The best beers of summer

Local pros pick the season's top brews and craft beer in cans, and share some warm-weather drinking stories
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  May 29, 2013

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When the weather gets warmer, the beers get lighter and crisper. But summer beers don't have to be bland and watery. The better beer makers pack an abundance of subtle flavors into their golden brews, from blonde ales to lagers to wheat ales to pilseners. And more craft brew is now being canned, which makes the seasonal sipping easier than ever.

So we asked a few local beer honchos a few questions:

1) What's your favorite summer craft beer?

2) What's the best craft beer available in cans (any style)?

3) Do you have summer drinking traditions and/or anecdotes.

The replies poured in. Grab a cold one, read along, and get some ideas for what your next cold one should be.


BRIAN BUONGIOVANNI

THE BEER GUY, BRICKYARD WINE & SPIRITS, BARRINGTON

Every industry has its trends, and the craft beer industry is no different. Last summer the big trend was shandies, a half-lager/half-lemonade drink created in Ireland. I call them the "Arnold Palmer of Beer." Everybody and their cousin was releasing a shandy in an effort to stay relevant during the summer beer-buying blitz. The shandy trend still lingers this summer, but it appears session IPAs are emerging as a new movement.

All that being said, my personal favorite summer beers are lager, pilsener, and Kolsch beers. Light color, smooth body, low ABV and a clean finish. That's what I'm looking for on a hot summer day. This season I've got to hand it to Brooklyn Brewery (NY). Their Summer Ale has all of the above with flavor to boot! It's my favorite seasonal this summer (subject to change as I make my way through more and more tasty brews).

The best craft beer in cans? I'm a local beer junkie, so I've gotta hand this award to Pawtucket heroes Foolproof Brewing. The guys at Foolproof can their three full-time brews (Backyahd IPA, Barstool Session Ale, and Raincloud Robust Porter). I'm not the only one who feels this way. They were recently named one of the top 25 breweries in America to watch. Try any of their beers and you'll know why.

One of my most memorable summer drinking memories goes back quite a ways. It was the first really hot day of summer and I was walking around downtown PVD doing not much of anything when I ran into two friends. We popped into a packie and grabbed some 40s of icy cold malt liquor, then dodged into a nearby alley where there was old office furniture being thrown away. We just sat on old desks drinking in the shade of the alley as the city buzzed around us. It was one of those "perfect moments" that sits in the back of your mind for the rest of your life.

Far from glamorous, I know, but the best memories usually are.


DAVE CUMMINGS

SALES MANAGER, CRAFT BEER GUILD OF RHODE ISLAND, WARWICK

I'm on a saison kick, which may last through the summer — Brasserie Dupont's Saison Dupont, Green Flash's Saison Diego, Revival's Saison, and Flying Dog Wildeman are favorites at the moment. I'm also looking forward to the return of Lagunitas DayTime ("a fractional IPA") in July!

In cans, I'm partial to Sixpoint — Apollo (Berliner Weisse) is less tart than last year's and going down very easy, but Dale's Pale Ale is also one of the best.

Keg stands and funnels come to mind, but that was long before craft beer was two words you used back-to-back in a sentence. Now the summer ritual is more like a summer challenge — fill the back hall fridge with great craft beer and see how many friends I can "convert" to the team!

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TYLER CULLEN AND COURTENAY VEENIS

CHEF AND OWNER + MARKETING AND EVENTS, NOREY'S, NEWPORT

NAY: I remain blown away by Goose Island Sofie [a saison/farmhouse ale]. We celebrated American Craft Beer Week with Goose Island by tapping six of their limited edition beers. Some are still flowing, but whattaya know, the first one to go? Sofie.

Tyler: My favorite spring beer is Sierra Nevada Hoptimum. I honestly can't think of what my favorite summer craft beer. I have a few that I like, but winter is where I have my favorites.

Tyler: [For cans], I'm going to go with Sixpoint — that's why I carry it. I like Oskar Blues, but Sixpoint has more variety.

Nay: [In the summer] I like playing golf and drinking beer. I like Yuengling because it's my home state go-to light beer! Plus, my mother's family is from Pottsville. Now that I don't play as much golf, I usually bring myself some cold Pacifico to my favorite beach in Newport — Gooseberry. Apparently I like geese a lot.

Tyler: I'm not much of a beer drinker during the day (maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have to be sober before showing up to work every day, but not necessarily before going to bed [laughs]). But at night in the summer? I go for the Lambics — non-fruit. I carry more vintage Lambics than any other craft beer bar in Rhode Island because I like them so much. As a kid I remember running around my dad's property and the beach with backpacks full of Miller Lite because my Dad use to stockpile it. But now I can't help but feel guilty — not because I drank my dad's beer, but because of what I was drinking. In fact, my old man begs me to put some Miller Lite on tap just for him (and I guess a few others), but I just can't bring myself to do it.

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