There’s no question that seasonal beers are red hot. This broad category, which includes everything from winter, summer, Easter, Christmas and even Hanukkah brews, is so popular that it now outsells all other styles of craft beer, including pilsners, pale ales, stouts and India Pale Ales.
And now, as the weather heats up, it’s time for summer beers to shine.
The style and flavor of summer beers can vary widely, but they generally are crisp and refreshing, often with lower alcohol levels to allow for easy drinking on steamy days. Operators nationwide are presenting a range of warm-weather choices to make the most of this lucrative season.
“The summer beer seasonal program is the second biggest [for us,] right behind Christmas beers,” said John Lane of the Winking Lizard, a bar chain with 14 units in Ohio.
The chain features seasonal beers in a variety of ways. There’s a seasonal tap handle that rotates monthly, several higher-profile seasonal offerings and a Glass of the Month feature in which patrons buy the beer and keep the glass. There’s variety among the beers themselves, too.
“I consider Belgian-style Wits, German Weissbier, saisons and light pilsners to be summer seasonals,” Lane said.
He added that the summer beer program is likely a big hit at the Winking Lizard because the season itself is so short in the Midwest, where its restaurants operate. But even bars and restaurants in warmer climates find customers are looking for a different type of drink when the mercury rises.
“It’s hot, and they want refreshing ales, not high-gravity brews,” said Keith Schlabs, partner and beer guru for the Dallas-based, 14-unit Flying Saucer chain of beer bars.
To quench that thirst, Schlabs pointed to some of the same beer styles as Lane, including hefeweizens — another name for German-style wheat beers — which he notes sell well year-round but see a big push in summer months.
“There are plenty of [hefeweizens] to choose from these days, so it is very important for my team to pick the right breweries,” said Schlabs. “We search locally first and then search for U.S. brands before going to imports. That said, there are some great German options that we allow full-time handles because their quality is just spot on.”
Schlabs also added one other style to the seasonal mix: the German specialty known as kölsch, a blonde beer native to Cologne that possesses characteristics of both ale and lager.
“[It’s] refreshing and crisp for hot months,” said Schlabs, adding that it is also “a sessionable [or lower alcohol] beer style that helps us wean the masses off of the commercial brands they find at sports bars everywhere.”