So many craft breweries carry a reputation for being big, bold, and boozy. But increasingly, small, innovative breweries are also aiming squarely at more accessible beers that are crisp, drinkable, and even low-calorie – just right to take to the ballpark or to drink by the ocean. For a relaxing afternoon on the sand, choose sessionable beers with less than 5 percent ABV, says Doug Odell, owner and co-founder of Odell Brewing Company. "You want to be able to have a few without falling asleep in the sun," he says.
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We suggest keeping your cooler stocked with clean, crisp craft beers that aren't too hoppy – true thirst quenchers. Odell says he saves warm-weather beers with bigger flavors, such as a non-sessionable IPAs or full-bodied lagers, for nighttime hangouts around beach bonfires. Here are 15 beers you'll want to stock.
Captain Lawrence Captain's Kolsch
We can't think of a better way to hang on to the fading glory of summertime than with a Kolsch. We've long been champions of this light underappreciated type of ale that masquerades as a lager. The style originated in Cologne, Germany, but American craft brewers – like Captain Lawrence Brewing Company (out of Westchester, New York) – are taking some liberties with the classic brew. The Captain's Kolsch, one of the most popular beers from the company, is one example that shows the power of American hops while letting the best, easy-drinking aspects of the classic brew alone.
The aroma and flavor here is a study in subtlety and balance. Light graham cracker malt flavors are held in check by snappy hop spice notes. Thanks to a modest addition of Crystal hops (an American hop primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest), there is a touch more bite here than in a traditional German example – as well as a new dimension of spicy, herbal notes, but not so much as to distract from the basic, easy-drinking beer (it has just 5% alcohol). In all, it's refreshingly clean with slight hints of the fruity zing that great ale yeasts impart.
Like the rest of the Captain Lawrence beers, bottles of the Captain's Kolsch are emblazoned with the image of a beer barrel engulfed in flames and bearing the brewery's initials. Likewise, Captain Lawrence respects old world traditions without being shy about offering an exciting American take on the style. Still, we suggest you drink this one in the original glass, served in eights in a traditional kranz. [captainlawrencebrewing.com]