Hey, you’re all invited over to hang out in our backyard whenever you want this summer. Being a super-planner, I’ve already made sure everything is ready to go for spur-of-the-moment outdoor relaxation. The grill is in tip-top condition, the pergola lights are on, the vintage patio chairs are always clean, and there’s always a chilled can of refreshing house beer ready to be cracked open.
House beer is something we started doing a few years ago—unlike the intensely hoppy or super sour and fruity styles that Dan and I normally gravitate to when seeking out new beers, we decided to stock the beer fridge with a case or two of easy-drinking beer that most of our friends would enjoy.
Just like keeping a favorite bottle of rosé wine chilled at all times, having a stash of house beer on hand is an advance planning move that makes summer living that much better. Note that I’m not saying you need a light, flavorless beer to appeal to the masses—you want a summer house beer that’s crisp, refreshing, and appeals to a wide range of palates without weighing you down. (If you’re thinking of a good lawnmower beer or shower beer, you’re on the right path.)
The lager family is a great place to start when choosing a summer house beer. As much as this household is on the New England IPA kick with the rest of our fellow beer nerds, that’s not the direction I’d steer here; I’m sensitive that not everyone is into resinous tropical notes! Lagers are cold-fermented, so you’ll get more of a clean taste and a nicely crisp carbonation than the hazy, hoppy ales that dominate a lot of the market.
Look for these styles:
- Pilsner: The classic Eastern European style, this is the refreshing, fizzy, balanced beer most of us imagine when we’re envisioning a thirst-quenching, not-too-hoppy/not-too-sweet beer. It’s got a hint of bitterness but finishes dry.
- Helles: This German lager has a little bit more maltiness in the flavor profile, but it won’t be overly sweet or have toffee notes like a bock or brown ale.
- Pale Lager: With even more of a dry finish and a more pronounced hop bitterness, these lagers are kind of the gateway beer to getting people more interested in pale ales. Think of them as super dry white wines on this beer spectrum.
- Kolsch: Technically, this one’s an ale, but it’s brewed like a lager because those Germans are sneaky. It’s got a bit more body than a pilsner, and sometimes you’ll detect a hint of sweet fruit or wheatiness.
Summer ales are not a particular style of beer, per se—while they could fall under a blonde ale or golden ale and in my humble beer-drinking opinion can be hit or miss in this situation. Some skew lemony, some skew hoppy, some skew wheaty and sweet, and if you’re into Montauk Summer Ale (as we are) you might not be into Sam Adams Summer Ale (which now tastes way too malty to be a regular at my parties). Caveat emptor here!
And because it’s hot and we’re drinking outside, I like to keep the ABV around 5 percent. ABV stands for Alcohol by Volume, and again, as in wine and spirits, the higher the percentage, the boozier your beer is going to be. If you hear beers referred to as “session beers” or “sessionable,” those are good watchwords, meaning that you can drink a few of them in a session without getting too sloshed. While technically a session beer is 4 percent or lower, anything in this range is going to keep your buzz manageable.
Once you’ve found something that fits into your personal style as your summer house beer, see if your brewery of choice sells it in cases. 12- and 15-packs are all over the place now, so why not stock up beyond your usual sixer?
It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re having friends over to grill and chill after paddle boarding, or when the mood strikes and you just need to have an al fresco happy hour to hit the reset button as you move from day to evening.
Oh, and don’t forget the koozie bowl!