In some parts of the country, there's been doubt that summer would actually come this year, but beach season is nearly here — finally. And with the unofficial start to summer upon us, we need to start thinking about the beach — what we'll put in our beach bag, which swimsuit we'll wear, and what beers we'll toss into our beach coolers. Well, we can help you with that last question.
Typical beach-bum beer drinkers go for weak and watery light beers that lack in quality what they also lack in flavor. But we'd encourage you to make a higher quality choice and opt for craft beers that will shake things up on your beach blanket.
In general, we're looking at summery brews. This includes a lot of wheat beers but also pilsner and a collection of lighter ales. Anything you're going to drink for an extended period in the sun should also be relatively low in alcohol to keep you from getting too tipsy to walk in the sand. So we're sticking to beers around 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). We also want to avoid leaving broken glass in our trail so we're going for beers in cans — and there are a lot of great beers available in cans these days.
Given these criteria, here are our top picks for the best beach-ready beers:
1. Florida Cracker, Cigar City Brewing Co., Tampa, Fla.
Style: White Ale
The brewery's not all that far from the white sand shores of Florida's west coast so we're not too surprised that their Florida Cracker, a white ale, looks good at the beach. It's unfiltered and a little cloudy but don't let that fool you. The flavors of orange peel, coriander, and hints of vanilla combine to bring you a drinkable beer that'll quench the thirst you work up in the sun. Since it's pretty low in alcohol (5 percent ABV), you also don't have to worry too much about over-serving yourself.
2. SummerBright Ale, Breckenridge Brewery, Denver
Style: Golden Ale
A very light and quaffable brew, SummerBright is made specifically for the summer, of course. The white wheat used in the brewing process joins two different types of malt and hops from the Pacific Northwest in a crisp, clean, light golden brew. The very mild spice that accompanies the flavor is just enough to off-set the slight tartness and the bubbly carbonation are the perfect companion to a day in the summer sun. This is another low ABV beer, coming in at just 4.5 percent.
3. Hell or High Watermelon, 21st Amendment, San Francisco
Style: American Wheat Beer
By the name, you might think this beer is a bit aggressive. But it's far more friendly than the packaging lets on. And really, is there any better way to celebrate summer and beach season than with watermelon? We say no! That watermelon meshes well with grains and hops into a surprisingly refreshing and easy-drinking brew. For those who may have second thoughts about a fruit beer, let us put your mind at ease: the watermelon is mild — just enough to add a unique element to the flavor. You might be tempted to suck down several of these and the 4.9 percent ABV makes it possible but just be responsible — obviously.
4. Mana Wheat, Maui Brewing, Maui, Hawaii
Style: American Wheat Beer
Who knows how to beach it up better than the Hawaiians? Probably no one — not in this country, at least. That's why we have to recommend this refreshing wheat beer from Maui. This one also features a touch of fruit — this time it's Maui Gold Pineapple, a fruit that the brewery sources locally. Hops are added gently to this brew so as not to overpower the sweetness from the fruit and the bready-ness from the grains. The result is a well-balanced beer that'll cool you off in the hot sun. Once again, this beer is respectably low in alcohol at 5.5 percent.
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