Our collection of the best summer craft beers from the 13 western states
Cracking open a few craft beers after a day on the trail/slopes/lake/river/rockwall has been a time honored tradition for outdoor adventurists across the West. And, similar to the steadily improving evolution of mountain bikes, trial running shoes, SUPs, and hydration packs; the art of brewing craft beer has also evolved – improving as it marches ever onward through the West’s massive community of hard working and talented craft brewers. Every spring, as the West begins the thaw from winter’s snowy breath, brewers from Alaska to New Mexico anticipate the thirsty revelers of summer and prepare new, bolder and more interesting beers for us to savor. Good craft beer however does more than just extend the post #loam shredding buzz… today’s experience is all about all about developing an appreciation for the taste and skill of the brewer while soaking in the cultural benefits of a friendly place to hang your helmet after a hard day on the trail.But with so many high quality breweries across the west and so many fantastic beers available to us, it can be intimidating to look beyond your tried and true favorites. So every season at B&R, we explore the 13 Western States and curate a high quality list of creative craft beers to inspire your thirsts and quench your appetite for the harder to find varieties of golden malted barley, hops and mountain spring water… as the case may be. So without further delay…
Rocky Mountain Region
Colorado – Breckenridge Brewery Mango Mosaic IPA – Littleton
Kicking off our list is Colorado beer pioneer, Breckenridge Brewery, whose Mango Mosaic Pale Ale is a summertime favorite at B&R Magazine. The American Pale Ale brings together Mosaic hops with its’ floral, tropical, earthy characteristics and the refreshing citrusy mango for a quintessential summertime brew that is perfect after a hike in Colorado’s high country. ABV: 45.5%
Wyoming – Snake River Brewing – Monarch Pilsner – Jackson Hole
Wyoming is home to some of the country’s biggest wide open spaces, it’s first original National Park (Yellowstone), and growing craft beer community. Snake River Brewing, two time winner of the Small Brewery of the Year, has built a reputation for brewing high quality craft beers for over 20 years – capitalizing on the work hard/play hard ethic of their community – giving recreators a place to celebrate the day’s spoils. Their Monarch Pilsner, named after 8 point bull elks common to the region, is a complex pilsner – combining the characteristics of a light colored lager with flowery hop aromas, malty sweetness and a firm bitter finish.
Montana – Big Sky Brewing – Summer Honey Golden Ale – Missoula
Missoula, Montana’s Big Sky Brewing Company is the 50th largest brewery in the US, which is just about the perfect size for their liking… Big enough to bring in several major headlining acts for their Summer Concert Series (String Cheese Incident, Sublime, Dirty Heads, Lord Huron), but small enough to still fit in with small town living in Missoula. Their Summer Honey American Blonde Ale is characterized by its rich, full flavors combined with slight but noticable honey sweetness. Released on May 1st every year, Summer Honey is a perfect bluebird brew for riverside fishing or backyard BBQ’s.
Utah – Uinta Brewing – Hop Nosh Tangerine IPA – Slat Lake City
Uinta’s Hop Notch was transformed and re-imagined as Hop Nosh in 2014 as a top shelf IPA and was enthusiastically received by Uinita’s craft beer crowd. This seasonally available citrusy variation plays on the IPA’s clean, hop forward character (chinook and galaxy) & combines it with big tropical aromatics sourced from tangerine zest. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, be sure to stop by Uinta’s adventuresome inspired brewery to sip a few in the lee of some of the country’s most beautiful mountains and near one of the country’s most interesting bodies of water.
Desert Southwest and InterMountain West
Arizona – Papago Brewing – Orange Blossom Wheat Ale, Vanilla & Mandarin – Scottsdale
Scottsdale’s Papago Brewery has been playing around with craft beer ever since 2001 when they originally opened as a bottle shop and homebrew supply store. Today they carry on the tradition, brewing some of Arizona’s best beer since they evolved into their own brewery. Their Orange Blossom Ale is Papago’s is available year round and is their most popular beer, which makes sense given the city’s extra long, extra hot climate. It pours golden yellow and smells like orange citrus with hints of vanilla and drinks super, super easy. Be sure to grab some the next time you’re headed to either Havasupai Falls or the local pool… it pairs well with both.
Nevada – Joseph James Brewing – Citra Rye APA – Henderson
Coming in with our only Rye Ale, Nevada’s Jospeh James’ Citra Rye Pale Ale adds some bready, malty character to our list of the Western State’s best summer beers. It’s an award winning Pale Ale with 2 row Vienna and Rye malts, accentuated by Centennial and Citra hops combining to bring out lychee, gooseberry and passionfruit aromatics. It’s balanced, crisp and springboards you into your second, third, fourth…
New Mexico – La Cumbre – Fievre D’ Abricot Apricot Saison/Farmhouse Ale – Albuquerque
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment and their unbelievable Hatch green chilies.. but t
hat’s not all. La Cumbre and the state’s other talented brewers are putting the beer culture of NM on the map for enthusiasts the world over. This summer seasonal beer steps up to the plate to deliver on the promise with 2,000 extra pounds of apricots to add a deliciously fruity citrus hints to their spicy saison/farmhouse ale. Packing a wollop with 7.5% ABV, it’s also one of our higher alcohol content beers to boot.
Idaho – Payette Brewing Co – Blood Orange Rustler IPA – Boise
Payette is Idaho’s biggest brewer and it takes the business of craftbeer very seriously. Their Blood Orange Rustler is a fruity IPA that blends hoppiness with a little orange twang for summer fun. This beer’s Chinook, Centennial and Columbus hops are just as much at home while floating the Boise River as they are in your backyard BBQ. ABV: 6.2%
Alaska – Denali Brewing Co – Louisville Sour Ale – Talkeetna
There are a ton of fantastic brewers in Alaska doing incredible things during the *ahem* summer months, but Talkeetna based Denali Brewing has an ace up its sleeve – its’ Lousville Sour Ale. With primary fermentation occurring in American oak barrels, this medium bodied golden ale is refreshingly tart with a bit of lemon zest punctuating oaky, woody flavors. Ask for it the next time you’re kicking back and enjoying a 4 hour long sunset. ABV: 5.1%
Oregon – Breakside Brewery – Liquid Sunshine Pilsner – Portland
Portland’s darling child, Breakside Brewery, is a true locals favorite in a town where cicerones can have their pick of the litter. It’s a humble location that’s always busy, and if you stop by for a Liquid Sunshine German style Pilsner, you’ll see why. A wonderful golden Pilsner that’s more hoppy than typical, but is complemented by a small amount of citrus and grain flavor. #Sessionable. ABV: 5.2%
Washington – American Brewing – American Blonde Kolsch – Edmonds
American Brewing Co.’s (ABC if your a local) American Blonde Kolsch is a Bronze medal winner at the 2014 Washington Beer Awards and it shows. Silky smooth with a lingering hoppy bitterness that finishes dry, their Kolsch has with a touch of with honey sweetness and fruity flavors to compliment the delicate European hops. The higher carbonation brings out all the flavors and makes for a relaxing summer brew.
California – Sierra Nevada Brewing Kellerweiss – Hefeweizen – San Diego
Billed as a true artisan experience, Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweiss is brewed in open topped fermentation tanks, allowing the yeasts to commingle with the atmosphere adding a certain amount of unpredictability to their seasonal hefeweizen. Inspired by traditional Bavarian techniques, the result is a hazy wheat ale with full fruity aromas and notes of spicy clove and banana bread. ABV: 4.8%
Hawaii – Kona Brewing Lemongrass Luau – Kailua on The Island of Kona
It may say Lemongrass, but ginger is what gives this beer it’s inspiring character. If you love ginger, you’ll love Kona Brewing’s Lemongrass Luau. Light bodied and crisp, this herbed/spiced ale hides nothing from the drinker – revealing lemongrass and ginger from fist quaff through the finish of the last sip without ever being overwhelming. What else could you ask for when you’re basking in an exotic paradise, but exotic tastes?