It's brutally hot out, and that calls for extra-refreshing beer. More often than not, my go-to is a nice cold lager.
Of course, not all lagers are refreshing in the typical sense, and some ales (Kölsch-style ales, for example) more closely resemble what the public associates with lagers than, say, a doppelbock or rauchbier (both lagers). But when it's blazing outside and I need refreshment, I'm looking at the lager list before anything else.
Fortunately, there's a fantastic variety of summer-ready lagers brewed in the bay area. Here are some that will help you stay hydrated.
Ulele Light Lager by Ulele Spring Brewery. American light lager is an oft-maligned style; craft beer originated as an alternative to it. Recently, breweries have begun to reclaim it, offering flavorful versions of the traditional thirst-quencher. This beer's 4.1 percent alcohol by volume is about the only thing it has in common with macro light beers; it is clean, crisp, floral and highly refreshing.
Independent Pilsner by Coppertail Brewing Co. This pilsner is brewed in the Czech style, where pilsners originate from. It's slightly richer and more malt-forward than a German pils, with traditional Saaz hops providing a herbal, spicy nose and clean bitterness to the beer. This was released in limited quantities of six-packs at the end of July, so pick one up before it disappears.
Harold's St. Pete Style Lager by Pinellas Ale Works. The name is a misnomer, as the beer is actually a Kölsch-style ale, fermented at low temperatures and lagered (stored at refrigeration temperature for an extended period of time).
Flavor-wise, it's a mix between a Kölsch and a German pils — light-bodied and moderately hopped with a dry finish. Treatments of Harold's are featured regularly at PAW, with flavoring additions such as peach, strawberry, cherry and lemon meringue (lemon and vanilla).
Harbor Lager from Crooked Thumb Brewery. This amber lager provides a more malt-focused flavor profile than Grandpa Jack's Pils, the brewery's excellent German pils. It's medium-bodied, with mild caramel and toast notes, followed by a subtly bitter finish.
As far as summer-appropriate lagers go, Harbor Lager is on the fuller side: a lively maltiness that ends on a crisp, clean note.
Oktoberfestbier by Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill. Hey, it's right in the name. Lagerhaus specializes in a wide variety of European-style lagers, including this seasonal release, which was tapped last Saturday in anticipation of the brewery's annual Oktoberfest celebration in September.
Lagerhaus typically offers two versions of its Oktoberfest beers, similar to the selections often available in Munich. The first is a golden helles lager, which accentuates malt balance over its drier cousin, the German pils. The second is a Märzen, which is more robust and slightly stronger than a helles lager. Both are suitable (and recommended) for consumption by the liter.
Imperial Japanese Lager by Rapp Brewing. Asian lagers are often brewed with rice adjuncts, which help to lighten the body while keeping the alcohol content of an all-malt beer intact. Rapp's take on the style goes the extra mile, bumping it to 7.5 percent alcohol by volume! The result is a mildly sweet and deceptively smooth rice lager that bridges the gap between typical crushable lagers and more full-bodied ale styles.
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