Before craft beer, there were wine coolers. Not in the historical sense, mind you, but in my chronicle of alcoholic introductions. Save your condescending glances for another column, sir.
Bartles & Jaymes always signified my start to summer and a loving toast to the warm temperatures that typically accompany May through August. Even today, at the first sign of patio weather, I have the urge to purchase a four-pack of those fruity malted beverages. But thankfully, it’s no longer to get “drunk” before my mom finds the bottles. Let’s just leave it at … nostalgia.
I can’t say that I segued straight to craft brews either. There were plenty of heat waves that I spent staring into a bottomless plastic cup, filled over-and-over with one of those domestic “big beers.”
I’ll also save you the tasting notes from that one summer afternoon spent on a boat that I drank a can of Bud Light with Lime … you know, just to see (how horrible it is).
For the record, you need not try it to know it’s pure crap. It’s even worse when it’s warm.
But between (ahem, non-alcoholic) ubiquitous drinks for summer like root beer floats and bottles of “hard lemonade,” my want for an appropriate beer for the season grew. And with maturation and the blessing of moderation, comes a special appreciation for that (as most of us have learned), and for me, fruit brews.
And by “fruit” I don’t mean “here, have a Blue Moon and kindly toss an orange in it.”
We all turn to a specific type of drink to pair with the season—and its BBQ counterparts—and summertime has its hands full with honey beers, fruit beers, lambics, lights, wheats and pale ales. In the heat, we need proper refreshment (and the low alcohol content); and as lovers of the craft, we crave variety.
Fruit beers can be challenging for some, so I don’t attempt to compare their styles to others. Some things are better left unsaid—meant only to imbibe and enjoy for their intended purpose (to delight and stimulate).
During the dog days, you’ll find me sipping one of these bottles: Sam Adams Cherry Wheat—it’s like cherry pie in a bottle, and pie is synonymous with summer, right? And for those who love fruit-filled tasty treats, Ithaca Apricot Wheat and Dogfish Festina Peche also make nice summer complements. The latter, a little more tart of the two, but both smack of fresh juicy fruit. Both are equally refreshing.
If I had a porch, I’d invite you over.
What I love most about summer is the many opportunities to include beer: baseball games, boat trips, music festivals, camping, picnics, patio weather—even the Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride is some sort of “unofficial” push of the (drinking) season.
And the want for the craft during these situations is growing. Summer reiterates the devotion to drink good beer. Just the same, certain beers will always remind me of summer.
"Unfiltered: Fruity Beers" originally published in Craft Pittsburgh, a quarterly magazine about the local craft beer industry. Pick up free copies at and beer distributors along McKnight Road, , and One for the Road. Follow @CraftPittsburgh on Twitter.
, with special tastings and events in the North Hills and surrounding areas.