Best beers for summer

Brew-up: Whether on tap or by the bottle, craft brews will make their presence felt this summer.
Brew-up: Whether on tap or by the bottle, craft brews will make their presence felt this summer. Photo: Luis Ascui

Summer is the time of year when brewers make an impassioned bid for your beer dollar. How many TV ads have you seen featuring the Holy Trinity: warm weather, attractive people and extremely cold beer? The underlying message is: don't worry about the flavour, feel the refreshment.

But you don't have to reach for an easy-drinking lager this summer; Australia's ongoing beer revolution means there are plenty of more interesting options. There's a huge variety of styles – not just pilsner but IPA, witbier and kolsch, to name a few – all of which offer not only refreshment but plenty of flavour too. Here are 10 beers you'll want to try this summer.

4 Pines, Kolsch

Cologne is one of the world's great beer towns. This Rhineland city is home to only one beer style, Kolsch, but what a style. Delicate and floral, straw-coloured Kolsch might not be for the hopheads but as a clean, intriguing alternative to pale lager (Kolsch is an ale-lager hybrid, as its brewed with ale yeast and then conditioned like a lager) it's hard to beat. The 4 Pines' version is the cream of the native crop.

Camden Town, Hells

London's craft-beer scene has exploded in recent years, with Camden Town – where the owner, Jasper Cuppaidge, and head brewer, Alex Troncoso, are Australian – leading the way. This is their signature beer, a Helles called Hells; it's a bready, subtly spicy, extremely approachable pale lager. "The crisp, clean finish of Hells makes it the perfect beer for summer as when the sun is scorching, the last thing you want to think about is chewing on a heavy beer,"  Troncoso says, and it's hard to argue.

Feral, Hop Hog

American-style IPAs are now on offer in pretty much every beer-loving nation on earth, and Australia is no exception. Quite the opposite, in fact: IPAs are as popular here as anywhere outside northern California. This is widely regarded as the best of the native bunch – it's been ranked No. 1 for the last two years in the Local Taphouse's Hottest 100. Produced by Feral in Baskerville, WA, it smells great (pine, citrus fruits), is soft and clean-tasting in the mouth and there's a beautiful dryness at the end. Just the thing on a hot day.

Founders, All Day IPA

There are plenty of world-class beers around, but not that many which have actually changed the world of beer. You could definitely make that claim about All Day IPA, however. Made in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this session-strength, super-hoppy pale ale has inspired imitators around the world – "session IPAs" – but few are as good as the original. Expect pine and citrus, a clean bitter finish – and the impulse to go and buy another one straight away.

Kolsch is 4 Pines' version of a Cologne beer style.
Kolsch is 4 Pines' version of a Cologne beer style. Photo: Marco Del Grande

La Sirene, Florette

Witbier gets a bad rap in some quarters, perhaps because the most famous version is Blue Moon (a "craft" beer produced by the American enormo-brewer MillerCoors). But it's a fantastic beer for warm weather and, it should be said, for matching with all manner of food. One of the most interesting Australian versions is Florette, which is made with chamomile and orange blossom. Just the thing for the heat, says La Sirene's Costa Nikias. "Witbiers are fruit-driven, lighter in body and alcohol and have a nice dry spicy finish," he says. "It's a very refreshing experience." Unless you want to buy a keg, you can't take this one home – drink it on tap at Hotel Lincoln in Carlton or Clifton Hill Brewpub(both in Melbourne), while it's running. 

Modus Operandi, Former Tenant Red IPA

This is the brewery on everyone's lips at the moment. Modus Operandi won an armful of awards at the recent Craft Beer Awards despite having been open for a matter of months. This beer, a red IPA, named for the herb-loving former resident of their brewery in Sydney's northern beaches, took the champion Australian craft beer award, and it's easy to see why. Expect huge tropical fruit aroma (courtesy of plenty of American hops) followed by lavish bitterness alongside a balancing touch of caramel-malt character.

Mountain Goat, Summer Ale

The clue's in the name: this is one beer indelibly associated with good weather, and for good reason. The Kiwi hops used, Nelson Sauvin and Motueka, are full of bright summer flavours, like grapefruit (NS) and lime (Motueka) – and it comes in a can, just the thing for al fresco summer drinking. If that doesn't appeal, you can go and sink a few at the brewery in Richmond on Wednesday and Friday evenings.  

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Stone and Wood, Pacific Pale Ale

The Australian hop industry has enjoyed a fine few years, with hops like Galaxy and Ella in demand all over the globe. The first of those – Galaxy – is probably the biggest hit of all, and this may be the best expression of its fruit-laden virtues – passion fruit, apricot, melon – currently on the market. It's an insanely drinkable drop, which has turned heads far from Stone and Wood's Byron Bay stronghold. A modern Australian classic.

Two Birds, Taco

Two Birds' Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen recently flew to the UK to make a one-off brew for a British pub group, a sure sign of their growing reputation – a reputation that has grown by leaps and bounds since they got started just over three years' ago. One of their more interesting brews – hell, one of the more interesting beers, full stop – is Taco, which was inspired by a trip to southern California last year. The pair loved fish tacos so much they wanted to make a beer to evoke the same flavours – so expect coriander and lime (but thankfully no fish).

Yeastie Boys, Gunnamatta

This superb Kiwi beer has its roots in Melbourne. Back in 2012, the folks who run the Great Australian Beer SpecTapular asked the Wellington brewers if they'd rustle up something special for the festival;  little did they know just how special it would be. This IPA – made with fistfuls of New Zealand hops and Earl Grey Blue Flower tea – carried off the People's Choice award at the festival and with good reason. A delicate bergamot aroma is followed by tons of citrus. Drinking tea has never been so much fun.

Well-named brew: Summer Ale hits the spot.
Well-named brew: Summer Ale hits the spot. Photo: Supplied

Correction: All Day IPA was incorrectly labelled in the story above. This has now been amended.