Summer is here. It’s hot, bloody humid, and that grass won’t mow itself. Luckily, there’s a lot of great summer craft beer made in North Carolina, just waiting to cool you down and quench your thirst. Whether you’re at the pool, grilling out, doing yard work, or heading to the beach, I guarantee you’ll find something below that’s light, refreshing and delicious.
Cans (& Bottle)
No longer just for the macro lagers, cans are great for spots like the pool where glass isn’t allowed, and they’re lighter to carry down to the beach. Most of the beers below come in cans for your summer enjoyment, but Duck-Rabbit’s Schwarzbier only comes in bottles, and it’s too good to leave off the list. You can find these beers across the Triad at bottle shops like Stella Brew, City Beverage, Bestway, Potent Potables and The Brewer’s Kettle (K-ville too).
Mother Earth Park Day – Bohemian Style Pilsner (4.8%)
Just about every mass-produced American lager claims to be a pilsner, but try one of these canned beauties side-by-side with a Budweiser and you’ll see the difference quickly. The Bohemian region of the Czech Republic was the birthplace of pilsners, getting their name from the city of Pilsen, and this brew from Mother Earth stays true to those roots. German Tettnang hops give this straw-colored lager an earthiness with floral notes and a slightly spicy finish. Park Day has already been recognized as a top-flight pilsner, winning a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2013. Pilsners go great with just about any food, but you won’t go wrong with some grilled brats! Parboil them in some Park Day and a sliced onion first to make them really stand out.
Howard Action Man – Vienna Lager (5.1%)
Want an easy drinking beer with a bit more malt backbone? Vienna lagers are creamy, lightly toasted copper-colored brews, featuring just a hint of earthy hops to accentuate the slightly sweet, toasty malt notes, and Howard Brewing’s canned Action Man is a great example. This is a great beer to watch the sun go down or some fireworks go up with, but it can also quench your thirst in the middle of the hottest day. Another versatile beer for pairing, it’s crisp enough to go with just about anything, but take a lesson from our neighbors to the South (Dos Equis Amber is a vienna lager), and pair it with some spicy chicken or pork tacos.
Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier – Schwarzbier (5.8%)
Just because it’s hot out doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice dark beer. Schwarzbier (literally “black beer”) is lagered, so it’s light, crisp and clean, but features roasty caramel and coffee flavors. Duck-Rabbit’s leans more towards caramel, lending it an almost Coca-Cola flavor. In fact, mixing schwarzbier’s half-and-half with cola is a thing many people do, and there have even been beers produced in Germany to replicate this mixture, commonly referred to as a “dunkels radler”. This dark lager is the perfect pairing for a grilled steak and some fresh summer vegetables.
NoDa CAVU – Golden Ale (4.6%)
The newest canned offering from NoDa, CAVU (Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited) is an aviation term used to describe clear skies or ideal conditions, and this is the perfect beer for those ideal summer conditions. Slightly fruity, with just enough citrusy hops to balance the sweetness, this is a great thirst quenching replacement for heavier pale ales or IPAs. NoDa does not distribute to the Triad yet, but many of the bottle shops drive down to get cases on a regular basis. Pair this with some grilled pork chops and apples, and enjoy.
Fullsteam Cack-a-Lacky – Ginger Pale Ale (5.0%)
The can says Hoppy and Zippy, and that’s exactly what this refreshing pale ale is. Fullsteam just started canning these earlier this year, so this will be your first summer to experience this beer by the pool. Plenty of ginger comes through, giving a spicy bite to the finish and complimenting the citrusy hops. The hops in this one won’t overwhelm you, they are only there to give some balance to the slightly sweet ginger and minimal malt body. Grab a six pack of these and head to the lake, or throw some Jamaican jerk chicken on the grill and drink up.
Anderson Valley The Kimmie, The Yink and the Holy Gose – Gose (4.2%)
Since no NC breweries have canned or bottled a gose yet, I had to go with this widely available gem from Anderson Valley Brewing. Up until a few years ago, gose was almost extinct, but it has returned in a big way. This German sour wheat style with coriander and salt added is refreshingly tart, while the hint of salt keeps you coming back for more. Try one with an apple and arugula summer salad for a healthy and delicious summer option. This beer is also great at the beach, although if you’re headed to South Carolina this summer, you should keep an eye open for cans of the phenomenal Westbrook Gose, which is a more intense, lip-puckering version.
Draft & Growlers
Some great NC summer beers just aren’t available except on draft, although with the plethora of growler stations popping up around the Triad, you can get all of them in 64 or 32oz growlers.
Wicked Weed Coolcumber – Golden Ale (6%)
Cucumber, basil and juniper berries? Made as a tribute to the Hendrick’s gin cooler? Tasty and refreshing? Yes, yes and yes! This summer seasonal by Wicked Weed has been popping up on draft on a regular basis around the Triad.
Fullsteam Summer Basil – Saison (5.5%)
Fullsteam has been bottling their Summer Basil in 22oz bottles since last year, but they’re still rare to see in the Triad. Much more likely that you’ll find this beer on a growler station or on draft. Farmhouse or saison ales were traditionally brewed during the winter to be enjoyed during the summer months. You can expect bready yeast notes, with a cooling basil presence that is noticeable but not overwhelming.
Pig Pounder Boar Bitter – English Bitter (3.8%)
You’ll have to get to Greensboro for this one (unless you’re in Reidsville), as it’s only on draft at their tap room, the Marshall Free House and Darryl’s, or The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville. A traditional British brew, this sessionable ale packs a lot of flavor for only 3.8% ABV, with lots of malty biscuit and caramel flavors balanced with earthy English hops. You can also grab it in 64oz and 32oz growlers from the tap room.
I hope you’ll give these beers a try if you’ve not already, and let me know about it at @nctriadbeer on Twitter! If you’re a jaded craft beer veteran who has already tried all of these great beers, you could alternatively try the even rarer summer beers listed here.