Restaurant News & Reviews

Summer’s top suds from Charlotte’s beer experts

When it comes to long, hot days of summer, you need to know the best craft brews for quenching your thirst and cooling you down. That’s where these local experts come in. The city’s top beer writers, brewers and buyers spill it on which refreshing brews deserve a place in your cooler. From blonde to Berliner Weisse, these are the expert-approved beers to be enjoying right now.

Jason and Jeff Alexander

Who they are: Owners and brewers at Free Range Brewing.

What they recommend: Brasserie Dupont’s Avril and Terrapin Beer Co.’s RecreationAle.

Why: “When it comes to summer beers, I want em’ light with big bright flavors,” says Jason. “Avril’s an easy drinking 3.5 percent farmhouse ale – champagne-like carbonation helps keep it lively and it drinks with a bright funkiness.” Jason’s brother Jeff prefers his summer brew from Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co. “Between the light, easy drinking body, delicious flavor, being moderately hopped and being in a can, I find (RecreationAle) to be the perfect beer to drink while outdoors and active.”

Ryan Self

Who he is: Director of sales at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.

What he recommends: Olde Mecklenburg’s Southside Weiss and Fortnight Brewing’s Porter.

Why: “We all know how scorching hot Charlotte afternoons are this time of year, and of all our beers, (Southside Weiss) is the easiest patio pounder,” says Self. “Light, just a little sweet, and with enough backbone to remind you that you’re drinking a nuanced, craft beer.” And what about beyond the grounds of this popular South End brewery? “I find myself drinking quite a bit of Fortnight Brewing’s Porter,” says Self. “When the sun goes down, the beers darken up, and this smooth, perfectly balanced porter always has a place on my patio on summer evenings.”

Daniel Hartis

Who he is: Charlotte Observer beer columnist and author of the blog Charlotte Beer.

What he recommends: Fullsteam’s Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale.

Why: “Historically, saisons were brewed by French and Belgian farmhands with whatever they might have around,” says Hartis, who suggests pairing this peppery ale with a margherita pizza. “It makes perfect sense that Fullsteam would use basil to complement a style often marked by its herbal and spicy qualities. The result is a beer that is simultaneously quenching and complex, with the perfect punch of clean, green basil.”

Sarah and Justin Brigham

Who they are: Owners and brewer at Sycamore Brewing.

What they recommend: Sycamore’s Americana Lager.

Why: “We’re really excited to be releasing our first lager next week – Americana,” says Justin. “It’s a great year-round beer and is particularly refreshing during the summer. This will be Charlotte’s only American styled craft lager.” Sarah adds that she’s been experimenting with creating beer cocktails for the summer season. “A favorite of mine uses a good quality wheat beer like Sycamore’s Lazy Creek Wheat, a half an ounce of Campari, a half an ounce of vodka, and a splash of orange juice,” she says. “Combine all ingredients except beer in a glass filled with ice. Top with beer and garnish with an orange slice – so good.”

Cesar Leyva, Ford Craven and Jay ‘Weezie’ Brown

Who they are: The team behind Cheers Charlotte Radio.

What they recommend: Red Clay Ciderwork’s QC Common, Noda Brewing Co.’s What Gose Around, and Sycamore Brewing’s Salty Coconut.

Why: “My pick is the Queen City Common from Red Clay Ciderworks – the newest brewery to open in Charlotte is making awesome hard ciders,” says Leyva. “The QC Common has the perfect balance of tart and sweetness that makes it a great pick for late summer refreshment.” Craven opts for a German-style Gose for the dog days of summer. “This salty and tart brewed wheat beer weighs in at a modest 3 percent to 5 percent ABV,” says Craven. “Check out NoDa Brewing’s What Gose Around at their taproom.” Brown prefers a tropical twist for his summer brew. “I’ve been partial to the Salty Coconut from Sycamore Brewing,” he says. “Slight malt backbone but with enough coconut in the aroma and flavor to make you feel like you’re at the beach.”

Suzie Ford

Who she is: Co-owner of NoDa Brewing Co.

What she recommends: NoDa Brewing Co.’s CAVU and RJ Rockers Brewing Co.’s Son of a Peach.

Why: “My two summertime go-to beers are NoDa’s blonde ale, CAVU, and RJ Rockers Brewing Company’s Son of a Peach – a wheat ale with peaches,” says Ford. “They’re very light, easy-drinking and refreshing for any time of the year, but are especially tasty on a hot summer day by the pool.”

Blair Primis

Who he is: Beer lover behind @QueenCityBeer Twitter handle.

What he recommends: Lenny Boy Brewing Co.’s Tart De La Wit.

Why: “I’ve been hitting Lenny Boy hard this summer,” says Primis of the South End spot that brews both kombucha and beer. “At the moment, both the Tart De La Wit and the ginger kombucha are frequent purchases of mine. Being able to get the kombucha at 7th Street Market is huge for this Fourth Ward resident.”

Eric Mitchell

Who he is: Head brewer at Heist Brewery.

What he recommends: The Bruery’s Hottenroth and Heist Brewery’s Burlin Earl.

Why: “My favorite type of beer to drink in summer would be Berliner Weisse – a German wheat tart ale,” says Mitchell. “The Bruery does a great one called Hottenroth. It is just such a dry, tart, refreshing style. We have our example of this style called Burlin Earl, which is pouring at Heist right now.”

Chris Hunt

Who he is: Owner of Good Bottle Co.

What he recommends: Tröegs Brewing Co.’s Sunshine Pils, 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon, and Deep River Brewing Co.’s Watermelon Lager

Why: “I think summer is a great chance to revisit or try some really easy drinking, low ABV beers,” says Hunt. “One of my favorites currently is Tröegs Sunshine Pils. … This Pils is slightly hoppier than other pilsners while still being easy to drink. I also think fruity beers have been trending upward. 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon and Deep River Watermelon lager are both made with fresh watermelon juice, providing a more refreshing, drinkable fruitiness instead of a Jolly Rancher-like candy sweetness.”