When it’s hot and muggy, I want my beer light, crisp, perhaps slightly tart, and with an ABV percentage suitable for post-30—OK, post-50—humans. Here are four of my favorites, which cover a bit of geographical and stylistic variety. —Greg Lacour
The Balancer: Western Sky
Town Brewing Company, Wesley Heights
This is a brand-new beer, sort of: Town rolled out a version of this “blood orange American wheat” two years ago. But this is the first round under Head Brewer Federico “Feddy” De La Torre IV, formerly of Twenty-Six Acres Brewing in Concord. Western Sky represents a Venn-diagram overlap of healthy (but not excessive) alcohol content; citrusy pop; and pleasantly grainy flavor. “It’s just a really good warm-weather beer,” says Xavier Siblik, the taproom manager. A sunset beer, you might say.
The Bringer of Citrus: Rewind Lime
Birdsong Brewing Company, Belmont
This one throws me off. Generally, I like lager but do not care for factory-installed lime flavoring. I love Birdsong beer—except their original Rewind Lager, which abrades my palate for reasons that remain mysterious to me. (Taste. Go figure.) The Rewind Lime laughs in my face on both counts: It’s freakin’ delicious, with just the right amount of lime zest and essential oil to enhance its natural lager crispness and thirst-slaking capacity.
The Standby: Czech Please
Lenny Boy Brewing Company, LoSo
Few beers satisfy like a cold Pilsner, and Charlotte brewers produce plenty of outstanding ones. So why do I keep coming back to Czech Please? Maybe it’s the hops content, which is slightly higher than in your standard Pilsner, or its deliberate similarity to the original Pilsners from Bohemia, like Pilsner Urquell. Who knows? Just put some on ice for me. And hey, dig its rad new label with a rendering of the astronomical clock in Old Town Prague. Na zdraví!
The Catcher of Smoke: Gratzer
Southern Strain Brewing Company (collaboration with Divine Barrel Brewing),
Concord and Plaza Midwood
Like “Pilsner,” the word “grätzer” is a Germanization of a Slavic term: “Grodziskie,” from the Polish city of Grodzisk, where this wheat beer was developed in the 15th century. The Prussians eventually took over the region and began to refer to Grodzisk by the Germanic name “Grätz.” Southern Strain, based in Concord, dropped the umlaut but kept the essence of the rare beer style with oak-smoked wheat malt from Epiphany Craft Malt in Durham and Kölsch-style yeast. The result is like a crisp, refreshing Kölsch but with complex flavors at the front end. Pair it with something from a charcoal grill.