Grilling season is here, and that means it’s time to stock your fridge and coolers with summer beers. One of life’s greatest pleasures is standing before a glowing grill, spatula in one hand, frosty beer in the other, as sausages slowly turn taut and burgers reach a happy medium rare. The best beers to drink during and after a grilling session are lower in alcohol, but not lacking in flavor. They run the gamut from brisk-drinking pilsners with more bite than the average lager to watermelon-infused sour ales and hazy session IPAs that’ll let you keep your wit while you man the grill.
Here are six of our favorite grilling beers. It’s time to get fired up.
Summer’s Best Grilling Beers
1. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Scrag Mountain Pils Salt & Lime
Most lime-infused lagers taste artificial, seemingly spritzed with a plastic green bottle of ReaLime. Lawson’s Finest Liquids might be best known for its IPAs, in particular Sip of Sunshine, but the Vermont brewery also runs a really good lager program. Lawson’s summery spinoff of its Czech-style pilsner is flavored with real lime juice and peel, plus a sprinkling of sea salt to round out the flavor. “Scragarita,” as the beer is affectionately called, is softer and more integrated than most citrus beers—all at once invigorating and complex. It’s ideal for sipping while flipping burgers.
[$11, 4-pack; lawsonsfinest.com]
2. Elysian Brewing Company Salt & Seed
This year, the venerable Seattle-based brewing company is celebrating its 25th birthday in a big way by rolling out an anniversary box stuffed with throwback beers and thoroughly modern formulations—tiki IPAs, anyone? The downside: You must live in Washington to snag the package. The upside: You can buy the highly refreshing Salt & Seed most everywhere. The gose-style ale contains kosher salt, a smidgen of acidulated malt, and watermelon, creating a tart and fruity easy-drinker that tastes like summer. Serve it alongside watermelon slices at your next picnic or BBQ.
[$10, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Summer Break
Hazy IPAs are hugely popular, and for good reason: They deliver loads of hop-derived aromas and flavors, evoking ripe pineapples, fresh-squeezed oranges, plump papayas, and more. The boosted aromatics are often matched by an elevated ABV, however, and it’s tough to grill all day while drinking an 8 percent double IPA. Of late, brewers have begun creating more moderate-strength hazy IPAs that deliver the desired flavors minus the (eventually) dizzying alcohol. This year, Sierra Nevada rolled out this session-strength hazy IPA smoothed out with oat and wheat, then finished with a six-pack of hops that bring to mind mango, grapefruit, and passion fruit. Summer Break’s low ABV should earn it a constant place in your koozie while you sear steaks.
[$11, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
4. Jack’s Abby Blood Orange Wheat
Grilling doesn’t always begin in the afternoon. Certain cuts like pork shoulder or brisket require lengthy stays in a smoker, meaning you might need to fire the coals or hardwood early in the morning. The a.m. hours put us in the mood for oranges, in both juice and beer form like the Blood Orange Wheat from Jack’s Abby. The Massachusetts lager specialists took inspiration from the German radler, traditionally a hydrating mix of lager and soda or juice. Here, Jack’s Abby infuses a low-alcohol, wheat-driven lager with blood orange to create a brightly revitalizing eye-opener that’ll help pass the time while the coals catch and smolder. We’re not saying you should have it for breakfast, but we’re not not saying it.
[$8, 4-pack; jacksabby.com]
5. Köstritzer Schwarzbier
Drinking black lagers might seem counterintuitive as you’re sweating in the summer heat, but the German schwarzbier (schwarz is German for “black”) is a delicious coalition of dark and light. The crisp-drinking black lager cuts thirst, while roasty notes align with grill-marked burgers, snappy sausages, and rib-eye steaks. More and more, American breweries are embracing the schwarzbier, but do yourself a solid and grab one of Germany’s singular examples of the style. Dry-drinking Köstritzer Schwarzbier delivers notes of coffee and dark chocolate, and tempered alcohol means you can easily take down a couple cans while wielding grill tongs.
[$7, 4-pack; cheeseandwinetraders.com]
6. 10 Barrel Brewing Pilsner
Visit any beer shop, and you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice. Do you want this hazy IPA, that hazy IPA, or maybe you’d like a stout reminiscent of birthday cake? Picking beers can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. 10 Barrel aims to clear the confusion with its plainly named, cleanly packaged Pilsner. The just-released German-style pilsner is brewed with European noble hops, offering a refined bitterness and slightly more character than the average lawnmower lager. The moderate alcohol content makes it a good drinking choice for smoking brisket.
[$10, 6-pack; 10barrel.com]
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