When asked what are some good summer beer styles for drinking outdoors, I’m inclined to say, “the one in your hand.” But some beer styles lend themselves to drinking in the summer some more than other, and likewise, there are some beer recipes that lend themselves to being brewed in the summer. This isn’t the time or place for heavy dopplebocks or Russian imperial stouts (though I certainly wouldn't fault you for enjoying one on the back porch!). These summer beer styles are relatively sessionable yet still full of flavor.
Below are five of my favorite summer beer styles for outdoor drinking:
Kölsch – A light, crisp effervescence with just enough hop bitterness to keep things interesting. A slight fruity aroma may be present due to the use of an authentic Kölsch yeast. Some noble hop flavor may be perceptible and a little wheat may be used for flavor. A dry finish makes it a great thirst quencher.
Rauchbier – Though not yet very popular stateside, German smoked beer can be a very pleasant summer beverage. The smoked malt flavor is reminiscent of barbeque or campfire and may pair well with grilled meats like bratwurst, steak, and lamb. A rauchbier isn’t for everyone – some may be turned off by the smokiness. But for the more adventurous, a smooth, smoky rauchbier is an excellent summer beer style option for drinking outdoors.
Pilsner – Like Kölsch, pilsner is light, crisp, and dry with a firm noble hop bitterness. Unlike Kölsch, pilsner is a true lager and may feature more grain flavor and more assertive hop flavor. There are three types of pilsner (German, Czech, and American) and all three would be enjoyable during outdoor festivities.
California Common – California common is another ale-lager hybrid, fermented with a lager yeast on the cooler side of ale temperatures, usually around 60-65˚F. Color for this beer style can range from light to dark amber. Hop bitterness is significant, usually 30-45 IBUs. The malt flavor has some toasted and caramel notes, while hop flavor can range from medium to high. Anchor Steam, the original California Common, uses all Northern Brewer hops.
Saison – Any list of summer beer styles would be incomplete without saison. Developed in the French-speaking part of Belgium, saison was a classic thirst quencher among farmers and farmhands. A Belgian saison features a complex spicy and fruity yeast character, a crisp effervescence, and a dry finish. There may be a slight tart note. Many saisons use herbs and spices for additional flavoring and complexity, anything from coriander and orange peel to peppercorns and lemongrass. Next time you’re on the farm, don’t forget the saison!
These are just five of my favorite summer beer styles for drinking outdoors. There are others. What are your favorites?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.