Whether you want to go with something more on the big, commercial side like a Shock Top Belgian white or a Red Stripe lager or something a little more off the beaten path like a French farmhouse ale, you can’t go wrong with any one of these summer beers. But how well do you know the difference between a Belgian wit, a radler and a saison? We asked beer expert Gary Valentine, the director of beer for celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s restaurants, including Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat, to break it down for us and offer recommendations.
Often cloudy looking, this refreshing German-style wheat beer usually has a “nice, light zest and leaves you with a little clove and banana,” says Valentine.
One to look for: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Alternate: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis
2. Belgian Wit
Similar to hefeweizen, witbier also tends to be fairly cloudy and is brewed with a high amount of yeast. These wheat beers are often spiced with orange peel and coriander and offer a crisp, quaffable beer to drink on a hot summer day.
One to look for: Avery White Rascal
Alternate: Allagash White
3. Hybrid IPA
Instead of making a super hoppy IPA, breweries are starting to make hybrid beers by adding fruit. “This is the newest thing you’ll start seeing in 2016,” says Valentine. “We can use a pale ale yeast strain and add fruit to it post fermentation. That’s the new frontier of beer.”
One to look for: Ska Modus Mandarina
Alternate: Samuel Adams Whitewater
A shandy is a beer mixed with a soft drink—sometimes carbonated lemonade, ginger ale or, in some cases, sparkling apple or orange juice. While many craft brewers scoff at the idea of a shandy, people who love a refreshing, slightly effervescent brew have embraced it.
One to look for: Leinenkugel’s Summer
Alternate: Harpoon Brewery UFO Big Squeeze
Similar to a shandy, a radler is “an old Germanic style that’s a 50/50 mix of beer and lemonade, which is delicious in itself. I think the radler is the original summer beer,” says Valentine.
One to look for: Boulevard Ginger Lemon
Alternate: Stiegl Grapefruit
6. Berliner Weisse
“It’s kind of a hybrid of a sour beer and a Belgian wit,” says Valentine. “They kettle-sour the beer and add lactic acid during fermentation, which gives it a lactic taste.”
One to look for: Destihl Counter ClockWeisse
Alternate: Dogfish Head Festina Peche
7. Sour Beer
If you like your beer with a little pucker, look for a sour. Intentionally made a little more tart or acidic, sour beers to look for include lambics, gose (pronounced go-suh), Flanders red ale and the aforementioned Berliner weisse.
One to look for: Penrose Session Sour
Alternate: Evil Twin Mission Gose
A saison is a farmhouse ale that’s generally unique to the brewery. “The yeast produces white pepper notes, and breweries use locally sourced ingredients like honey or molasses,” says Valentine.
One to look for: Goose Island Sofie
Alternate: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace