Summer has always been my favorite season with many great memories including family vacations, whiffle ball games, and driving from North Jersey in a buddy’s Monte Carlo to hang out in Wildwood (Yes I was one of those people!) And, of course, beer!
Since this summer (hopefully) will return us to some semblance of normalcy, it makes me nostalgic for old memories and beers that define the season.
Drinking a green Rolling Rock pony bottle with my dad in the backyard is something I’d like to relive. Or a long-neck Bud (before they were the evil empire) packed in ice while having a pizza at the Mayfair in Woodbridge. (Best pizza spot outside of NYC when I was younger).
That’s what summer says to me, but I decided to ask some of our local brewers, beer dignitaries, and the SJBS team what are their go-to summer beers. I got some interesting responses including a few macros while many went strictly local. And here we go!
Crisp, clean lagers are becoming ever more popular (you CAN call it a comeback) with 93 new brands in 2021, second only to IPAs. This trend was prevalent at the 2021 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival and continued with Three 3’s Pitter Patter Pilsner winning the best beer at the 2021 Manahopkin festival. Most of our beer folk mentioned at least one lager when listing their go-to beers. Al Gattulo of “Al Gattulo’s Craft Beer Cast” and AM 970 radio is partial to Source Brewing’s Rhine Heights Pilsner, a classic German Lager, as well as Wet Ticket Brewing’s Pursuing Paradise Mexican Lager.
Cody Thompson of Manafirkin lists Sam Adams Porch Rocker as his summer beer, while Ian Barlet of Battle River Brewing likes BRB’s own Mariner Pilsner for the season.
Mike Kivowitz of New Jersey Craft Beer also loves his pilsners and not wanting to play NJ favorites touts Golden Monkey for the hot weather. Jason Campbell of Slack Tide goes with Negro Modelo which he says pairs well with fish tacos and light summer fare, while Jeff Greco of Heavy Reel crushes PBRs in the summertime. Author and beer journalist, Tara Nurin, of “A Woman’s Place is in the Brewhouse”, cites Pacifico as a go-to pilsner and I am a huge fan of the OG , Pilsner Urquell.
SJBS’s own Tom Renzulli is a fan of Slack Tide’s Head Boat Helles and Icarus Brewing’s Life in Helles, another crisp Helles style lager that is a malt-forward alternative to the bite of a pilsner.
SJBS Choice: Pilsner Urquell (I mean the beer is kinda named after them!)
Local: Head Boat Helles, Slack Tide
Second to lagers, wheat beers, by far were mentioned as beers of summer, particularly those of the fruited variety.
Mark Haynie, co-author of “New Jersey Breweries” and longtime beer columnist, will drink big beers all summer but will bow to wheat beers, English styles, and Belgians in the warmer weather.
Al Gattulo loves Tropics Mango Wheat and 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon is mentioned several times, including by Tara Nurin. Staying on that fruit cart is our Clark Sweeney, who lists Ship Bottom Brewery’s Blueberry Wheat as a favorite. One of my recent go-to beers is Manafirkin’s Ozzie’s Orange Peel, a refreshing American Hefeweizen with a great citrus tang.
Not all wheated beers have fruit as Jason Goldstein of Icarus lists the classic witbier, Allagash White. Sometimes touted as a gateway craft beer, which wasn’t the case about 27 years ago when Rob Tod introduced this strange-tasting beer to the Maine populace. Legend has it that he had to buy rounds at the bar to get people to try it.
SJBS Choice: Allagash White
Local: Ozzie’s Orange Peel, Manafirkin
Sours and Saisons
Yeah, that’s right I’m listing these together! Tara harkens to her Maryland roots with Flying Dog’s Dead Rise, while our Alexis Degan of Alexis Drinks goes with Neck of the Woods, NOW that’s SOUR, Pink Guava Lime Gose. Dan Borrelli of Chimney Rustic finds religion with St. Bretta from Crooked Stave.
My co-host Richard Rabic loves his sours and lists Victory’s Sour Monkey as a go-to, while Rob Towey of Jersey Beer Guys and a Girl goes with Flying Fish Salt and Sea. I love Three 3’s Blueberry Saison which is a sublime beer, on tap or in cans.
SJBS choice: Victory, Sour Monkey
Local: Three 3’s Blueberry Saison
A crisp pale ale is something to be savored and enjoyed on a hot summer day, so I am going to put a word in for the original, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. An all-time classic!
Kris Lewis of Oyster Creek Brewing likes his Sky Shine Honey Beer, which is dry-hopped with black tea, and SJBC leader, John Couchoud lists Victory’s Summer Love golden ale as one of his favorites.
One of the most popular beers at the recent Beach Haven Festival on LBI was Kuna, a very light (4.2% ABV) and interesting corn-based beer from Chimney Rustic Ales of Hammonton, NJ. Inspired by the traditional Chica style of Peru, the brewer states that “no saliva was used in this brew” but the pink guava helps give it that little bit sweet, little bit sour taste.
Dorien Saunders, from the soon-to-be-open Whims Brewing, rounds out this category with our first cream ale sighting, Ballast Point’s Calm Before the Storm.
SJBS choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (another original classic)
Local: Kuna, Chimney Rustic
Last, but certainly not least, the most popular beer style in America. Founder’s All Day IPA is mentioned several times, including by John, Steven Wilson of Behr Brewing, and Zach Pashley from Gusto Brewing (Although Zach does mention he prefers tequila over ice with some OJ, but that is an article and list for another day!). Steve also mentions Carton Brewing Boat Beer as a summer crusher.
Tony Iocono, of Jersey Beer Guys and a Girl Podcast and Tony’s Takes brings back those hazy days of summer with Icarus Brewing’s Drinking Crayons and Chimney Rustic Ale’s Ironworks. Lastly, Dan Hoover, he of almost 17,000 untapped ratings, goes with Carton’s Boat Beer all the way.
SJBS choice: Founder’s All Day IPA
Local: Boat Beer, Carton Brewing
There are so many great beers in NJ and around the world, I am sure you have some favorites, so what are your Beers of Summer? Let us know we would love to hear from you!