10 summer homebrew beers you need to start now

Brewing beer — By on March 9, 2008 at 3:31 pm

If you have not started getting your home brewery in order, you better get to it.  It takes beer 5 weeks on average to ferment and to be ready for consumption, it many take longer.

For spring and summer beers, you want something that is light, crisp, and generally lower in alcohol.  The beers listed here are session beers, or beers that you can drink for most of the day and night without hating yourself the next morning.

Here are 10 excellent choices for summer beers.

beer cart

Summer is a great time for beer. The only problem is choosing one.

Pilseners and Light Lagers

Lagers are a mainstay for hot summer days.  In fact, you can find some variation of this beer made on every continent (save maybe Antarctica).  These beers are the number one choice for hot summer days.  If you want to make lagers for the summer, you need to start now.  These beers typically take two months of lagering.  Lagers are known for their low hops and crisp dry flavor are often 4% ABV to 5% ABV.
Commercial Examples: Pilsner Urquell, Heineken, Gordon Biersch Pilsner

British Bitter

Despite the word “bitter” these beers are quite smooth.  Bitters are light yellow to light copper and have a very light to no floral hop character with a sweet malt taste.  According to the style guidelines, the balance is slightly towards bitter, but it should not overpower the malt or hop flavor.  The alcohol content is usually 3.2-3.8 % (ABV) which makes these great sessions beers.  This is the beer you want to drink on your porch with friends during the cooler summer nights.  This beer is best served at 55F (13C) on draft.
Commercial Examples: Bodington’s Pub Draught, Young’s Bitter

American Pale Ale

American pale ales are closely related to British bitters.  American brewers distinguish the two styles because they are separated in competitions.  There are other subtle differences.  The American pale ales often have stronger hop aromas from late kettle additions or dry hopping, less caramel flavor, and less body.  The American pale ale is less carbonated than the British bitter.  This beer’s alcohol strength is between 4.5-6.2% ABV.  If you are looking for a good summer beer, stick to recipes that have lower alcohol contents.
Commercial Examples: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Kölsch

Kölsch is a German beer that comes from the city of Köln.  The beer is also called Kölschbier.  It has very little malt aroma, and little to no Nobel hop aroma.  This beer is very balanced.  Kölsch beers have a cooling period similar to lagers, but the beer is brewed with ale yeast.  This is an ideal beer for those looking for a lager, but do not have lagering equipment.  In fact, many tasters might mistake this beer for a lager.  The low alcohol and high carbonation of this light beer make it a great choice for hot summer days.  This beer is 4.4-5.2% ABV on average.
Commercial Examples: Reissdorf, Gaffel, Alaska Summer Ale, Harpoon Summer Beer

Witbier

What beer list would be complete without a selection from the Belgians?  Belgian Witbier (“white beer”) gets its name from its cloudy haze, although the beer is usually a light straw color.  This refreshing beer has spicy notes from the coriander and orange peel added to the brew.  You might even detect vanilla or honey flavors.  Witbier also has citrus flavors from the saaz hops that go great with a slice of lemon or orange.  This beer is typically 5% ABV, but drinks like it’s 2% ABV.
Commercial Examples: Hoegaarden Wit, St. Bernardus Blanche, Celis White, Blue Moon

Cream Ale

For homebrewers without the ability to lager beer, cream ales are another good choice for the summer months.  This beer was created by brewers in the American Midwest to compete with the larger lager breweries.  This beer is similar to the light American lagers. It has almost no hop aroma and little to no maltiness.  Since hops are dramatically understated in this beer, you can use almost any bittering hop.  This beer is much higher in carbonation than your typical ales, but is so smooth it is often referred to as the “lawnmower beer”.  The ABV is between 4.2% ABV to 5.6% ABV.
Commercial Examples: Genesee Cream Ale, Little Kings Cream Ale

Hefeweizen

This German wheat beer is very easy to make.  The grain bill is usually just pilsner malt and wheat malt.  According to German law, 50% of the grist must be wheat malt.  The wheat malt gives the beer its cloudy color, similar to the Belgian Witbier.   This beer is filled with fruity esters, which give the beer a slight banana flavor.  These beers are 4.3% ABV to 5.5% ABV.
Commercial Examples: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Schneider Weisse Weizenhell, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen

Raspberry Wheat

Nothing says crowd pleaser like raspberry wheat.  The refreshing flavor of the hefeweizen is enhanced with the crisp flavor of raspberries.  This beer can be made by adding a bit of raspberry flavoring at kegging or bottling.  These beers are also 4.3% ABV to 5.5%ABV.
Commercial Examples: UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen, Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen

Mexican Amber Lager

Mexican lagers are really just North American cousins of Vienna lagers.  They are very light and refreshing.  These beers are also slightly malt forward, but finish very dry.  These are great beers to drink through the hot summer nights.  This is yet another good session beer, but a bit stronger at 4.5% ABV to 5.5% ABV.
Commercial Examples: Dos Equis Amber

California Common

The California Common (or “Anchor Steam”) beer is an American original from San Francisco.  Several beers used to be known as Anchor Steam beers, but 30 years ago Anchor Steam Brewery trademarked the name.  Now other steam beers are called California Commons.  The California Common has stronger hop flavors from the Northern Brewer hops added to the beer.  The beer is also is fermented with a lager yeast that tolerates higher temperatures.  This beer sometimes has a bit of fruitiness, some caramel biscuit flavor, and a dry finish.  The alcohol content is usually 4.5-5.5% ABV making it a slightly stronger session beer.
Commercial Examples: Anchor Steam, Southampton Steem Beer, Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager

making beer

Making beer in the summer is only second to drinking beer in the summer!

So those are my recommendations.  There are other good summer beers, but I think these are some of the best representatives.  It is mid-March now.  If you want beer for the summer, you had better get brewing.  Oh, and if you’re planning to make a Marzen for Oktoberfest, that time is now as well!  Get brewing.

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!

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