The suds of summer: Warm weather brings the lighter side of beers

Bottles and cans and just clap your hands
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  June 8, 2012

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"Summertime, and the livin' is easy," as the song says. And with the onslaught of summer seasonals, the drinkin' is easy too. The operative words the warm-weather offerings: light, crisp, refreshing (you'll find one or all of those on virtually every label). The predominant styles are pilsners and wheat beers (American and German). Most of the liquids pour like golden sunshine, topped with a brilliant, fluffy head of foam. Ah, summer!

I've spent the last few weeks sampling some of the light/crisp/refreshing (LCR) fare (I avoided the fruit-flavored entries). Many of the beers aren't much more than moderately aggressive water (I'm looking at you, Otter Creek Summer Ale, Point Nude Beach Summer Wheat, and Shipyard Summer Ale). But there are many truly tasty, subtly flavored beers which fulfill the LCR requirements and will enhance your enjoyment of the SOMETHING. Some of the best "summer" beers are available year-round, so those also make the list. Mix a six (or 12) from these beers (grouped by style):

HEFEWEIZEN | We'll start here since this is the default go-to for LCR, and everything else on this list is an offshoot of the style. The German wheat beer abounds with distinctive yeasty goodness bringing the essence of bananas and cloves and rich (though the American versions listed below use less adventurous yeast strains). Start with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (5.4% ABV) and then have another.

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AMERICAN BLONDE ALE | Victory's Summer Love (5.2%) and Narragansett's Summer Ale (4.2%) are two of the best in this group, a sweet spin on Kölsch, which is the style embraced by Harpoon Summer Beer (5.5%).

KRISTALWEIZEN | A filtered "crystal wheat," Sixpoint's Apollo (5.2%) is another outstanding tallboy from the Brooklyn brewery.

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AMERICAN PALE WHEAT ALE | Best bets: Southern Tier's Hop Sun (5.1%) and a pair of year-rounders which taste even better when the heat index is in effect — Lagunitas' phenomenal A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' (7.5%) and Berkshire Brewing Co.'s River Ale (7%), which uses dark American wheat. And for a taste of history, try Anchor Summer Beer (4.6%), which claims to be "the first American wheat beer in modern times."

PILS[E]NER | Round out your mix with superb year-rounders — Victory Prima Pils (5.3%) and Sixpoint's the Crisp (5.4%) — and Sierra Nevada's Summerfest (5%), exemplary takes one of the world's favorite styles.


LIQUID LUNCH

Last Saturday, at the second of three sessions of the Fifth Annual American Craft Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, I started my sipping with two ounces of Lunch, the world-class IPA from Maine Beer Company. I was in the company of 5000 fellow aficionados in the 118,000-square-foot space — a bit larger than two football fields (including end zones) — who gathered to savor (respectfully, responsibly) precious few samples from the 550 or so beers being poured by 121 brewers. It was an overwhelming lineup at the biggest craft beer showcase on the East Coast.

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