My Top Recommended Summer Beers, and a Warning About Zima

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I don’t always necessarily agree with seasonal beer drinking.  I will argue anyone who says Guinness isn’t a beach drink, will happily throw back some fruity IPA’s after a XC ski, and have been known to buy a few 4 packs of Susquehanna Brewing Company Toboggan Chocolate Doppelbock (ok, so I used to have to do this, but I think I’m the only one who purchases it from the Weis beer cafe in Carbondale, as it’s somehow still in-stock) in early spring, just to have on hand in case I feel like indulging in one over the summer.

That all being said, there are certain beers I’m drawn too when the weather gets warm, and the days get long. I’ve made it quite clear before that while I enjoy a brewski, I’m no expert, and in fact, not all that discerning. But, I enjoy getting beer recommendations , so figured I’d share with you my 10 favorite summertime brews, as well as one malt-beverage non-recommendation that may tempt you with its nostalgia (and I’d probably recommend giving in, just for the story, but figured I’d warn you just in case). Here we go:

  1. Susquehanna Brewing Company Shadyside Grapefruit  Shandy  Since I’ve already been promoting Susquehanna Brewing Company, I’ll start off with their Grapefruit Summer Shandy. I’m not a big believer in summer shandies in general. I don’t love a citrus beer without the the accompanying bite of an IPA, and I feel like too many of them just taste like a watered down beer, mixed with a watered down lemonade (I realize that’s exactly what a shandy is, but still). The tartness of the grapefruit here doesn’t overwhelm the beer the way the lemon does. It’s quite refreshing.
  2. Shiner Ruby Redbird– I started with the Susquehanna, just because it was on my mind, but Shiner Ruby Red is my #1 go-to summer beer. I cannot get enough of this stuff.  It’s a grapefruit, ginger lager, that has a relatively low ABV, so great for your pool days, or river floats, or bbqs. I also like that it comes in cans, because cans are much more conducive to pool drinking, and packing into a coolers, and all your other summertime activities.   This is one of those beers I’m constantly pushing on people, and I’m surprised how ambivalent my friends’ reactions are. More for me, I guess.
  3. Dogfish Head Romantic ChemistryRomantic Chemistry is Ruby Red’s IPA counterpart. It’s a mango/ginger IPA, and great for the summer nights you only want one or two (this one packs a punch).
  4. New Belgium Fat Tire– I realize that Fat Tire, New Belgium’s flagship beer is not what most would consider a summer beer. In fact, amber ales are more usually associated with colder weather, but I associate Fat Tire with outdoor porch drinking, mainly because I always get them at Arlo’s in the summer. It’s a little bit sturdier then a pilsner or ale, but not so much so that it’s heavy. I’ve also learned that Fat Tire is a great beer to give to people who “don’t like craft beer,” because it’s just uncomplicated and good.
  5. Lancaster Brewing Company Strawberry Wheat Living across the street from them for two years has made me a big LBC fan, and this is their summeriest of brews.
  6. Naragansett Lager-Naragansett is the official beer of the clam! What is more summery then that? Nothing.
  7. Bud Light Lime I know Bud Light Lime is widely renowned as garbage, but it was my first summer beer love, and I’m nothing if not loyal.  There’s something about it’s chemically enhanced citrus flavors, and too thin quality that draws me in.  I love Bud Light Lime for the same reason I love Wawa buffalo chicken hoagies, and McDonald’s sweet tea. Judge away.
  8. Kronenburg Blanc I’ve only recently been introduced to Kronenburg, and it has the trinity of requisite summer beer adjectives:light, crisp, and refreshing.
  9. New Belgium Citradelic– I like a good citrus IPA, and this one is always readily available.  I had a Funk Brewing citrus IPA a few weeks ago I’ve been obsessively trying to find again.
  10. Cheap American Lite Beer in a Shitty Plastic Cup- Coors Light, Miller Lite, or Budlight in a plastic cup is a summer staple, right up there with soft vanilla ice cream with sprinkles in a cone, funnel cake, and burnt grilled hot dogs. This is best enjoyed lukewarm in a crowded setting.

Now, onto what I warned you about: ZIMA. If that word means nothing to you, take a breather from me, and read this great Washington Post write up on exactly what it is.

Despite being something of a malt beverage connoisseur  as a youth, I never had a Zima. They do hold a particular nostalgia for me, as for a time in the 90’s they were my mother’s drink of choice. I remember loving the smell of “Zima & cigarettes” as a child, as it was what my mother smelled like when she got home those times we had a babysitter. Lest you think my mother is trash, let me assure you that the woman has never smoked, and probably went out for a couple of drinks once every few months. This was pre-smoking ban, so everyone coming home from bars smelled like cigarettes, and for some reason I thought I knew what Zima smelled like. Anyhow, last week on my way up to Endless Brewing, my cousin and I stopped at a local CFM bottle shop to break up the ride, and as soon as we walked in were greeted with the sight of a Zima sitting in the cooler. There was also a sign, that looked appropriate summery, with a few Zima bottles, sliced limes, and plenty of ice.  I mean, I knew going into this it wasn’t going to be great, but did so for nostalgias sake, boosted by the fact that the clerk told us they were actually quite popular.

You know how I said I like Bud Light Lime, and McDonald’s Sweet Tea, and Wawa buff chicken sauce, because they have an endearing, manufactured flavor? Zima has the manufactured flavor, with none of the endearment.  It was sort of like if a flat Sprite had a slight ethanol taste. I think I’d prefer a Smirnoff Ice. I’d definitely prefer a Boone’s Farm. THAT is underrated.

That being said, I’m glad I was able to taste such an integral part of my growing up, and regale you with my less then stellar alcoholic palate…cheers!

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