There is nothing wrong with being lazy in the summer: Spending hours relaxing next to the pool. Deciding that, actually, it’s too hot to leave your couch and air conditioning on a Saturday afternoon. Choosing one restaurant over another simply because you don’t want to walk an extra two blocks through the sauna-like humidity.
But when it comes to refreshment, you can be a little more impetuous and a little more daring. You don’t need to spend summer drinking the same beer you were drinking three weeks or three months ago.
To help jazz up your summer beer game, we turned to an all-star cross section of the local craft beer community — brewers, bartenders, retailers — to find out what’s in their fridges and coolers right now and what you should bring to the next cookout. We gave them a few restrictions: Beers had to be canned, from a brewery within an easy drive of Washington, and “readily available,” meaning they could be found in local beer shops or at the brewery, and not a one-day-only release.
Beers marked with an * were recommended by multiple people.
Raised By Wolves from D.C.’s Right Proper Brewing Company. Cookout beers have a lot of heavy lifting to do; not only do they have to stand up to greasy burgers, but they also need to pair well with bright grilled vegetables and slaws. — Mari Rodela, president of the DC Brewers Guild
Port City Optimal Wit*. Port City markets Optimal Wit as “sunshine and happiness,” and I have to agree. It’s sunshine in a glass, and I can’t help but smile when drinking it. It’s a crowd-pleaser, which is good when going to a cookout with diverse palates, and it pairs well with many foods. At 4.9 percent, you can drink it throughout the day. — Erika Goedrich, owner, Craft Beer Cellar
Crooked Run Double Vibes. This 5 percent ABV sour is an easy-drinking crowd pleaser and different from what most people are bringing. It’s super-refreshing for cookout. — Jinson Chan, owner, the High Side bar in Fairfax
Crooked Run Brewing’s Heart and Soul IPA. Only 6.5 percent ABV with low to moderate bitterness, dry-hopped with mosaic and packaged in some cool-looking 16-ounce cans. Their core IPA will always be one of my favorites to drink and share with friends at a cookout and talk about the growing craft beer scene in Loudoun County. — Drew Wiles, brewer and co-founder, Solace Brewing Co.
Diamondback Green Machine is a just about perfect hazy IPA for summer: bright, citric, super juicy and lightly bitter. I love it on its own, with a pile of steamed crabs or paired with just about any veggie that hits the grill. — Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group
I really enjoy Manor Hill’s Grisette. It’s light, refreshing and low alcohol, so I can have more than one and still man the grill without accidentally lighting anything on fire. — Julie Verratti, co-founder, Denizens Brewing Co.
RAR Country Ride Pale Ale. I’m a big RAR fan, and this one has long been my favorite from them. Clean, crisp, and delicious, and with a nice, drink-it-all-afternoon kind of ABV. Tried and proven — I’ve taken Country Ride to a couple of barbecues this year, and it was a real crowd-pleaser. — Drew McCormick, beer director for Pizzeria Paradiso
3 Stars Low Hanging Fruit (strawberries). A couple of weeks ago I did just that. It’s a refreshing, lovely fruited sour that has lots of fruit flavor and just the right amount of pucker. — Simon Bee, brewer, Red Bear Brewing Co.
I am loving Ardent Pilsner* in the heat right now. Clean, crisp and soft on the palate, this beer is smooth and crushable. I’m especially partial to the hop profile, since this Pils utilizes Hallertauer Mittelfruh, the epitome of noble hops, and — should you have time to slow down, cool off and consider — shows a subtle floral, spicy, earthy flavor combo that’s mesmerizing. — Greg Engert, beer director, Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Ocelot Brewing’s Sunnyside Dweller*. . It’s a light, crisp 5 percent German Pilsner that is lightly dry-hopped and has a predominant lemon flavor note. Sign me up!— Drew Wiles, brewer and co-founder, Solace Brewing Co.
DC Brau Pilsner *. It’s delicious and exactly what I want in this style of beer. Brau Pils hits that slight bite in the finish perfectly, which makes me want to take that next sip. — Julie Verratti, co-founder, Denizens Brewing Co.
Normally I like my sours to be a little more aggressive, but for a day of pool drinking, I’d go with the Atlas Blood Orange Gose. Slightly tart with hints of fruit, it’s refreshing, which is what I want when drinking by the pool. And only 4.4 percent. — Erika Goedrich, owner, Craft Beer Cellar
Crooked Run Coast. I think this is technically a German style pilsner malt bill, but it’s hopped with New Zealand hops Motueka and Wakatu, and that hop profile is what makes this beer unique. A touch of fruitiness from the NZ hops plays perfectly with the crisp and lightly bready base, making it great for a hot day. — Julie Drews, co-owner, the Brew Shop
3 Stars Trouble in Paradise. 6.5 percent and massively fruited but tropical, tart and refreshing. Instantly reminds of summer. — Jace Gonnerman, beverage director, Meridian Pint, Smoke & Barrel, Brookland Pint
I’m always down for Sun’s Out Hops Out* from Solace; this is the quintessential crushable IPA for me, with not too much sweetness or viscosity. It’s purebred crispy deliciousness, through and through. — Aislin Kavaldjian, general manager of B Side bar
Union Blackwing* black lager offers the dark malts of a stout porter with the light body of a lager. Perfect body and carbonation. We took to this beer back when we were opening the Salt Line. Oysters and stouts have been a traditional pairing that I never really understood, but I love the crisp, clean, carbonated malty notes that Blackwing Lager offers. — Jeremy Carman, co-owner of the Salt Line restaurant
Yeah, I love IPAs, but they just taste really bad when they get warm. So less IPAs. But a can of Orange Starfish IPA from Aslin would be an exception. — Jake Endres, brewer and founder, Crooked Run Brewing
Old Ox Black Ox Rye Porter* . Honestly, Black Ox is a year-round beer for me. At 6 percent ABV, it’s by no means heavy but still has all the robust flavors you want in your porter: roast, chocolate, balanced bitterness. With Black Ox, you’ve also got the addition of rye, which dries out the finish in a nice way and helps keep it feeling light. — Julie Drews, co-owner, the Brew Shop
I’m a “drink what you want when you want” guy, so personally I tend to just go by mood rather than weather, though of course it factors in. There’s been a run of lower ABV IPAs that I’ve been digging lately; specifically DC Brau’s Joint Resolution and Reason’s Collaboration 29, both of which are also 5.5 percent. — Nick Anderson, “beermonger,” Arrowine
DC Brau’s Penn Quarter Porter* is a beer I’ve always really enjoyed in the summer. It’s only 5.5 percent but packed with notes of dark chocolate and espresso. Very light on its feet and surprisingly dry on the finish. Never had an issue enjoying one regardless of the temperature. — Jace Gonnerman, beverage director at Meridian Pint, Smoke & Barrel, Brookland Pint
Bluejacket Lost Weekend. This beer highlights what IPAs can be when brewers aren’t trying to outdo each other on IBU’s and they keep the turbidity in check. It’s approachable for almost anybody because of that . . . and it’s all Citra, so nobody’s complaining. — Mike Van Hall, label designer for Aslin and Stillwater breweries
An IPL! The India Pale Lager “style” is one of my favorite hybrids. Solace Mugatu is now available in (very cool) cans, and ideal for something light, crisp, and still perfectly hoppy. — Erin Gilbert, assistant beer director at Pizzeria Paradiso
Although none of the beers recommended here are difficult to find — some are regularly found in the beer aisle of local supermarkets — it’s easiest to stock up at a beer shop known for having the most interesting new releases. Here are four of the region’s best.
Arrowine : Many shops tweet about new beer arrivals, but few shops do so like Arrowine. “Beermonger” Nick Anderson is responsible for the extensive recommendations in the shop’s weekly newsletters and an every-other-Friday column on community news site ARLnow.com. Browsing the shelves at this Arlington shop is as rewarding as reading: Anderson works hard to have an interesting, balanced collection of new and local beers, and runs weekly tastings where you’ll find fruited sours pouring next to hoppy IPAs. 4508 Lee Hwy., Arlington.
The Brew Shop : Founded by two home-brewers, this Court House store stocks supplies for those who make beer as well as those who just want to drink the stuff. The shop is particularly strong on smaller Virginia breweries like Vasen, Ardent, Solace and Crooked Run. The Brew Shop has a build-your-own six-pack wall, and although the choices are frequently less compelling than the new releases in the coolers, staff are happy to break up premade four-packs or six-packs on request if you want only a can or two. A nice selection of taps is used for filling growlers as well as weekly Friday evening and Saturday afternoon tastings. 2004 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Craft Beer Cellar : This is the curious craft beer lover’s best bet in Washington: Any of the hundreds of cans and bottles lining the walls can be purchased as a single. Part of a six-pack? Just break it up and put it in your basket. What makes the H Street NE shop worth repeat visits, though, is the quality of the selection. Craft Beer Cellar usually stocks cans from the region’s top breweries, including just-released IPAs and sours, and also is the place to find limited-edition selections from national breweries, such as Allagash, Oxbow and Stillwater, both in bottles and in crowlers filled from the store’s taps. (Follow the store on social media for big national drops from the likes of Toppling Goliath or Country Boy.) There’s also a solid selection of imports, focused on Belgian and German beers. 301 H St. NE.
Downtown Crown Wine and Beer : Montgomery County beer stores don’t have the best rep, but Downtown Crown has become a major regional player. The Gaithersburg shop is best known for its “drops” — random allotments of craft beer cans that are rarely found outside a brewery. So far this year, Downtown Crown has welcomed special releases from New York’s Other Half and Maryland’s RAR and Burley Oak, among others announced on social media. But don’t think that Downtown Crown is just a special-occasion destination: The shop regularly stocks cans from such Maryland breweries as Black Flag, Elder Pine and Key, while offering a solid mix of 22 drafts to take away in growlers. 303 Copley Pl., Gaithersburg.