There are so many things that I enjoy about going back east to Vermont during the summer. Jumping into quarries (filled with water), the hum of a box fan in the window on a humid night, backyard campfires with old friends…
horse flies . However one of the best things about going back for a summer visit every year is the many beers you can’t get out here in Southern California.
Sure we’ve got a laundry list(aka. a fuckton) of beers brewed right here in the Golden State and they’re pretty darn good for the most part. The thing is though that as good as the craft brewing scene is out here, it’s just so much better back home. I know, who am I to say such a thing? I’m the guy who will try any beer once and pass judgement on an entire brewing operation as well as the region it’s from after just that one try. I don’t have any fancy qualifications, though I am friends with a guy who is a beer sommelier and I drink a-lot of beer. So that being said, I’m clearly an expert on what makes a good beer and you can rest assured that I tried each of the beers included on the following list multiple times in order to find out which was best. It wasn’t an easy task, but somebody had to do it. I feel that I have a responsibility to my readers to make sure that they’re well educated on the most important topics and in today’s troubled world perhaps no topic is more important than what beer you’re going to be drinking this summer if you’re in New England.
5th Place: Samuel Adams Summer Ale
There was a time when I really loved this beer and that time was before I’d had any of the other beers on this list. Seriously though, it is a good beer and I do still enjoy it. There’s a multitude of other summer beers that I’ve had on both coasts that don’t come close to being as satisfying as ol Sam Summer but the fact is it can’t compete against the guys on this list. I chose to include it for two reasons, one it is really fucking good with properly prepared seafood of any kind and two it’s the only beer on this list that you can get in California (step up your distribution lil guys!). For me Sam Summer is like an old friend that you don’t mind hanging out with if you haven’t seen them for awhile. Once a couple of days go by you start to get sick of them and remember why you moved on to better company.
Best if you want people in California to know you’re from New England, goes great with a Red Sox hat and Vineyard Vines shirt.
4th Place: Otter Summer
I really like beers by Otter Creek Brewing. Second favorite brewery in Vermont as a matter o’ fact. Copper Ale is one of the most underrated beers in the country and it’s a personal mission of mine to get them distribute to the West Coast. However this isn’t a piece about beer crusades (interesting as that may be) it’s about what beers you should be drinking whilst enjoying a game Polish Horseshoes or Cornhole. For many years Otter Summer was my number one beer of choice from April until it wasn’t available. It’s simply a change in taste that bumped it from my favorite, to a beer that I don’t drink, just recommend. Of course I had one(or four) while I was back east for the purposes of this piece. Being that I don’t drink wheat beers (American Style or otherwise if I can help it) I was surprised at how refreshing it was. The crispness was just right paired with the burger and coleslaw that I’d made. For a minute I was reminded of why I enjoyed Otter Summer so much in the first place. Then I had another beer (which shall at this time remain nameless but I can say it does have Summer in the name) and it was clear that I was right to give up wheat beers. As I said, I will and often do recommend this beer to people. How could I not being that it was a favorite of mine for so long? American Style wheat beers aren’t for everyone but anyone who loves beer should as least give them a shot just in case they’re meant for each other.
Best if you want people to know you live in Vermont but most likely weren’t born there. Pairs well with psych degree from Middlebury College, Sabb 900 and Birkenstocks.
3rd Place: Brooklyn Summer Ale
Okay I know what you’re thinking, “why’s he including a beer brewed in NYC in a New England beer comparison?!” . Chill out will you? I never said it was a New England beer comparison and besides, Brooklyn Beers are better than many a New England beer (talking about you Magic Hat) so just live with it. Brooklyn Summer Ale is a damn good beer, you can almost taste the NYC animosity and attitude in every sip. In all seriousness, they pulled off something pretty special with this one. It’s light and refreshing like a good summer beer should be yet it’s got substance as well (an FDA approved one, don’t worry). Styled after the English “dinner ales” of the 1800’s, Brooklyn Summer Ale was a great companion to my spicy BBQ chicken salad. Also it comes in a can which automatically scores points with me because beer from a can is better than beer from a bottle, look it up, it’s science.
Best if you want people in New England to know you’re from NYC and hip as fuck. Pairs well with a mustache, vintage Dodgers cap and floral print button down.
2nd Place: Saranac Summer Ale
Yeah that’s a big fucking photo but Saranac Summer Ale deserves a big fucking photo. Back when I was still living on the east coast my buddy Jimmy and I would often get Saranac Sampler packs, then proceed to tie one on either at the mini ramp in our friend’s yard or in his basement. Brewed in the shadows of the Adirondacks (not really but it sounds better, Utica sucks), Saranac Summer is a beer that you can’t be satisfied having just one. Now to a beer lover that might sound obvious but lets face it, often times when it comes to craft beers, it’s a one and done if the brewer has gone over the top. This summer ale has just the right amount of lemon taste (something that’s often overdone) and drinks easy time after time. In fact I enjoyed quite a few of these after finding a 12 pack of cans at the market. First a few whilst floating around a pond on a raft then a few more with some pepper and onion chicken sausages off the grill. What impressed me most about this beer was that it was just as tasty at room temperature as it was just out of the fridge. Not something that can be said about many beers, especially a summer ale. Oh yeah, it comes in a can which of course gives it the upper hand when compared with a similar style beer such as, oh I don’t know, Otter Summer. Yes I know I said I don’t drink wheat beers but that’s the thing, you wouldn’t know Saranac Summer had a-lot of wheat in it, I sure as shit didn’t.
Best if you want people to think you spend the better part of your summer at a lake house in upstate New York. Pairs well with a Criss Craft, golden retriever and a open schedule.
1st Place: Harpoon Summer Beer
If I had to pick a single brewery from the east coast that would distribute it’s products to California it would be Harpoon, no question (seriously, Harpoon, make a dream come true). I mean look at the can , Love Beer. Love Life. Harpoon. I mean what more needs to be said? I guess I could mention that Harpoon Summer Beer was the first summer style I had on this trip and over the following two weeks I didn’t have a beer that came close to being as good. Harpoon Summer is everything it claims to be, crisp and dry with a refreshing finish. As it happens that’s exactly what a summer beer should be. It doesn’t need to have a crazy flavor profile or fancy ingredients, it just needs to do the job. Harpoon Summer does the job and then some. After discovering this special brew I knew it was going to be a favorite at The Frendly Gathering. The day prior to the start of the festivities I brought a 12 pack up to the grounds, within 15 minutes that 12 pack was history and it was time to make a run to the market. Throughout the rest of the weekend I saw more friends drinking Harpoon Summer than any other craft beer and one person went so far as to say it was the best beer they’d ever had. I wouldn’t go that far but I can say that it is without a doubt the best beer I’ve had this summer and the best summer beer I’ve ever had.
Best if you want people to know you love beer and life. Pairs well with friends, sunshine and the smell of a two stoke motor. Also nice if you want to impress people with your ability to be a trendsetter by choosing great beer.
Harpoon Bohemian Pilsner
Samuel Adams Porch Rocker
Saranac Session IPA
Long Trail Pollenator
Smuttynose Summer Weizen