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March Mania

Hoops on Hops: Best beers for summer

Dave Hoops

The warmer months take a little longer to get here in the Northland, but once they’re here, it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to the pure and simple enjoyment of being outside, and also biking, golfing, fishing, lounging, cabin time and so many more activities to enjoy. Most of these certainly go well with a cold beer. So, let’s talk some styles and individual beers that are great choices to pair with warm-weather fun.

Many of my go-to beers this time of year include lagers, wheat beers, fruit-based and session beers.


First up, lager beers. These bottom-fermented, smooth and delicate beer styles include: American light Lager, Helles, Pilsner and classic Lager. This list of the lighter styles by no means encompasses the whole of the lager world, but they’re great summer selections. Some tasty examples available locally and throughout Minnesota: Earth Rider Precious Material, Firestone Walker Lager, Indeed Mexican Light Lager and Fulton Standard Lager.

I always like to remind beer lovers that it’s a great idea to visit your local brewpubs that do not distribute off-site. They often have a very nice seasonal beers, including Lager and many other categories that you might not hear about unless you stop in.


Next, wheat-based beers. Hefeweizen and Belgian White or Wit, Berliner Weiss and Gose beers are some of the most refreshing, thirst-quenching beers around. The addition of spicy, tangy wheat adds a crisp, dry flavor, and the various yeasts that are used can add fruit and clove notes. Some also feature spice additions such as coriander, orange peel or fruit zest that really add unique flavors. A few nice choices: Ursa Minor Goat Hill Gose — a sour wheat ale brewed with lime, Schell’s Hefeweizen, Blacklist Wit, Utepils Ewald the Golden Hefeweizen and Fitger’s Brewhouse Apricot Wheat.


The beers that may be the most fun of summer brews are from the radler and shandy families. These hybrids blend light lager or ale with grapefruit (radler) or lemonade (shandy). This is like drinking juice but with the nice, malty sweetness from the beer, balancing the flavors. Trust me; they taste great! Try Stiegl Radler or Stiegl Zitrone Lemone, or make your own by mixing a light beer you enjoy with 60% grapefruit or lemonade or Sprite. I hope you love these light, fruity and low-alcohol quaffs as much as I do.

Light ale

The next group is Light ale, like golden ale, blonde ale, or cream ale. These beers are also lower in alcohol and very nicely flavored. Some great choices are made right here in the Northland. From Two Harbors, Castle Danger’s Summer Crush and Cream Ale are perfect in the boat cooler. And, from Duluth, Bent Paddle Brewery’s Trampled American Golden Ale. Brewed as a tribute to Duluth’s Trampled by Turtles band, this is a blonde ale with soft malt flavors and balanced hops.


On to the final category, fruit beers. Fruit beers are easy to find and are staples of most breweries nowadays. Wheat-based or malt-based, sours or interesting hybrids like brown ale with raspberry, they’re great to enjoy anytime. At my brewery in the summer months, we brew passionfruit, guava, raspberry, peach and pear, and cherry beers. Fruit beers can be light and airy or complex and surprising. A couple of great choices: Fair State Raspberry Roselle, Surly Rosé.


As a final addition to my recommendations, I want to mention cider. Cider (fermented apple juice) is light and refreshing and runs the gamut from sweet to dry. Many versions also add additional fruit and vegetable juices, creating interesting blends that are great summer drinks and easy to find.

I hope you are all looking forward to the summer months and that these suggestions get you excited and thirsty.

Please send along your favorite summer suggestions