15 Beers You Must Try This Summer

Sweltering summer days getting to you? That porter weighing you down? Never fear. We’ve done some painstaking research to determine the best summer beers, gathering recommendations from local experts. These beers are easier to drink at the next backyard barbecue, but they’re nothing short on flavor. Huli pau! 


Ho, get hops!


Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) are hoppy, tangy and refreshing—great for when summer is at its hottest.

Pint and Jigger owner and barman Dave Newman’s favorite summertime IPA is Ballast Point Brewing Co.’s award-winning Sculpin, rated 100 out of 100 on Ratebeer.com. “This is the IPA that I always come back to,” he says. “It brings a smile to my face every time I do. It’s one of the best beers that we have consistently available in Hawaii, with great citrus flavors and a terrific, hoppy finish. At 7 percent ABV [alcohol by volume], you can enjoy a few and not wake up the next morning questioning your choices from the night before.” 

George O’Hanlon, general manager at the Liquor Collection in Kakaako recommends the Simtra Triple IPA from Knee Deep Brewing Co. in California. But, he admits, “[I’ll like] any imperial (very hoppy/high alcohol content) IPA or fresh IPA I can get my hands on. I haven’t had any interest in lagers for many years. I can’t remember the last time I had Heineken or Budweiser.”


Green Flash News Flash

Lucky for us, “One of the world’s best double IPAs will soon be landing on Hawaii's shores,” Newman says. “The West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company is pretty amazing, and a perfect beer for the summer.  It has lots of hops and coming in at over 8 percent ABV, it’s a really refreshing brew with a lot of bang for the buck. [It has] tropical and pine notes with lots of hops on the finish.  It should be available by the end of this month.”


Session Makes a Splash


Moving away from big heavy beers and responding to demand, “A lot of breweries are coming up with full flavor beers low on alcohol,” Brew’d and Real Gastropub owner Troy Terorotua says. Meet the session beer.

Terorotua’s session beer of choice is Ballast Point’s Even Keel.  “It’s low on alcohol percentage, about 3.5 percent,” says Terorotua. “They use 10 different hops and six different malts, they dry hop it, and they use two different yeasts in the fermentation. It’s herbaceous and has a lot of citrus aroma with nice malt [flavor] and a good hoppy finish. It’s a beer you can drink all day.”

Also worth trying is the Taras Boulba, a refreshing Belgian beer. “It’s got a clean flavor, and it’s only 4.5 percent alcohol,” Terorotua says. “You’d never know that, though.”


Deschutes, Brah

Three different barmen were fans of three different beers from Deschutes Brewery—which will you choose?

Real a Gastropub beverage director Anthony Messina recommends the Twilight Summer Ale. “[It has] a distinctive malt body with a refreshing hop profile led by a heady dose of bold Amarillo hops.  This all adds up to a light, citrus, mild but pleasing bitterness that is perfect for someone looking for a summer beer with a little more hops in their life!”

The Chainbreaker White IPA, a Belgian style beer with a lower ABV content of 5.6 percent, has been a best seller and crowd favorite at Pint and Jigger, according to Newman. “This is much more of a session beer, where you can sit down and enjoy pint after pint,” he says. “Lots of floral notes on the nose while being easy drinking makes this a real summertime winner in my book.”

O’Hanlon suggests the Fresh Squeezed IPA limited release. “Crisp and hoppy, it’s extra fresh because it’s a seasonal beer. It’s everything you want from an IPA.”


Pucker Up

If you’re a fan of sours, or feeling adventurous, Messina says you’ve got to try Anderson Valley Holy Gose (4.2 percent ABV). “A Gose is a sour wheat beer seasoned with salt,” he says. “[It] dates back to the medieval times. This refreshingly tart wheat beer was brewed with salted water, coriander, and hops.”


Keeping it Local



A decade ago, Hawaii’s craft brewery scene had slim pickings. But more breweries are opening each year, giving you plenty of ways to show your local pride.

From Kona Brewing Company, try the Castaway IPA or Wailua Wheat. The use of caramel malts and citrusy hops in Castaway makes it taste like bottled paradise.* “IPAs are one of the fastest-growing segments in today’s craft beer industry, and we think mainland craft beer lovers will appreciate how distinctive Castaway is from many current IPA offerings,” brew master Billy Smith says. “The citrus, tropical and mango influences combine with what you’d expect from a typical IPA to create a drinking experience that takes you back to the Islands, where Castaway came from.”

Originally offered as a seasonal summer batch, Wailua Wheat was reintroduced as a year-round Hawaii-only brew this June.  This beer has a crisp passion fruit undertone that pairs well with local foods including grilled mahi mahi, kalua pork, salads and even vanilla ice cream.

The Holy Humulus from Big Island Brew Haus is now available in bottles, and is a favorite of O’Hanlon’s.  It gets its name from humulus lupulus, the scientific name for hops, and uses American whole-cone hop flowers, which give this beer a spicy and floral-citrus flavor combination.

If you’re ready to step away from IPAs and lean into lagers this summer, sip on the Maui Bikini Blonde by Maui Brewing Co.

“It’s fresh, local and doesn’t suffer from long transportation,” O’Hanlon says.


Sun, Surf, and Saison

Honolulu Beerworks is home to one of the few outdoor beer gardens on Oahu, a prime spot for a pau hana drink session. Owner/brewer Geoff Seideman suggests the Pia Mahiai, a honey-citrus saison. “Pia Mahiai actually means ‘farmer’s beer,’” Siedeman says. “We did it in collaboration with Kamehameha Schools. People liked it so much we kept brewing it, and now it’s the second best-seller.” The Pia Mahiai is brewed with local citrus (orange, lemon, lime and tangerine), local lemongrass and Big Island honey. At 5 percent ABV, “It’s a nice light summertime citrusy beer,” he says.

Seideman also recommends the Surf Session IPA, a single hop IPA (Sorachi Ace hops, to be exact,) with low alcohol content (4.5 percent).  “Not everyone likes citrusy beers,” he says. “This is something they can try.”


Still Can’t Get Enough?

Get tickets for the Second Annual Real Beer Festival, August 9, from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at Kakaako’s Gateway Makai Park at Real or Brew’d or online. There will be more than 60 craft beers to try from Hawaii and the Mainland. All proceeds go to the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation.
Brew’d Craft Pub 3441 Waialae Ave., 732-2337, eventbrite.com


Where To Get Your Beer Fix

Honolulu Beerworks, 328 Cooke St., 589-2337

Kona Brewing Company, 7192 Kalanianole Highway Building 1, 396-5662

The Liquor Collection, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd #1200, 524-8808

Pint and Jigger, 1936 S. King St., Suite 101, 744-9593

REAL a Gastropub, 1020 Auahi St., 596-2526



* (Correction, made July 11, 2014: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed lilikoi as one of the ingredients in Kona Brewing Co.'s Castaway IPA.)