Summer is officially here and there's no better time to sit back relax, and have a delicious craft beer.
Jon Richards, a Cicerone Certified Beer Server at The Greenville Growler Station, knows a thing or two about a good brew. It's his job to taste more than three dozen beers each week and educate people all about one of America's favorite beverages. He's put together a list of the best beers for summer. And there's good news if you like the U.S.A -- all his picks are made in America.
Sit back, grab a cold one and let the good summer times roll.
1. Son of a Peach, RJ Rockers Brewing Company
"RJ Rockers has been making beers in upstate South Carolina for 20 years, but this is the beer that put them on the map. The Son of a Peach uses "real angry peaches," as they say at the brewery, and carries an unmistakable, but still not overpowering peach aroma and flavor. Quick with the sweetness, the wheat takes over and gives the beer a smooth, but dry finish, leaving your palate craving that touch of peach after every sip. This beer became so popular that it became a year round product for the brewery in 2013."
2. Hell or High Watermelon, 21st Amendment Brewery
"This is simultaneously one of the greatest names of a beer (with a nod to the one above) and one of the great fruit beers around anywhere. Using a secondary fermentation to introduce the watermelon creates a balance of flavor rarely equaled. It's a wheat beer first, but the watermelon rides underneath and shines in the finish leaving you with an acidic bite and the sweet flavor of the fruit to hold you over until your next sip."
3. Spring IPA, Abita Brewing Company
"Abita makes the Strawberry Harvest every spring, which is wonderful in its own right, but its lesser known cousin may be an even better beer. If you're craving hops, like I often do, a Spring IPA hits the mark every time. Grapefruit and fresh dank earthy hops shine front and center in this one. Light bodied, but dry and earthy makes for a refreshing gulper, but be forewarned, this beer hits harder than you think."
4. Oberon, Bell's Brewery
"What spring would be complete without a Bell's Oberon in hand? This is a subtle one, though. It's a wheat beer again, for those of you scoring at home, and like all Bell's beer, unfiltered. But this beer is clean. Hops lend a gentle spiciness and a light orangey fruitiness to the beer and clean up the subtle malty sweetness on the end like a champ. For those of you still with a big name American macro-brew in your hand because you think it's too hot outside for craft, I dare you."
5. Stillwater Cream Ale, Thomas Creek
"Yet another very subtle beer. This one happens to be the official beer of the Greenville Griffons Rugby team. If you've had a hard day in the yard, whether it's from using a lawn mower or emerging from a scrum, this is your beer. It's a light bodied American cream ale, with just the hint of vanilla sweetness from Tahitian and Madagascar bourbon vanilla. This is as refreshing as they come."
6. Mosaic, Terrapin Beer Co.
"This beer is "open for interpretation" as they say at the brewery. As I interpret it, it's delicious. Very much a hybrid style, it's a rye based, red, pale ale. And it all shines through. The spiciness from the rye and hops is right up front along with a caramelly and bready sweetness. Any bitterness up front is resolved in the finish, which is a light melange of citrus that's still sweet, but tart enough to give your tongue a little pucker."
7. Man Eater Double IPA, Hi-Wire Brewing
And here's our limited edition beer, which I happily stumbled upon on a visit to the brewery. Man eater uses the brewery's entire year's allotment of Citra and Amarillo hops to create an arrestingly hoppy beer. Tons of citrus and tropical fruit right up front are the showcase, but a delicate toffee sweet maltiness keeps the bitterness at bay, and the finish is so spicy, sharp, and dry as to almost be sour on the tongue. Sadly, only available in western North Carolina, Hi-Wire might be the smallest brewery in America to bottle its beer for off premises distribution. It can be found in the tasting room, local bars and grocery stores, and it's worth the trip.
8. Glimmerglass, Brewery Ommegang
"Another take on wheat for the advent of spring. The lake in Cooperstown, NY (the home of Ommegang) was named Glimmerglass by James Fenimore Cooper. Their spring saison bears the name of the lake. It's a beautiful, light, refreshing example of saison. Floral pear and apple in the nose, sweet orange on the palate and a funky dry peppery finish close out the pleasantly delicate profile of the beer. It's a wonderful counterpoint to their year round Hennepin, so get some while you can."
9. Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Company
One more year round release that belongs here because of its particular spring affinity. It's yet another wheat beer, which may or may not be a theme, but this time hopped up to the the level of IPA. Experienced craft drinkers are going to note the unmistakable wheat malt richness, but everyone one else is going revel in the bright citrusy hopppiness, crisp bitterness and spicy finish of a spring IPA. With a beer this refreshing, you won't remember that it's available year round.
10. Old Guardian, Stone Brewing Co.
"Now for something completely different. Quiet down, not all spring beers have to be the same. Okay, so it's not refreshing, light bodied, fruity, or really anything else spring-ey. It still comes out in spring. And just try to wait for winter to drink it. Don't get me wrong, if you do, you'll be rewarded, but it's so rich, full-bodied, sweet, spicy, boozy, hoppy... indulgent. Sure it's a bit overbearing, but so is your mother, and you love her. Don't let yourself be put in a box, people."
Still thirsty? Check out more of the best ales for summer.