Summer in Minnesota is fleeting: a few short months of optimal weather, bright sunshine, warm days and endlessly peaceful nights. It’s time to break out the grill, gather a few friends and pop the cap off a cold craft beer. Minnesota’s craft beer movement shows no signs of slowing down, and right now, the sipping is easy with a wide selection of delicious, light, seasonal brews to be found.
It’s easy to find beers year-round with a light profile, with low alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages that won’t weigh you down in hot weather. But the warmer months welcome a wide range of lovely seasonal brews, with flavors as fleeting as the summer season itself.
Walk into any liquor store, and you’re certain to find a wide selection of local beers. Look for Indeed Brewing’s Shenanigans, a pale wheat ale. Lift Bridge’s iconic Farm Girl, available year-round, is an ideal summer sipper, light and refreshing in the Saison, or farmhouse ale, style. Provider from Steel Toe Brewing is an American blond ale, and it’s not hard to find the venerable Summit Brewing’s Summer Ale in the German Kölsch style, and their all-organic HopVale, a lemony light brew for those who embrace the bitterness of a good IPA. Summit Pilsner is light-colored, with an easy-drinking Czech style of light hops and refreshing malt.
And although it’s not a Minnesota beer, both Mike Moe of The Cellars in Plymouth and Matt McEiver from Sid’s Discount Liquor favor Oberon, from Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo, Mich., an American pale ale with an enormous cult following.
Hailing from Minneapolis, Fulton Brewing offers many options for light drinking, such as their original IPA brew, Sweet Child of Vine; Lonely Blonde, an American blonde ale; Batch 300, their Mosaic IPA; and the summer Saison, Randonneur. Jim Christensen from Plymouth Liquors recommends Indeed Brewing’s flagship IPA, Daytripper, and Bauhaus Wonderstuff, a Bohemian pilsner with a crisp citrus punch.
Christensen also mentions Minnesota brewing behemoth Surly Brewing Company, with a nod to the blended style of the Furious, combining the best of American ale with a British ESB (extra special/strong bitter). McEiver speaks favorably of Surly’s Xtra Citra. This brightly colored session pale ale has strong tropical hop notes and flavor.
A discussion of summer beers wouldn’t be complete without mention of the shandy, traditionally a blend of a light beer, such as pilsner or blond ale, with lemonade. The shandy market is cornered by Leinenkugels of Wisconsin, which has expanded the shandy line to include watermelon, grapefruit and ginger, a mix that can often be found in their shandy sampler. Leinie’s Canoe Paddler is a superb summer beer, a light refreshing Kölsch-style, and the Sunset Wheat is perfect for kicking back on the dock as the sun goes down.
German-style radler beers are equivalent to the shandy, commonly using fruit juice in a 50-50 mix with a pilsner. Mike Moe recommends the grapefruit-flavored Schell Shocked, from Schell’s Brewing, celebrating 155 years of craft beer brewing in New Ulm. McEiver also spoke highly of a traditional German beer from Steigl, infused with grapefruit, in the radler style.
So the next time you grab a beer on a hot summer day, try one of these refreshing and flavorful craft beers.