With summer coming to an end and the days growing noticeably shorter, this time of year always seems like the perfect one to get a little bit militant when it comes to beer drinking. I want brews that scream summertime, that resolutely refuse to look forward to autumn, that in every way possible hang on to the season nearly gone by like a creepy jilted lover does an ex-flame. For me, that always means crisp beer in a can: the sort of brews that, by virtue of what they taste like or the foods they pair best with, embody the last vestiges of the carefree season of flip-flops, barbecues and half-day Fridays at the office.
With that in mind, I headed on over to The Bottle Shop (1837 East Passyunk) and enlisted the help of Gena Montebello, its deeply knowledgeable, supremely helpful owner. The five brews we settled on represent an excellent, delicious range of late-summer-appropriate canned beers—though, of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking them well past Labor Day. In fact, I’d strongly recommend doing so: Once the doldrums of winter settle in, any one of these will remind you that warmer, sunnier, more optimistic days will arrive once again. And in the meantime, you’ll have the great advantage of sipping on a stellar beer while you wait.
Uinta Brewing Co.’s Wyld Extra Pale Ale
(Salt Lake City, UT)
A shimmering golden color presages aromas of citric, floral hops. It’s the flavor, however, that really shines here: It’s practically alive with orange and orange oil character, as well as a bit of honey and flowers. If summertime could be bottled, this is what it would taste like. (Note: made with organic barley malt.)
Half Acre’s Over Ale
Aromatically, this speaks of nuts, pralines and caramel. These follow through to the palate, and are joined by subtle maple tones that are balanced out by a solid application of hoppy bitterness. If you allow it to warm up a few degrees after removing it from the fridge, its layers really come into focus.
Long Trail Brewing Co.’s Double Bag Altbier
At my parents’ house, the ribs tend to be sweeter and the side salads streaked with ample garlic. Next family barbecue we have, I think this may be the beer to pair with them all. It smells of honey cookies and butterscotch and tastes of salted caramel and a distinctly assertive sense of hoppy bitterness. Everything about it seems amplified, including the palate-coating mouthfeel. Big beer, big rewards.
21st Amendment Brewery’s Back in Black IPA
(San Francisco, CA)
Aromas of coffee grinds and espresso, of cocoa powder and toasted nuts, turn to flavors that remind me of more toasted nuts, charred orange peel and a hint of grilled meat. It makes me crave nothing more than a bacon cheeseburger to pair with it.
Rivertowne Brewing Co.’s Hala Kahiki Pineapple Beer
Flavors of sweet pineapple and crisp apple are joined by honey and lemon gel candies, all with just enough bitterness to balance it out. Definitely a sweeter style, but with spicy food, or even fruit salad, it’s a winner. Beer snobs beware: This shandy-like sipper won’t reward parsing its nuances; better to treat it like a catchy pop tune, gulp away with joy, and give in to its uncomplicated charms. It’s still summer, after all.