Raleigh, N.C. — There are a lot of styles of beer that are just meant for summer. There are also those that are available year-round yet put your mind into that summer feeling when you drink them. We put North Carolina beers through several grueling tests to make sure they held up to the demands that the hot weather can bring.
The first test was the thirst quenchability of "Post-Lawnmowing." Downing a rich dark stout when you're sweating bullets just doesn't work. The second test was “Sunset on the Patio,” which we found exhausting to the core. Watching that orange ball drop into the horizon is tolerable only when the right beer is in your hand. The final test was “Barbeque Madness,” when sweating over an open flame demands a beer that is highly quaffable.
With over 85 breweries in North Carolina, there are plenty of beers to choose from and this is by no means the definitive list. It would be great to say we've tried every beer at every brewery (that WOULD be cool), but we've assembled a good selection that'll keep your tastebuds going well into the summer.
Instead of organizing them the easy way under beer styles, we're listing them under the demanding summers tests they excelled in:
- Razor Wit – Highland Brewing. The light orange peel and coriander in this Belgian wheat did its job coming in from the heat.
- Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale – Fullsteam Brewery. The zest of lemon and the basil notes really is a thirst-quencher. Fullsteam says it's a “lawnmower beer” and we proved it!
- Sky Blue Golden Ale – Carolina Brewery. Very light and not a lot of carbonation makes this one nice and easy to drink after a good sweat (other times too).
- Endless River Kölsch – Mother Earth Brewing. Nice and crisp with a mild carbonation. The light bitterness and subtle white grape flavor hit the spot.
Sunset on the Patio
- Best in Show Saison – Trophy Brewing. Tropical aroma up front leads to a fruity and zesty/spicy flavor. You need a big bowl of assorted cheese blocks readily available to pair up with this.
- Watermelon Blonde – The Mash House Brewery & Chophouse. This one's tough to pull off and they did. What's summer without watermelon? Nicely balanced fruit flavor that has no extract/artificial fruit flavors.
- Blanco Diablo Wit Ale – Big Boss Brewing Company. A traditionally spiced wit, brewed with orange peel, coriander and fermented with a traditional Belgian wit yeast. Carolina Glenn was impressed with the flavor – crisp, clean and for him was a good session beer. Easy to chill with for hours on the patio.
- Blueridge Blueberry Wheat – Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery. Top of the Hill's most popular seasonal, this light and refreshing American style wheat is mildly sweet with a crisp blueberry finish that offers no hint of extract or medicinal offensiveness. It was a 2010 World Beer Championship "World’s Best Fruit Wheat Beer" Winner.
- Hogwild IPA – Aviator Brewing. Gotta have a crisp and biting IPA to pair up with that monster burger you’re grilling.
- Hoppyum IPA – Foothills Brewing. Another IPA to get your hands on to battle the BBQ smoke. This beer delivers a wonderful hop aroma, hit of citrus, smooth mouthfeel, clean ending and not a lot of overwhelming bitterness.
- Hogwash – Fullsteam Brewery. Breaking the rules on this one because it's a dark, rich porter. On the first sip it screams barbeque and your mind demands you get that slab of ribs off the barbeque and in your hand.
- True Britt ESB – Lonerider Brewing. Smooth and mellow – it has a nice bready flavor that proved to be a nice, sessionable ESB.
Did we miss a North Carolina beer that really feels like summer? What arduous tests have you put beers through to make sure they hold up to the heat? Let's hear it!
Dave Tollefsen and Glenn Cutler are regular guys living in central North Carolina with their families who share a love for craft beer and homebrewing. They work together as the NCBeerGuys. They can be found online reviewing North Carolina craft beer, providing information about the folks who produce local beer and writing about and promoting beer adventures, activities and events across North Carolina.