What’s the best local beer to take with you to that summer BBQ or to the James River? We asked some experts.
It’s a given that it’s bloody hot this time of year. The humidity wears on you like a soggy wool blanket. Which means when you do want to spend time outside and partake in a lovely adult beverage of the hop variety, it better not be as heavy as that wool blanket.
That’s why I wanted to talk to some local brewers about what they recommend from their home brewery, as well as what beers from other breweries they’re fond of. Also, I spoke with some fellow beer lovers about their favorite summer beers and what makes them great.
Q: What makes a good summer beer?
Savannah Roberts, lead brewer at Triple Crossing Beer
Especially in Richmond humidity, I want something with a low ABV [alcohol by volume], something crushable, something that drinks like a domestic but a little bit more.
Brittanny Anderson, Chef and owner of Brenner’s Pass/ Metzger Bar and Butchery
I’m looking for crispy, we call them crispy boys. But it should be light, crisp, dry, and easy to drink. I’m not looking for super extra hoppy. Sometimes those big IPAs, I love them. But they can be a little syrupy, a little heavy for like a hot, hot day. So, for me, it’s the crispy boy all day long. When I get out of work, or anytime I’m going out on the boat or mowing the lawn or whatever, I’m looking for it. I love cold beer with a fish taco or some simple grilled fish and burgers in the backyard with a nice cold like beer.
David Hunter, Fans of VA Beer Facebook page (over 21K followers)
I am a fan of hoppy reds and there’s one beer that comes out every summer. Fingers crossed that it is coming out this summer. It’s called Rob Your Head. It’s a hoppy red from Virginia Beer Company down in Williamsburg. The owner’s name is Rob. My brother’s name is Rob and he lives in Williamsburg. So, when they release it, he sends up the bat signal and I am there on release day. I drive all the way down there and grab a case or two. It’s very delicious.
Bottleworks, owners Barbara White and Jeff Hunt
Jeff: I personally think this time of year, crisp and hoppy or something that’s, you know, a thirst quencher.
Barbara: I like something light, just easy drinking. I personally would go for the light ABV just because I can sit by the pool and drink.
Jeff: A hoppy Pilsner for me is kind of where it’s at. Or just a really good, crisp lager or crisp Pilsner. Italian style pilsners are super popular right now.
Barbara: I think any type of Pilsner is hard to beat.
Which local brewery is making the best summer beers?
Savannah Roberts, Triple Crossing Brewery
Right now, we’ve got quite a few on our menu that are, in my opinion, super summery drinks. I’ll start with probably the lightest one we have right now, which is Litehaus. It’s kind of our rice lager. It’s our take on one of those domestic beers and it drinks like a Bud Light but just a little bit more elevated. You can tell its better quality, if I’m allowed to say that.
We also have our West Coast baby Falcon, which is our Falcon Smash. It’s a variant on that brood in the West Coast style. So more hot bitterness, stronger hot profile. Clear, not hazy. I love the bitterness on that one, I feel like it’s really thirst quenching.
The Veil has an American Pale Ale and that I just love that beer. It’s super crushable. It’s got that bitterness but it’s a lower ABV. I want to shout out Benchtop also. They’ve got some of the best lager in town in my opinion. I’ve never been disappointed by their beers. And they have a Czech Pale on right now that is delicious.
Tasha Dixon, brewer at Ardent Craft Ales
Ardent recently released our Pineapple, Mango, and Passionfruit Gose. The fruit addition alone tells you: You are in for a nice summer treat! This light, juicy, fruity, tart and refreshing Gose is the perfect poolside or beach companion.
My personal go-to summer beer from Ardent is our Atlantico Mexican Lager or our Lawnmower Light Lager. As a brewer, we all want something light, crispy, refreshing and with a low ABV to knock back a few. Both of these beers pair well with long days at the river, pool or grilling. They are my summertime crushers.
Triple Crossing and Bingo Beer Company have some of my favorite local lagers. Triple Crossing’s Litehaus and Bingo’s Rail Pass. Litehaus is a light American lager. It has a crushable low ABV and always hits the palate just right on these warm summer days. Rail Pass from Bingo is their classic German Pils. Brewed with Noble hops, this beer has a great balance of spicy and floral notes.
Brittanny Anderson (Brenner’s Pass)
I really like a lot of the fruit beers that The Veil does, they’re like, smoothies. Those are super fun on the boat. I really like the Koelsch from Ardent. Ardent also does a really good ginger Saison. It is super delicious in the summertime as well.
Jeff Hunt (Bottleworks)
Ardent—just did an Italian Pils. This week Benchtop did one called Stallion which will be coming in. So pretty much anything Italian Pils we buy because it sells super-fast for us.
David Hunter (Fans of VA Beer)
Bingo Lager is a delicious lager. It’s just a refreshing beer. It reminds me of my dad. It’s the way it tastes. It’s just a delicious beer, well-made. I’m not a beer expert, but it just gets a lot of accolades for people who do know what they’re talking about.
There’s another one by Bingo called Freespace, which is a hazy IPA. It’s tropical and fruity. It’s another great beer. Virginia Beer Company has one called Free Verse, which is really nice. My wife loves that beer.
Proven Theory from Benchtop Brewing. They brew all of their beers down in Norfolk. It’s more of a New England style. It’s a very delicious beer. The other one they also have a hoppy read called Crimson Gaze. And that caught my eye because we got a new Corgi named Crimson. It’s a hoppy red.
Connie Owens, design professional at Glavé & Holmes Architecture
I’ve been frequenting Benchtop Brewing a lot lately. They have a really great selection and there’s always something new on the menu to try. My favorite summer beers are:
Constance: This one is a lager, light and crispy (great for those hot and humid days) and best of all, shares a name with me! I don’t usually drink lagers, but this one is good enough that I’ll usually get a second round.
Crimson Gaze: This is a red ale that’s just hoppy and bitter enough to make me feel like I’m drinking an IPA. It’s light enough to be drinkable while spending time outside the summer.
Proven Theory: I don’t know why I love this beer, but I do. To me, it’s a straightforward IPA that isn’t too bitter. I don’t even know if I’d say there’s anything about it that makes it especially great for summertime, but it’s familiar and comforting.
There you have it—some of the best local beers by an informal panel of brewers, restaurateurs, bottle shop owners, and locals. As David Hunter says, taste is subjective: “I don’t want people’s opinions to be impacted by a negative review of a beer. It’s like, go try it for yourself. You may like it, I may not.”
Sure, there were many local breweries and beers left out of this nonscientific list. As for me, one not on the list is a beer from Fine Creek Brewing in Powhattan called Dolphin Dance. It’s a West Coast IPA that comes in at 6.7% ABV. Another is Hardywood’s Great Return—it’s an American IPA at 7.5%. I’m stuck in the land of IPAs, but once in a while I do venture out—with this list, I know I will.
Let Style Weekly know what your favorite go-to summer beer is in the comments section and why it’s so good.