Traffic. Air pollution. Earthquakes. So why, at your local sports bar, are seemingly half the patrons transplants from New York, Boston and Chicago pulling for their hometown teams and lamenting “how great it is back home?” Four words. Bikinis. Board shorts. Beer. Another idyllic summer has arrived here in Los Angeles and it's the perfect time to enjoy our country's best climate with a smooth, crisp, light-bodied American craft beer. So we consulted with three of the best beer minds in the region for guidance as to which beers to savor this summer.
Gabe Gordon helms Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach and will open Beachwood BBQ and Brewery in downtown Long Beach in July. Tony Yanow owns the hideaway know as Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, and will open Mohawk Bend, with 70 taps in Echo Park, on July 28. Martin Svab is the beer savant at Naja's Place in Redondo Beach, a waterfront dive bar that features a mere 88 taps and three times that many bottles.
We asked each of the three to give us their 10 favorite summer-drinking beers, then combined their lists with our own, then weighted them with the rankings of thousands of beer geeks who “grade” individual beers on beeradvocate.com. We're nothing if not scientific. Turn the page for the results: the 10 best American craft beers for summer.
10. Allagash White (Portland, Maine). A slightly fruity, refreshing Belgian-style wit and only 5% abv so you can drink it all day long, like Kool-Aid, only way better.
9. Victory Prima Pils (Downingtown, PA). A German-style pilsner hailing from the classic Pennsylvania brewery. A thirst-quencher and sessionable at 5.3% abv.
8. Ommegang Hennepin (Cooperstown, NY). A brilliant farmhouse saison that lights up your tongue with a hint of spice and citrus that makes this a perfect beer to offset the heat. At 7.7% abv, this one can sneak up on you.
7. Lagunitas A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale (Petaluma, CA). A silky, crisp, wheat beer that is oh so right for a little sumpin' summer. It goes down so smooth that you would never guess it comes in at 7.5% abv.
6. Strand 24th Street Pale Ale (Torrance, CA). A perfect pale that is the only local beer to make the Top 10, and available at most decent beer bars in town thanks to Rich Marcello, aka the hardest working guy in the L.A. beerbiz. As for the pale itself, we would say to brewer Joel Elliott, “You done good, son!”
5. Dogfish Head Festina Peche (Milton, Delaware). A super easy-drinking BerlinerWeisse style beer brewed with peaches. Only 4.5% abv so you can drink it 'til the cows come home, keeping in mind that we don't have any cows in L.A.
4. Moonlight Brewing Reality Czeck (Santa Rosa, CA). This absurdly-drinkable pilsner from the genius of “the Unabrewer” Brian Hunt presents a dilemma for Angelenos. Bad news. You can only find it on draft at Beachwood BBQ, and only on rare occasions then. Good news. This calls for a romantic summer weekend in San Francisco. Hotel not included.
3. Drake's 1500 Pale Ale (San Leandro, CA). This pale is more like a light, hoppy IPA, but without all the alcohol. In fact, it was originally designed to be a sessionable IPA. Only 5.5% abv and so good on a sunny day with the sweet aroma of pine and citrus. Probably the best pale ale in the world. Enough said.
2. Alesmith Yulesmith -Summer (San Diego, CA). Talk about Christmas in July, the bad-ass brewers at Alesmith in San Diego offer a double IPA version of their Yulesmith holiday beer every July 4th. This deceptively 9.5% abv hop bomb is so damn good it's right up there with the bikini, the beach, and the boys of summer.
And the number one craft beer for summer? Turn the page.
1. Russian River Supplication (Santa Rosa, CA). From Vinnie Cilurzo, the Wizard of Santa Rosa, the John Wooden of Cali's world class brewers, this brilliant brown ale is aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries from Heaven. Yes, boys and girls, the number one beer for summer is a sour and sour beers are an acquired taste. But in your holy pilgrimage from Corona with a lime to Mecca, this beer is Mecca. Be brave and you will find your destiny, Skywalker.
As a bonus for reading this far, kind of like when they stick a cool outtake in the credits for the troopers who stick it out through the credits, Gabe Gordon also offered his top three European beers for summer: Cantillon Fou' Foune, Fantome Saison and Leipziger Gose. They are all, simply put, spectacular.