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16 Summer Beers Ranked

May 18, 2013  |  1:43pm

In much of the U.S., winter weather lingered well into spring. So the end of the school year is arriving with a fair amount of surprise—but it’s bringing with the beginning of Summer Beer Season.

Already at our local craft beer store, Ale Yeah!, we found 16 promising looking summer beers to taste. The styles range from the typical (wheat ales and lagers) to the unexpected (a watermelon ale and a pre-Prohibition-style beer). We started our tasting blind before realizing we at least needed to know the style to better understand the brewer’s target. Thanks to Ale Yeah!’s Carey Charles for joining six Paste staffers in the tasting.

Here are 16 Summer Beers, ranked for your drinking pleasure:

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16. 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon
Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
City: San Francisco
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 5.5%
Before we revealed what this beer was, our tasters knew there was something odd in the mix but couldn’t quite figure it out: “Cucumbers,” thought one. “French Fries,” thought another. “Fish,” thought a few. Watermelon wasn’t on anyone’s mind. Drinking it again after knowing this was 21st Century’s Hell or High Watermelon helped pinpoint the strangeness, but we’ll be consuming our watermelon and beer separately this summer.

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15. Sweetwater Road Trip
Brewery: Sweetwater Brewing Company
City: Atlanta
Style: Blond Ale
ABV: 5.3%
We’re pretty devoted fans of our city’s biggest brewery, but the Road Trip, while mild and sunny at first takes a turn for the worse by the time the destination arrives with a bitter, metallic aftertaste.

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14. Southern Tier 2X Steam
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
Style: Double Uncommon
ABV: 8%
Southern Tier’s 2X Steam isn’t bad, but it’s a cozy turtleneck in a rack of beach shirts—there’s nothing summery about this beer. Heavy, boozy and spicy, this 8% curiosity uses lager yeast and a healthy dose of hops and malts. Save your bottles for chillier weather.

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13. Left Hand Good Juju
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Co.
City: Longmont, Colo.
Style: Spice Beer
ABV: 4.5%
The ginger overpowers all other flavors in the Good Juju, making it a divisive entry in our tasting depending on the judge’s love for ginger. Gives a new meaning to words “Root Beer.”

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12. Brooklyn Summer Ale
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
City: Brooklyn
Style: Blond Ale
ABV: 4.5%
Modeled on the “light dinner beers” of 19th-Century England, this pre-Prohibition-style is light and refreshing if—like England’s cooking at the time—not overpowering with flavor.

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11. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice
Brewery: Anderson Valley Brewing Company
City: Boonville, Calif.
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5%
This unusual cream ale has giant pumpkin and candy flavors, making it a tasty, but not particularly summer choice. But they do things a little differently in Boonville, as noted by the bear with antlers on the label.

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10. Uinta Skipping Stone
Brewery: Uinta Brewing Company
City: Salt Lake City
Style: Pale Lager
This is a crisp and clean alternative to the watered-down mass-produced lagers that craft beer is fighting against. On the other hand, it’s a pale lager, so…

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9. Anchor Summer Beer
Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company
City: San Francisco
Style: Wheat Ale
ABV: 4.5%
Citrus hops make this a very West Coast wheat beer, so we weren’t surprised to learn it was made by San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing.

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8. Smuttynose Summer Weizen
Brewery: Smuttynose Brewing Company
City: Portsmouth, N.H.
Style: Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.2%
As smooth and mild as a Caribbean inlet in June, something the brewers could only imagine when they started brewing in the New Hampshire cold.

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7. The Bruery Hottenroth
Brewery: The Bruery
City: Placentia, Calif.
Style: Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.1%
The strangest beer that we tasted is also the one I’d most like to get my hands on again. I was convinced at first that someone had added a very dry cider to the mix. With the faintest addition of Brettanomyces to give it a tart punch, this is the beer replacement for lemonade—on the front porch with an overhead fan, watching the long days roll by.

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6. Sierra Nevada Summerfest
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
City: Chico, Calif.
Style: Lager
ABV: 5%
Another crisp and clean lager, this time with the solid hop finish we’ve come to expect from Sierra Nevada, whether they’re making an IPA or (we imagine) a Belgian quad.

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5. Smuttynose Vunderbar!
Brewery: Smuttynose Brewing Company
City: Portsmouth, N.H.
Style: Pilsener
ABV: 5.1%
If Vunderbar! was a superhero, it would be Thirst-Quenching Man. This is easy drinking for days when it’s too hot to wear anything under that leiderhosen.

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4. Southern Tier Hop Sun
Brewery: Southern Tier Brewing Company
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
Style: Wheat Ale
ABV: 5.1%
Unlike 2X Steam, this Southern Tier offering—a hoppy-but-balanced wheat beer—was made for 4th of July picnics and leisurely days at the lake.

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3. New Holland White Hatter
Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company
City: Holland, Mich.
Style: Belgian White Ale
ABV: 5.5%
This is a Belgian white that seems to borrow liberally from New Holland’s Mad Hatter IPA recipe. Floral hops make this a far cry from that crafty (not craft) Blue Moon you see everywhere.

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2. Bell’s Oberon
Brewery: Bells Brewery
City: Wheat Ale
Style: Kalamazoo, Mich.
ABV: 5.8%
Lots of citrus and spice notes give Oberon full-body flavor in a light, crisp wheat ale. Belgian wheat malts and Czech Saaz hops make this a more exotic vacation.

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1. Victory Summer Love
Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
City: Dowington, Penn.
Style: Blond Ale
ABV: 5.5%
Victory wanted to create something pale and light enough for casual beer drinkers, but has won over the beer geeks, as well. Summer Love is like July in a bottle. Just enough hops and citrus-y sweetness, but lighter than your bathing-suit-goal weight. I want to go mow my yard right now, just so I can reward myself with one of these.

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