Did you spend all summer conquering the 25 beers in our summer beer list? You did! That’s what we thought! While we always try to drink craft beer, we also know it’s not always possible, especially at summer cookouts where large crowds of people mean quantity over quality (read: something watery and yellow).
Well, Monday’s Labor Day and it’s pretty much your last chance to indulge in some awesome summer beer before fall seasonal beers start hitting the shelves — actually, they already have, but more on that next week. Whether you’re at a casual cookout or donning white for the last time at a sweet beach party here are 20 craft brews you need to drink during Labor Day weekend.
1. The Peekskill Brewery: Simple Sour
The Peekskill Brewery is located right on the Hudson River in Northern Westchester County. No doubt you’ll hear more about them in the coming year, but this is the summer beer if you’re in the NY area — a hop, skip and a jump (or quick train ride) outside the city. Its tartness is almost like a Berliner Weisse from the added brettanomyces, but it's not offensively funky. It’s just 4.5% and so refreshing!
2. Founders Brewing Company: Rübæus
After several years waiting, Founders finally brought this delicious raspberry wheat beer to their seasonal release lineup. It’s sweet, malty and packed with fruit flavor. This summer release features a lower ABV of just 5.8%, so it’s a perfect pick for a party. While it’s great on its own it’s also really fun to mix with other beers. Try 1/3 of this with 2/3 of Founders Double Trouble for a sweet IPA treat.
3. Bell’s Brewery: Oberon Ale
This classic Midwestern wheat ale is crisp, full of citrus fruit and remarkably refreshing. It’s made with a ton of spicy Czech Saaz hops, so even hop heads can get down with a lighter hoppy wheat beer that goes down easy…and yes, you may serve it with a slice of orange, as per brewery tradition. Welcome in your Blue Moon replacement for the summer.
4. Perennial Artisan Ales: Peach Berliner Weisse
Perennial was one of the breakout star breweries of the last year, and their Peach Berliner Weisse, brewed with Midwestern peaches, is one you have to try. Its tartness works especially well with the all-natural peach flavor and at just 4.1% you can definitely have a few.
5. Westbrook Brewing: Gose
Like Berliner Weisse a few years ago, Gose, a traditional German lower-ABV style, is on the rise. Westbrook’s might be the best American take on the style yet. It’s tart with coriander and a bit of salt, which makes for one of the most unique experiences you're likely to try this summer. Even better news: it now comes in cans, too!
6. Stone Brewing Company: Enjoy By IPA 9.13.13
Stone certainly takes quality seriously: they regularly buy back products that sit on the shelf for too long. But the Enjoy By IPA series takes freshness to an extreme, naming each beer by the enjoy-by date. Huge citrus and floral hops make this 9.4% dangerously drinkable. The series has actually gotten better with each release; their ninth is now in stores and is super fresh, so hoard them for your party!
7. Prairie Artisan Ales: Prairie Hop
If you want something a little spicy with a substantial, but not overpowering hop presence, Prairie Artisan Ales' Prairie Hop is the brew for you. Layered tropical fruit flavors give way to floral, grassy notes with a peppercorn spiciness, which goes perfectly with lighter grilled fare like chicken and fish. If you're wondering why Prairie Artisan Ales garners so much hype among beer enthusiasts, try this one out — we think you'll agree it’s one of the best American-made saisons.
8. Allagash Brewing Company: White
Wheat beer is a great, light choice for pairing with most seafood but the flavors go particularly well with lobster meat. Allagash hails from Portland, Maine, the place for lobster in the U.S. and their white is one of the most flavorful examples of the style. If you’re eating lobster for Labor Day, this is one we suggest! Orange and coriander notes really compliment the naturally sweet flavor of lobster.
9. Abita Brewing Company: Strawberry Harvest Lager
Strawberry’s lactic flavor often drives brewers to pursue a sour ale over a lager for fear of coming off as too artificial-tasting. This is a wheat beer which leans toward the sweeter end of the strawberry chart — Abita’s kind of tastes like strawberries and cream with nothing fake about it. It’s really refreshing, nicely carbonated and at 4.2% ABV it’s a sessionable fruit lager that won't overwhelm.
10. Ballast Point Brewing Company's Sculpin IPA
If you’re a fan of the tropical fruitiness of West Coast IPAs, it’s hard to do much better than Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Sculpin IPA. Even at 7% ABV, it’s one of the most drinkable IPAs in existence thanks to the perfect balance of bold floral hops — think sweet, not bitter. Make sure to drink this as fresh as possible!
11. Evil Twin Brewing Bikini Beer
Likely the lightest beer you’ll drink all summer at just 2.7%, this is the perfect IPA for the beach, with a ton of tropical citrus fruit hoppiness. Evil Twin, a gypsy brewer that formerly brewed these beers overseas, is now brewing Bikini Beer (and Hipster Ale) at Connecticut's Two Roads Brewing, which means it’s more affordable with a wider distribution than ever before.
12. Dogfish Head: Festina Pêche
You might know Dogfish Head for their excellent IPAs or quirky Ancient Ales, but this excellent session ale is a fruit-forward take on Berliner Weissbier made with peach concentrate. At 4.5% ABV and only 8 IBUs, there's almost no bitterness. Lactic fermentation gives it a tart, almost green apple–like flavor that works perfectly with the peaches. Makes for a great thirst quencher on a hot day.
13. Logsdon Farmhouse Ales: Kili Wit
The best breweries take a simple style and create something remarkably special. Logsdon has done just that with their Kili Wit. It’s one of the few Logsdon beers that don’t use fruit as an ingredient. It’s a little funky, but big on the lemon, coriander and pepper. Here, they turned to Oregon hops and barley malt, mixed in a little African spice and came up with one of the most refreshing and drinkable witbiers around at only 5.5% ABV.
14. Flying Dog Brewery: Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA
This is one of the very best examples of a Belgian IPA, brewed by Flying Dog in Frederick, Maryland. Flying Dog has serious control over their hops and it clearly takes some discipline to tone it down enough to focus on the qualities of Belgian yeast, but they’ve done exactly that. Lots of fruitiness and sweet banana-spice flavor from the yeast. At 8.3% ABV, it’s a good one to savor with friends, which is easily done since this is one of the few Belgian-style beers that come in a six-pack.
15. Otter Creek Brewing: Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat
A remarkably well-balanced wheat session beer, it’s 4.25% ABV, but it’s far from plain. Chamomile flowers and Vermont honey give it a spicy and sweet profile. There’s a hint of hops and some bready malt, but the flavors of the honey and chamomile are what this beer is all about. A perfect session beer for the BBQ.
16. Bronx Brewery's Pale Ale
2013 has already been a big year for Bronx Brewery, which had been contract-brewing for the past few years in Connecticut, as they officially announced construction of their brewery in the Bronx. Now that their pale ale has finally launched in 16-ounce cans, everyone can enjoy this excellent, easy-drinking, caramel-colored hoppy pale.
17. Dry Dock Brewing Company's Hefeweizen
This Colorado brewer has their wheat beers down. Their popular hefeweizen is ranked among the best in America, and now it’s available in cans. At just 4.3%, it’s highly drinkable but full of flavor. It’s got that traditional banana-clove-coriander hefeweizen taste, but the balance is where the magic happens.
18. Brasserie d'Achouffe: Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
Easy to recognize for the gnomes on their bottles, Belgium’s Brasserie d’Achouffe makes some of the best hoppy Belgian beers. It has everything you’d want in an IPA and a Tripel put together: huge hop character, spicy yeast flavor, fruitiness with lemon, banana, grape and spices. It's a beautiful beer, surprisingly easy to drink for 9%. Gnomes don’t mess around, but you probably already knew that.
19. Goose Island Beer Company: Sofie
The Saison style has exploded in the past few years and some of them are incredibly funky – we’d suggest staying away from those if you're bringing beer to a large gathering or pairing it with something as delicate as lobster. Instead, try Goose Island’s Sofie, a Belgian-style ale partially aged in wine barrels with citrus peel. While Sofie does have a subtle brettanomyces funk, a fresh bottle should be much more citrus and earthy pepper-forward.
20. Firestone Walker Brewing Company: Pivo Hoppy Pils
The brewers at Firestone Walker are experts at making some of the hoppiest beer around, but can also tone it down when they need to make a more drinkable offering. This new take on a German Pilsner is clean, hoppy and refreshing — it would do well to satisfy hop-heads in search of an IPA alternative.
More summer beers on Food Republic: