What Else He’s Drinking: Boulevard Ginger Lemon Radler. “It’s a Radler, so it’s a blend of lemon soda and beer, with ginger, too. It’s low-alcohol and incredibly drinkable. Another is Off Color Yuzu Fierce. “It’s a Berliner weisse with yuzu added. It’s already zippy and tart; the yuzu adds this gorgeous, fresh citrus flavor that melds perfectly.”


The Oceanside Ale

Beach is your perfect opportunity to find out what session beer is.
Carton Brewing.

Beach Session Ale (Carton Brewing)

Augie Carton, founder of the eponymous brewing company based in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., has a day job working in exotic rate derivatives, which “is harder to explain than the fact that cream ale isn’t creamy,” he joked. In his side gig, Carton has garnered a reputation for doing outrageous but delicious styles of beer—for instance, the Shinshu, a miso-spiked cream ale. Beach, Carton's newest brew, will comes out in mid-June; it's a session beer, a low-alcohol beverage said to hearken back to the early 20th century, when British workers were allotted time to drink on the job.

The Reason: “Last summer, I made a dry-rubbed, smoked porter called Rub,” Carton said. “I was barbecuing a lot. But this summer, I felt like the right move was to go basic, clean, refreshing. A beer that makes more sense if you drink a couple of them in a row. The Beach is a 4 percent-AVB session beer, a yeast ale made with 3 hops and orange zest. It’s going for a dry crispness, with a drinkable bitterness and citrus. I specifically see you drinking it on the beach.”

What Else He’s Drinking: Sundae, another Carton brew. “It’s a Russian imperial stout with freeze-dried ice cream thrown in. It’s made from a beer I made last year, Cosmonaut, aged in cognac barrels with maraschino cherries and walnuts. It’s essentially an ice cream sundae as beer.”


The Lawnmower Beer

Right in time for summer: Kick Back.
Lance Yamamoto

Kick Back (Drake’s Brewing Co.) 

Bay Area brewer Drake’s is known for hoppy beers, but this year it's highlighting a lighter style. Said Brandon Borgel, the company’s brand manager: “We tried launching Kick Back five years ago, and the market didn’t want it. So now the brewery, with its two-year-old beer garden, Drake’s Dealership—in a former car dealership in Oakland—is re-releasing it for summer. 

The Reason: “Fast-forward to now, and it’s a totally different response,” Borgel said. “Kick Back is a sub-5 percent IPA that’s crisp and clean with tropical juiciness and peachy stone fruit. We’re trying to do as many low-ABV beers as we can. We don’t sit around drinking multiple triple-IPAs. Pilsner used to be the lawnmower beer, now it’s supplanted by a session IPA. We call them ‘sessionable,’ because if you say ‘crushable,’ you sound like a frat guy.”

What Else He’s Drinking: Foraging Raccoon. “We’re bottling it for the first time. It’s a citrus-forward IPA, a straight-ahead West Coast citrus bomb that’s grapefruit-y and a little pine-y but not over the top, like you just licked a sap tree.”


The Day-Drinking Pilsner

 

Vliet Pilsner (Threes Brewing) Kyle Kensrue, Director of Operations, Randolph Beer,  Brooklyn and Manhattan

The Brooklyn and Manhattan-based craft-beer destination Randolph Beer has a long, deep selection on its menu, as well as a killer reserve list of limited-edition brews. Kyle Kensrue, the bar’s director of operations, said that a return to classic styles started under the radar last year but is now starting to reach critical mass. Vliet Pilsner, from Threes Brewing in Brooklyn, is one of his favorites. “It’s my rooftop go-to,” he said. “I will keep my fridge stocked with this refreshing beer all summer.”  

The Reason: “Pilsner has made a big resurgence, especially in New York. A beer like Viet Pilsner is perfect for outdoor gatherings, hiking trips upstate (the can goes with you everywhere), or watching baseball at home on a Sunday afternoon. I love hoppy beers just as much as the next guy, but during the summer, I lean more toward the session side of the styles.”

What Else He’s Drinking:  Sierra Nevada Otra Vez. “It’s a great beer from one of the best breweries in the country. Slightly tart, with a touch of salt and the refreshing wave of prickly pear cactus and grapefruit. One of the beauties of this beer is that it’s available all over the place. Head to your local beer stop, grocery store, or even bodega, and they’ll most likely have it stocked.”

(Corrects location of Carton Brewing in fourth paragraph)
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