The Best in Summer Brews


    othing tastes better on a hot summer day than an ice-cold brew. Whether ale or lager, summer seasonals are crisp and refreshing, the perfect combo to go along with a large dose of summer sunshine.

    Some seasonal ales you can find in local bars, restaurants and liquor stores include:

    August Schell Hefe Weizen, produced by August Schell Brewing Company, is a perfect summer beverage with or without a slice of lemon. A slight citric tang and a faint clove aroma gives this unfiltered weizen beer a gold medal taste.

    August Schell’s Zommerfest, made in the Kolsch style, is a rich golden beer with a light malt taste, available May through August.

    Barley John’s Summer Belgian Ale, produced by Barley John’s Brew Pub, is a delicious summer ale with hints of citrus and wheat. According to one beer lover, “It’s a cross between a Hefe and a Belgain pale, which makes for good summer drinkin’.”

    The Brauhaus Brew Hall in the small town of Lucan, Minnesota is a tiny brewhouse with enormous heart. Unwind with a Brau Light Lager and ask the bartender what it’s like to live in a city with a population of less than 400 people.

    They make only one beer at Finnegan’s—the Finnegan’s Irish Amber—with 100 percent of their profits donated to the Spud Society, a nonprofit company that helps support the working poor and at-risk youth. Finnegan’s is contract-brewed by Summit Brewing Company. 

    Sheltered inside a trendy shopping area that sits within a refurbished industrial block, Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth offers excellent beers brewed on premise, a charming Northwoods pub feel, and a spectacular location on Lake Superior. During the summer months, sit outside on the sidewalk patio and enjoy a Lighthouse Golden, Red Agate Belgian Ale, or Witchtree ESB.

    Gluek Brewing Company, located in Cold Springs, offers a variety of beers, including a Gluek Golden Pilsner. A rich golden hue and perfect blend of malt, hops, and lager yeast results in a smooth and mellow character. Its clean, simple flavor is an ideal accompaniment with any type of summer grub.

    Granite City’s creamy, smooth Northern Light Lager and hoppy, bitter Duke of Wellington India Pale Ale are available at Granite City Food and Brewery locations throughout the Midwest, including locations in Eagan, Maple Grove, Roseville, St. Cloud, and St. Louis Park.

    With a rotating variety of specialty and seasonal beers, you never know what treasures will be on tap when you visit St. Paul’s Great Waters Brewing Company. At any given time, there are four cask-conditioned beers alongside as many as five others. If you’re lucky, you might get to try the Golden Prairie Blonde Ale, Saint Peter Pale Ale, or Skip and Go Naked Oat Ale.

    Order a Special Pale Ale at Green Mill Brewing (the Green Mill on Grand and Hamline in St. Paul) or a tasty sampler to go along with your pizza.

    The beer drinker’s light beer, Amstel Light is the number one imported light beer in the United States. Amstel Light features a unique selection of raw materials and an intensive fermenting process, resulting in a flavorful light beer containing only 3.5 percent alcohol and approximately 35 percent fewer calories than regular lager beer—and still every bit as refreshing.

    Uptown’s only brewpub, The Herkimer Pub and Brewery, offers a variety of tap beers to accompany a diverse dinner menu. Handy’s Lager, the lightest beer on tap, and the Daily Pils taste divine on balmy summer evenings.

    The Special Ale, a North American style of the classic British pale ale, and Kayak Kolsch, made from five different malts and two hop varieties, are year-round brews produced by Lake Superior Brewing Company, located in Duluth. Enjoy either of these brews in Canal Park after strolling the Lakewalk.

    The Mantorville Brewing Company, located in historic Mantorville, brews a wicked Stagecoach Amber Ale. Sip suds after visiting the historic town of Mantorville, featuring the oldest working courthouse in Minnesota, fine dining, melodramas at the Opera House, antique and specialty shops, and a summer/fall weekly Farmers’ Flea Market.

    Try Sassy Sandy’s Belgian Wheat, O’Gara’s Premium Lite, or the Lite Amber Ale at O’Gara’s Brewpub on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. All of O’Gara’s handcrafted beers are unfiltered and pack a flavorful punch.

    You can never go wrong with a delicious Pantown Pale Ale at O’Hara’s Brew Pub and Restaurant in St. Cloud (the city’s first brewpub since Prohibition!)

    Part of a chain of 29 brewpubs across the country, each Rock Bottom Brewery is unique in that the brewmasters create unique and original recipes. Some of Minneapolis Rock Bottom’s more interesting seasonals include the American Dream Ale, Poor Richards Ale, Maibock, and Black Bull Imperial Stout. The always-available crisp and refreshing North Star Premium Lager and copper-hued Itasca Pale Ale, generously hopped with four varieties for an orange-grapefruit flavor and aroma, are also excellent selections.

    St. Croix Brewing Company’s claim to fame is their Maple Ale, introduced in 1985 as the first commercial American beer fermented with pure maple syrup. You can find their beer in bottles and on tap in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Summit’s Hefe-Weizen, available only in summer, and  Summit’s Extra Pale Ale, available year-round, are perfect choices for any summer bbq or patio gathering. There’s not a beer lover in the Twin Cities metro that isn’t familiar with Summit.

    Surly’s Coffee Bender, one of Surly Brewing Company’s limited release beers, was met with rave reviews at its introduction last summer. Combining iced coffee flavors (with the coffee roasted locally at Coffee and Tea Limited in Linden Hills) with a roasted malt overtone, this special Blender was described by one fan as a “jolt of joy for java freaks and beer geeks alike.” The year-round Bender is an amalgamation of styles, with five distinct malts—including two from Belgium—giving it added complexity and depth. Oatmeal gives it a smooth texture not usually associated with this type of beer. 

    Surly’s Furious combines four American hop varieties at a rate of over three pounds per barrel. The result is a rich malt sweetness infused with bright hop flavor and aroma from beginning to end.

    For more information about how you can support local brewpubs and brewing companies, visit