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We asked 10 local beer experts - cicerones, brewmasters, writers and badasses of beer - to share their favourite summer beer styles and prescribe us something to chill out to.
Award-winning beer writer, bensbeerblog.com
I kind of hate the idea that when we talk about drinking beer in the summer, we often talk only about beers that go down easy. People think that because it’s hot they need something they can drink really cold that doesn’t taste like anything. News flash: there’s a liquid for that – it’s called water.
If you’re going to drink beer, drink a real fucking beer. I know you’re sweaty after that bike ride and, yes, it’s sunny and hot on the patio, but just because it’s July doesn’t mean your taste buds stopped functioning.
Save the industrial lagers for old folks who don’t know any better and support a local, independent brewery making interesting beer that is also great on a hot day. Try Limp Puppet from Toronto’s own Great Lakes Brewery or Golden Beach Pale Ale from Gravenhurst’s Sawdust City to discover beer that is aromatic and complex but still refreshing. Maybe even pick up (gasp) a dark beer like Neustadt 10w30 brown ale or Left Field Brewery’s Eephus oatmeal brown – both would do just fine on a warm evening with grilled meat or smoky barbecue. Summer beer doesn’t have to mean boring beer.
Owner of Kensington Brewing Co.
Without plugging our own beer, the ever summer-appropriate Watermelon Wheat, I’d say I’ve been looking for more in the saison department. With the crispness it delivers, it’s a great match for BBQ and summer eats. Something I haven’t found much of but want more of is a hoppy lager or pils. I want the lighter body a lager puts out, with additional character from the hops. That’s something we’re looking at doing.
Beer writer, certified cicerone and Prud’homme beer sommelier, craftbeertastings.com
Every summer I look forward to the return of sours – from Nickel Brook’s Über Berliner Weisse to Liberty Village’s Gose to imports like Cuvée des Jacobins. It pisses me off that we don’t see these around all year long, but I console myself by having an impassioned fling with them while the sun shines.
Maybe it’s because I’m a nursing mama right now, but I crave hops – I have a fridge full of GLB’s Thrust IPA, and I dig some of the session IPAs with huge tropical fruit aromas like Muskoka’s Detour. When I eat (which is all the time), I pop the cork on a saison. The classic Saison Dupont is my go-to, and I grab my local’s Left Field Brewery Sunlight Park Saison whenever I can.
Brewmaster and co-owner, Left Field Brewery
As the temperature rises, I find myself reaching for sessionable pale ales and IPAs as well as saisons, hoppy wheats and Berliner weisse. I haven’t caught the radler bug, but if I’m in the mood I’ll sometimes add 1 part grapefruit juice to 3 parts saison.
Sales and marketing manager for Black Oak Brewing Co.
I am a big fan of saison Belgian ales on hot summer days: refreshing, hazy and bursting with flavour! I especially enjoy the saisons coming out of local Ontario craft breweries like Black Oak, Left Field, Nickel Brook and Block Three.
Co-owner of Bar Hop
I’ve been drinking a fair amount of gose and Berliner weiss so far. The acidity and low ABV of both styles make for refreshing patio sessions on hot days while offering enough complexity to keep me interested.
This has been the first year there’s been a solid selection of local Berliner weiss, and I’ve been enjoying them with a shot of woodruff syrup. It balances out the sourness by sweetening it slightly and adding a little more complexity in the form of barely perceptible vanilla, hay and anise notes.
For gose, I’ve been sticking mostly to Les Trois Mousquetaires Gose, Local 7 Session Gose and (whenever I can sneak over to Buffalo to pick some up) Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose.
Bartender at Bar Hop
Every summer I gravitate toward saisons and farmhouse ales more than anything else. Saison Dupont is the godhead, but there’s a ton of good stuff being produced locally now as well – the farmhouse ales Amsterdam is doing down at the brew pub are absolutely phenomenal. For saisons there’s a fair amount to choose from, and most of the better breweries in Ontario are producing at least one good one.
For me the style is about as good as you can get for a summer beer – bone-dry and peppery in a way that’s refreshing and nuanced while still packing a punch in terms of flavour. I’ve also been digging pilsners (Czech, German and American styles equally), and really good American pale ales will never, ever get old.
Brewmaster at Great Lakes Brewery
The past few summers I’ve been drinking low-alcohol saisons. I’m part of a homebrew club that makes a killer 3-point-something ABV saison we call Simple Life. The name is apt: it’s not overtly complicated, but tasty, dry and easy on the palate.
From a brewing perspective, it’s easier to brew with saison yeast in the summer because the yeast prefers warmer temps. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
At GLB we’ve made a few batches of Belgian-style grisettes (which for all intents and purposes are saisons) that were pretty cool: Hissyfit and Chill Winston. We are hoping to revisit a brew or two of Chill this year.
A friend recently got me into Spaten Helles, which I can picture myself consuming a fair amount of in the backyard and on the dock this summer.
Co-owner of Bar Volo, co-founder of Cask Days Festival and Keep6 Imports
During the summer you’ll find me drinking sessionable beers like Howe Sound Lager (BC) or my current jam, Stillwater Classique (Baltimore), straight from the can. Otherwise, saisons are my go-to styles, especially ones that are hoppy, crisp and dry, with a bit of farmhouse funk. Le Trou du Diable Saison du Tracteur and Dunham Saison du Pinacle from Quebec are two that best represent this style for me.
When available, I never pass up a Berliner weisse, a historic German wheat beer brewed with a lactobacillus sour mash, a taste profile of puckering lemon tartness and a refreshing, funky, dry finish. My picks from this style would be Evil Twin’s Nomader Weisse (Brooklyn) and Freigeist Köpenickiade (Stolberg, Germany).
When I was in Las Vegas, I took a long walk beyond the strip for several hours in blistering desert heat. By hour two it was getting to me, and I found myself in front of Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, one of a chain of beer halls owned by Hofbräu that are replicas of the original in Munich. I eagerly stepped inside.
The setting was… interesting. Really cheesy Lawrence Welk-style background music, kitschy posters saying stuff like “It’s a real sausage fest here!,” staff in lederhosen and on TV, an episode of Cops.
Thinking I was hallucinating due to heat stroke, I decided to ride it out and sat down at the bar to order the Hefe Weizen. This beautiful, golden, crisp, dry, cold, creamy, somewhat sweet beer was exactly what I needed. It felt substantial and solid, but light and refreshing.
Since then, wheat beers have been my go-to heat-busters. For Ontario beers, I usually go with Side Launch Wheat and Muskoka Summerweiss. For international options in the LCBO, I tend to opt for Hacker-Pschorr Weisse and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier.