You know the old saying, “Seasons change, trends come and go, but lager is forever.” Or, something like that, you get it.
Many of us are seasonal beer drinkers. We want fruity, funky sours in the summer and roasty, chocolatey stouts in the winter. Then there’s occasion-specific beer drinking: rare Belgian styles for celebrations, pastry stouts around the holidays, all things crisp and crushable for game days. And/or, there’s yet another layer, which is exploring beer trends. Hazy, juicy New England IPAs, bright, bitter West Coast IPAs, fruit- and lactose-packed sours. Basically, there’s a big world of big flavors out there. It’s what makes being a craft beer fan so fun and it’s what keeps us on our tores. There’s always something new to try, and there’s always some festivity or particular situation that calls for a certain craving to be filled. Being a craft beer drinker is exciting, what-a-time-to-be-alive stuff.
But that kind of hullabaloo requires something to balance it out. You can’t drink triple IPAs all day because of the ABV and because the flavors are indeed just so bold. That’s a wonderful thing to savor for a bit, but then your palate becomes fatigued. You become thirsty for something crisp, clean, refreshing, thirst-quenching, easy-drinking. Something that doesn’t demand every iota of your attention, that you can just, purely and simply, enjoy. Something that lets whatever you’re doing take center stage, whether that’s catching up with friends, spending quality time with family, watching your favorite TV show or sports team, rocking out at a concert, taking in killer views on vacation--literally anything; whatever you’re doing, it’s something truly special for the beer in your hand to enhance the situation and not become the situation. A good beer makes an experience better and the experience makes the beer better.
The beers we’re talking about are the beers that should always be in your fridge. Staple beers. Flagship beers. Necessity beers. All-weather beers. Cravings come and go, trends come and go, holidays come and go, seasons come and go. Wilder beers with wilder flavors will cycle through that fridge, but you need a hero beer that’s always got you. It’s ready to pair with any dish or snack. You know exactly what you’re getting, so you know you’re cracking into delicious refreshment after a hard day’s work. These beers are the quiet stars of the craft constellation, promising to never let you down. They’re the kinds of beers you stay true to forever.
So, especially right before we ramp up with all the fun and cheery holiday madness and geek out over unique beers with fascinating ingredients, we think it’s important to stock up on the essentials. Make sure you’ve got those covered before you start going all free jazz on your beer shopping. Finally, without further ado, here are some of our top picks for the year-round, year-after-year staple beers we all need.
Sunday Beer Light & Tight Lager
The good folks at Sunday Beer Company specifically designed this beer to be something of high, craft quality and something with truly savorable flavor, but also something that’s super light and easy-drinking so you can just throw one or two or three back over the course of a day hanging with friends and not think too much about it or suffer the consequences. Light & Tight is 3.8% so it delivers flavor and refreshment without holding you back a smidge.
Gay Beer Golden Lager
Built meaningfully around community, Gay Beer’s Golden Lager is intentionally created to be enjoyed in truly any setting, and for friends and neighbors to be able to drink them throughout the course of, say, brunches that turn into afternoon hangs that turn into dinners. With notes of honey and crisp citrus balanced against ultimate refreshment, this 5% lager famously pairs with any food and is also great in a beer cocktail.
Ross Brewing Shrewsbury Lager
Ross’s Shrewsbury Lager is an amber style, so it’s got a hint of toasty, grahammy, ever-so-subtle caramelly-ness balanced by just the right amount of hops and a crisp, dry finish. In other words, it doesn’t hold back on flavor but it delivers said flavor in such a crushable, irresistible, versatile format.
Tivoli Brewing Mile Hi Hefe
We’ve got to get a wheat beer in here, as the style is absolutely perfect for a staple. Tivoli’s Mile Hi Hefe demonstrates why: there’s sweet wheaty-ness, a touch of spices, a whisper of citrus--all done light, clean, crisp, and dry-finishing. Tivoli’s version just so happens to be extra sessionable and thirst-quenching.
Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner
Jack’s Abby specifically dreamed up the Post Shift Pilsner to be incredibly versatile--this beer is ready to be cracked and savored whenever the mood strikes. It’s everything that has made this traditional German style such an enduring favorite, with plenty of malt and hop flavor balanced against a crisp mouthfeel, light body, clean-leaning character, and dry finish. An extra good pairing? Drink this pilsner while catching up on our latest podcast episode, an interview with Jack’s Abby about their pitch-perfect lagers.
Oyster Bay Brewing Company IPA
Look, we love our hazies, too. We think it’s a huge win that craft brewers are so creative, every day they’re innovating and pushing the envelope on what flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel can capture in an IPA. But you need a home base, a North Star in your hop journey. A beer that shakes off all the bells and whistles and lets the hops shine. Oyster Bay’s IPA is a clean classic, pure and simple, with just the right amount of bitterness. Cascade, Mosaic, and Centennial hops treat this beer to delicious tropical fruit and citrus notes, especially grapefruit.
Japas Cervejaria Sawā Yuzu
Japas Cervejaria applies its beautiful knack for Japanese flavors to creating a sour ale that always delights and refreshes. Sawā Yuzu is a 4.7% beer that delivers the huge, sweet, tart, bright, dreamy, thirst-quenching flavors of a fruited sour, without the over-the-top-ness, smoothie or milkshake thickness, or cloying candy-like quality of many other fruited sours. The lemony, grapefruity yuzu is pleasantly acidic, and Amarillo and Cascade hops in the dry-hop further emphasize the citrus alongside a dry crispness.
EBBS Gose No. 1
A sweet yet tart explosion of real fruit flavor is a no-brainer when you want to be truly refreshed, and that kind of beer cools you down on hot days yet still quenches your thirst in the winter. It makes your favorite foods shine. And it promises to be a hit with your friends and family. The Gose No. 1 from EBBS demonstrates the brewery’s signature focus on straightforward beers that always hit the spot. It’s light and crisp watermelon with a hint of saltiness at the end for a cocktail vibe that’s much more sessionable and versatile.
Mayflower Brewing Company Porter
When you want to venture over to the dark side, but you want something classic, traditional, guaranteed to please, a mouthwatering rendition of everything good about a dark beer from roastiness to chocolatey-ness, without doughnuts or cookies or chocolate bars thrown in, it’s got to be Mayflower’s Porter. Warming and dancing with delicious coffee notes, this porter embraces all the traditional goodness of this centuries-old style.
Athletic Brewing Company Upside Dawn Golden Ale
Perhaps there is no more round-the-clock, ideal-in-any-and-every-situation staple than a tasty, complex-yet-crushable, craft version of non-alcoholic beer from Athletic Brewing Company. The Upside Dawn Golden Ale is an example of how much flavor you can enjoy in a beer without any booze. It means you can scratch the beer itch--and with much deliciousness to boot--in the middle of the day, after a workout, when you’re kicking back at night but have an early morning…beer doesn’t get more essential than this.