Summer Beer: The Picks

The 25 Best Beers to Drink This Summer

We asked five Portland brewers, cicerones, and other insiders to choose the 25 best summer beers. Only two rules: no beers they themselves had a hand in, and only beers from the Portland area.

By Holly Amlin, Lucy Burningham, Whitney Burnside, Natasha Godard, and Lee Hedgmon Photography by Michael Novak and Brian Breneman June 25, 2019 Published in the July 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Lucy Burningham

Craft beer expert, author, and certified cicerone Lucy Burningham is one of the most recognizable names in Portland beer. (She also occasionally writes for Portland Monthly.)

Level Ready Player One “I pair this funky and refreshing, dry-hopped saison with anything from the grill. And I love the nerdy can art. A beer seller in Japan told me people there love Level’s cans because they conjure up natsukashii, which loosely translates to ‘happy nostalgia.’”

Ex Novo Marryin’ Berries “This beer is a delicious take on a classic German gose, with its juicy berries and hint of wheat. But let’s be honest. We should judge this one based on its appearance: a hibiscus-hued bombshell that makes every rosé wine pale in comparison.”

Occidental Edel-Hell* “Not enough brewers attempt Helles lagers, but Occidental wasn’t scared. It’s golden in the glass (bling!) and drinks authentic: round, bready, with a zing of spicy hops.”

Breakside Kids These Haze “A mash-up of the bitter bite of a West Coast IPA with the soft juiciness of an East Coast hazy. Head brewer Ben Edmunds created this beer in honor of his students at Lewis & Clark, who took his class on the art, science, and business of beer. Based on the label, I like to think he let the kids make out in class.”

Zoiglhaus Pils “A few years ago, I put together a panel on pilsners for Feast, so I spent the summer drinking all the pilsners (job perks). This one—brewed with German malt, hops, and yeast—left the others in the dust. I can’t get enough of its elegant complexity.”

*Disclosure: Portland Monthly’s managing editor is married to a brewer and co-owner at Occidental. She had nothing to to with these picks, but she approves of them!

Holly Amlin

Holly Amlin runs, a local hub for beer and festival reviews. A writer, marketer, and social media influencer, Amlin says her aim is to make beer more accessible to everyday drinkers, especially women.

Little Beast Hot Break “The moment I tried this beer, I knew it would be my summer go-to. I’m a big fan of sour beers, but I don’t usually take them on outdoor excursions with me. This beer changed my mind. It’s approachable, finessed, and the label is cute as hell.”

Occidental Altbier* “This beer always surprises me. It clocks in at 5.3 percent ABV, yet carries an admirable level of flavor. It’s a little malty, a little bitter, yet doesn’t overwhelm. This amber-colored beer speaks to hop lovers and dark beer fans alike, and it comes in a tallboy. Score.”

Ruse Pilsner “Since they opened their own space last summer, Ruse Brewing has been wowing me. They’ve mastered the art of barrel-aged beers, hazy IPAs, and more delicate lager styles. If I’m not sipping on a foeder-aged, fruited sour from them, I’m drinking the pilsner.”

Culmination Sour Flower “This Northeast Portland brewery rotates fruit additives in this beer seasonally. In the past, they’ve done blackberry hibiscus, tangerine pomegranate, and raspberry lime. It’s just sour enough, and always pleasant.”

Wayfinder Hidden Hand “Dark lagers need love, too, and this one gets most of mine. Whenever I’m looking for a light beer with a little more oomph, I drink Hidden Hand. It has plenty of roasted malt flavor, but it’s smooth and light on the bitterness."

Lee Hedgmon 

Lee Hedgmon brews at gluten-free outfit Ground Breaker and works as a distiller at Freeland Spirits. She’s known, among other things, for developing perfectly balanced dessert beers.

Heater Allen Pils “I have great respect for brewer Lisa Allen and the dedication it takes to not rush out a beer and give it the full amount of lager time it deserves. It’s malty and balanced and easy to sip or gulp down. This pilsner is hands down my favorite beer to drink all year round.”

Montavilla Brew Works Körabräu Helles ”Sometimes I like to read newspapers through the glass because it is so clear. If I drink more than two beers in a sitting it’s because this one goes down so easy I can’t stop at just one.”

Gateway Smoked IPA “One of my favorite neighborhood nanobreweries (we live a half mile from each other). This IPA has just the right amount of smokiness. It doesn’t remind me of being burned at the stake in a past life. Sweet, dry, a little tannic. The hops lend it green earthiness and pepper notes.”

54°40’ Sa’bro IPA “If I find a 54°40’ beer on tap somewhere I usually give it a go, because [brewer] Bolt Minister holds a special place in my brewing history. He hired me for my first real brewery job. Most important lesson I learned from him was how to balance a brewing career and a family life. This beer is visually stunning in its clarity, with delicious, juicy citrus and blueberry notes. First few sips and I immediately start craving a slice of lemon pound cake.”

Zoiglhaus Zoigl-Weiss “This beer has a deep clove and light banana flavor and aroma and a tart brightness, hinting at lemon. I worked under [Zoiglhaus brewer] Alan Taylor back in the day, and he taught me so much about German beer styles, about good brewing habits and processes.”

Whitney Burnside

The brewmaster at 10 Barrel’s Portland pub is a local superstar in the beer scene, known for churning out pitch-perfect IPAs and sours.

Ecliptic Capella Porter This is one of my go-to beers during any season. Beer drinkers tend to shy away from darker beers when the weather starts warming up, and I think that is just silly! The darker color often gives the misconception that it’s very heavy and filling. The Capella satisfies me in the way an ice-cold cold brew coffee would. It is truly the perfect porter, and I appreciate classic styles done flawlessly.”

Ecliptic and Firestone Walker Cosmic Collaboration Hazy Double IPA “Like a pineapple rum punch cocktail, this knocks me over with huge
flavors of pineapple, coconut, rum, and citrus.”

Upright Brewing Kopstootje Bier de Garde “This beautifully complex beer is so creative in both the concept and execution. With its inspiration coming from the Dutch gin Geneva, this Bier de Garde was brewed with many of the grains and spices typically used when producing the spirit and aged in local vermouth barrels. Floral and herbaceous with pops of orange, ginger, juniper, and light fruit notes.”

Grains of Wrath Sin Fronteras “A damn tasty and well-constructed Mexican lager that is almost too refreshing. This cerveza has just the right hint of lime and uses one of my favorite hops, Motueka.” 

Breakside Oligarch Imperial Stout “Sticky and sweet and oh, what a treat! This is my dessert beer. I love sipping this stout and enjoying each of its beautifully rich layers and velvety smooth bourbon-barrel character. It pours warmth directly into my heart.”

Natasha Godard

Cicerone Natasha Godard is a biologist turned beer writer. When she’s not working at homebrewing store F. H. Steinbart, she combines her interest in science with fermentation at her internet home,

Baerlic Nice & Easy Gose “A lovely tartness, fun fruity flavors, and an easy-drinking manner. Baerlic is also deeply associated with friendship in my mind. I was introduced to the brewery by a now-deceased friend, and it’s the spot my buddy and I most often go grab beers—and when we do, this gose is what I’m drinking until it’s gone.”

Old Town White Walker IPA "I was introduced to this Northeast neighborhood gem when I sat next to then-assistant brewer Kevin at a bar in Vancouver. I love that it’s an orange bomb with notes of coriander, but the hops don’t hide.”

Ground Breaker Pale Ale “Until I tried this, I didn’t think gluten-free-ingredient beers could hang with barley-based beers. Most still can’t, but this isn’t ‘good for a GF beer’—it’s plain good.”

Upright Oyster Stout “Just a fabulous expression of the style. Luscious.”

Fortside Barrel-Aged Kanaka “I enjoy woody, bourbon flavors more often than I enjoy ‘imperial’ ABV. This is a lovely beer and a wonderful departure from the bourbon-barrel-aged beer norm.”

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