I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s been pretty dang hot. With temperatures climbing into the mid-90s, Pittsburghers are flocking to public pools and movie theaters to beat the heat. And while beer may not technically do much to keep you cool, a few local brews are at least a tasty distraction.
Summer doesn’t have emblematic seasonal beers in the same way fall brings pumpkin beers and winter has spiced Christmas ales. Nevertheless, certain beers are built for warm weather tippling. Summer nights stretch on and on, demanding light and crushable beers that you can sip all night long. Fruit is always welcome, from local peaches to pineapples that transport you to (gasp) somewhere even hotter than Pittsburgh. And the trend towards sour beers is a perfect fit for the summer, with Berliner Weisses and goses bringing refreshing tartness in a low-alcohol package.
Whether it’s a fruity hefeweizen or a bracing double IPA, the best summer beer is the one you want to drink. Nevertheless, we offer our humble suggestions for six local brews that are perfect for your picnic basket.
Garden Party, The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company
Few things say summer like a ripe and juicy cucumber. Though most might throw their backyard bounty into the pickle jar, the Brew Gentlemen tossed their cukes into the fermenter instead. Garden Party marries a pale wheat ale with cooling cucumber for a unique seasonal beer. At the Braddock brewery and taproom, the beer is served with a slice of lime, making an already refreshing beer that much more drinkable.
Beach Gear, Voodoo Brewery
Voodoo Brewery has built a cultish following with big, barrel-aged imperial stouts and Belgian tripels. But beers like Beach Gear prove that the Meadville brewery is equally adept at less flashy styles. Beach Gear is a blonde ale brewed with apricots, a fruit that has gotten a lot of love from brewers recently. Unlike many fruit beers, Beach Gear is not overly sweet, with a dry finish that will leave you reaching for another. Swing by their beautiful Homestead taproom for a taste.
Ginga Wheat, Roundabout Brewery
Though Roundabout Brewery deliberately avoids “flagship” beers, Ginga Wheat has just about become one on its own. The brew is a summer favorite at the Lawrenceville brewery, who threw a big party this spring in honor of its return. Ginga Wheat is an American wheat beer brewed with local honey, lemon and (of course) plenty of fresh ginger. Slightly spicy and slightly sweet, Roundabout sums it up: “best consumed while wasting the summer days wherever you like.”
Social, Full Pint Brewing Company
Session IPAs attempt to provide all the bitter, complex flavors of an India Pale Ale without the typically high ABVs that come with the style. It can be a tricky thing to pull off, however, and many session IPAs are lackluster and watery. Full Pint Brewing recently added Social to their lineup, a session IPA that delivers on flavor while keeping the alcohol at just 4.3%. Social is brewed with grapefruit, and the hint of citrus plays well with piney Chinook hops. Try one at their newly expanded Lawrenceville pub.
Slamming Summer Saison, Grist House Craft Brewery
Saisons have a long history as a summer beer. The style, which means “season,” began centuries ago as a low-alcohol ale that was doled out to seasonal workers on Belgian farms. Though few of us employ farmhands these days, American brewers continue to embrace the style. Slamming Summer Saison is the perfect start to a relaxing afternoon on Grist House’s outdoor deck. Bursting with black pepper and lemon zest, you’ll want to slam back a few before the summer’s end.
Moonstomp, East End Brewing Company
Sours are in high demand these days. Funky styles that dwindled in obscurity for years are now common sights on tap lists and in beer coolers. If you haven’t yet dipped your toe into sour waters, East End’s Moonstomp is a great place to start. The Berliner Weisse is like grownup lemonade: tart, crisp and extremely easy to drink. Some floral, funky notes join the lemons, making for a nuanced brew you won’t want to miss. Try it at their Larimer brewpub or stop by their newly opened taproom in the Strip.
What’s your favorite local summer beer? Leave it in the comments!