Beer Styles for Summer Sipping

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pilsner beer on sunny patio with ales in background

When the entire country seems entrenched in the warmest days of the year, many beer enthusiasts run for something lighter and more refreshing to quench their thirst. Just because the weather is warmer does not mean that beer lovers must sacrifice flavor for a lighter and more refreshing beer.

Here are a few styles to wet the whistle and examples of where to find them from local and regional brewers.

Berliner Weisse: Berliner weisse is the lightest of all wheat beers, originating in Berlin and enjoyed by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, who called it “The Champagne of the North.” These light and tart beers can be enjoyed fruited or unfruited and can provide relief on even the hottest days since their alcohol content is typically quite low (between 2.8% and 5%).

Italian-Style Pilsner: One of the newest styles that American craft brewers have embraced, Italian Pilsner has become a favorite beer style for many. An Italian Pilsner is typically aggressively hopped with noble varieties but is a very dry lager otherwise. This fan-favorite and brewer-beloved beer style can walk drinkers through even the summer swelter with a low alcohol content and maximum lager goodness.

Kolsch: This dry, crisp beer is a well-kept secret within the beer community. Originating from Cologne, Germany, this light-bodied beer has been a favorite of American brewers and beer lovers for many years. Whether chosen for poolside enjoyment or tapped for food-pairing potential, Kolsch is a versatile beer for all seasons—summer and beyond.

Belgian-Style Witbier: While this style of beer is usually cloudy, it maintains a light body and a bright citrus character that can refresh on even the hottest of days. With an alcohol presence of less than 6%, the Belgian-style witbier fits any occasion from boats to beaches to backyards and beyond.

Mexican-Style Lager: An outgrowth of classic German lager styles, Mexican-style Lager was born from German brewers who emigrated to Mexico and longed to produce the lagers of the Old World. With a slight fruit character and low alcohol content, there is almost no bitterness to speak of in these clear lagers, only waves of refreshment radiating like the sun against the shore.

Session IPA: Designed especially for hop lovers who want to enjoy all of the flavor without the big body of an IPA or double IPA, the session IPA is a summertime favorite. This style oftentimes uses dry hopping to pour on the hop aroma but has a light enough body to be thirst-quenching. The malt backbone is flexible enough to allow the hops to shine, with the style maintaining an ABV in a wide range of 0.5% -5.0%.

Hefeweizen: Another fine example of wheat beers meeting the needs of summertime, the hefeweizen style is a mainstay of the cooler in many parts of the country. Cloudy, carbonated, and packing flavors of banana, clove, nutmeg, and vanilla, hefeweizen should be on the list of tag-team partners for any summertime drinking.

Mark DeNote is a wandering beer writer who keeps a home in Florida and an eye on the road in search of fresh, local beer. Mark is a teacher at heart, and enjoys talking about beer and beer history almost as much as tasting beer. Mark is the author of The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide and Tampa Bay Beer: A Heady History. He also edits, reports, interviews and writes the story behind craft beer on the web at is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.