There is a saying in the wine industry that “It takes a lot of beer to make good wine.” Vineyard and winery crews work hard. And at the end of a long day in the field or in the cellar, many turn to beer rather than wine to quench their thirst.
I don’t work at a winery—though I’ve been known to enjoy a pint or three with those that do—but I’ve come up with my own version of this saying: It takes a lot of beer to get through a hot, muggy Long Island summer.
You’ll find wine in my glass nearly every day—mostly with meals, although beer has a place on my dinner table too. I’m a craft beer guy too. Typically, I’ll reach for a pale ale or IPA—the hoppier the better. But in the summer, when you’re looking for refreshment, even a hop head like me likes to look elsewhere for lower-alcohol beers that hit the spot after mowing the lawn or chasing my kids around the yard/beach/wherever.
And of course, I like to drink local when I’m drinking beer. At least much of the time.
We won’t get into the debate over what “local beer” means in terms of where the ingredients are brewed or who brews them or where. That’s a complex and intricate topic better argued beyond the 700 words of this weekly column.
Instead, here are five of the local beers I’ve been enjoying the most of this summer:
Southampton Double White Ale. It’s hard not to consider this a classic Long Island summer beer at this point. Though it isn’t the lowest-alcohol white beer around at 6.5% abv, it’s readily available, available in bottle (unlike many of the beers on this list) and is like a classic Belgian wit ale on steroids—more citrus, more spice, etc.
Port Jeff Brewing Carolina Common Ale. For the most part, I don’t care for “fruit beers”—beers with fruit pulp or flavoring added—nothing beyond a little citrus peel, please. But this newly released (only one batch) collaboration ale between Port Jeff Brewing and North Carolina’s Foothill Brewing is an exception to my personal rule. Carolina peaches bring a certain fruity sweetness without being the dominant flavor. Any distinct peach flavor only peeks through at the end of the finish—in a refreshing way rather than a soda way. This one is only available for growler fills at the brewery, and they only made one batch. Get it soon before it’s gone.
Blue Point Brewing Company White IPA. I’m actually not keen on this “<insert color here> IPA” trend in beer these days. Black IPAs are hoppy brown ales or porters. Red IPAs are hoppy red ales. Don’t get caught up in the branding or think that these are new styles! Similarly, a white IPA is really just a hoppy white ale, but this one from Blue Point is one of my local favorites. It’ll please a crowd at a party while keeping hop heads like me coming back for more. Bonus—it’s available in cans, always a plus.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Summer Ale. I’ve said (and maybe even written) not-so-nice things about this beer in the past, when I’ve found it too sweet; too syrupy. This year’s batch nails the balance—you can still taste the orange blossom honey used during brewing, but it doesn’t stand out. This is a tasty, floral-scented golden ale that is refreshing and ideally suited to post-lawn mower duty.
Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Hefeweizen. Now to probably the most obscure beer on this list—from one of Long Island’s smallest nanobreweries. I’ve known the guys behind RPAB since well before they opened to the public (one is a fellow beverage writer who used to work with me a bit) and they live and brew just a couple miles from my home. While so many are going for bigger, hoppier, more alcohol styles in the beer world, RPAB focuses on the classic, largely German and Belgian styles. This hefe—available on draft at a handful of bars, restaurants and growler fill stations—is classically German in style. Unfiltered and opaque in your glass, it’s yeasty, bright and refreshing. I love it so much that I served a keg of it at my last big summer BBQ. It didn’t last the night.