The 8 Best Craft Beers For Summer Sipping—and Pairing

Food & Drink

Full disclosure: I’m not a big beer drinker. And I’m most certainly not an expert.

But certain occasions and special dishes call for nothing less than a superb brew. Especially in the summer. Think about it: Do you really want an upscale fancypants cocktail—replete with liquid smoke and garnishes galore—with your all-the-fixins hotdog? No, of course not. You want an ice-cold beer, preferably something brewed with integrity and creativity. (That means zero Bud Light Limes, por favor.)

Thankfully, I have friends in the industry who point me in the right direction whenever I need solid beer recommendations. This time, I was put in touch with the gentlemen at the helm of New York City-based Torch & Crown Brewing: Joe Corriea (the brewery’s cofounder and head brewer) and Christian Pappanicholas (the business’ operating manager).  

Correia, along with business partner John Dantzler, bought their first home-brew kit more than a decade ago. And after several successful beer formulations, the pair thought of it as a viable business and dreamt of starting their own brewery one day. Fast forward to 2017 and Torch & Crown was born—after Correia studied chemistry to make passage through the doors of the brewing world, while Pappanicholas dug deep into finance to get a handle on the business side of things. These days, the company operates a full-production brewery in the Bronx, where their beer is produced and distributed throughout New York City.

Suffice it to say, both Correia and Pappanicholas know their brews. And as true believers, they are fond of their own creations as well as that of others. “We’ve brewed a ton of IPAs since Torch & Crown started,” Corriea says. “Almost Famous was the first one that we released and is still our standing favorite—hazy, juicy, with a bunch of stone fruit that’s on the drier side.”

“Almost Famous was the beer that made me like IPAs. I’m typically not a fan of the style but this was balanced and not kick-your-teeth hoppy,” Pappanicholas adds. “I think this beer has great acidity and that makes me want to eat something fatty and rich. I want this beer to help me wash down whole roasted pork shoulder, sort of like barbecue, with a dash of sauce made from summer herbs and hot green habaneros. Something in this beer feels grassy, which makes it a solid pairing for a green sauce that has some heat.” 

“We were also really happy with how Tenement came out,” Corriea says. “Pilsners are all about time and execution. We used a largely traditional base but added a touch of modern hops and a 100-plus-day lagering time. The result is a traditional-esque pilsner that has a touch of modern hops rounded out by subtle notes of floral and red berry.”

As expected, the two are also hyperaware of all the other best beers in the market—and they were kind enough to talk about a few of their favorites.

“There are two sectors of the beer market that get me most excited,” Corriea says. “The first are well executed, delicate beers that are simple and refreshing—everyday drinkers without intense flavors to hide behind, showcasing the technique of the team putting them together. The second are beers that truly highlight the creativity of the brewers behind them. There are always bonus points for when a brewery consistently does both! The rest of the list is populated with legacy beers responsible for getting me interested in beer in the first place.”

The Best Beers for Summer Sipping


“Mad Tree Brewing has been a favorite of mine for a long time,” Corriea says. “And this beer brings me back to my days as a brewer on the West Coast with notes of pine, caramel, and bright citrus. It’s awesome.”


“This is an American classic and an amazing beer.” Corriea says. “It’s got a rustic malt character, a complex spice aroma, and a lingering finish. It’s been one of the best saisons in the U.S. for a long time.” Pappanicholas adds: “This beer has a great history for me. It always reminds me of summer because my first restaurant, Resto, was a Belgian bistro where we made lots of mussels. Come summer, we would steam the mussels in leaks, garlic, coriander seed, Hennepin, zest lemon, and occasionally Buddha’s Hand and top with cilantro to finish. I love the malt and citrus with shellfish. It’s also a beer that I’ve been able to blindly recognize on multiple occasions.”


“This beer has a huge berry flavor that you taste upfront, that’s followed by a smooth and pronounced citrus-like acidity,” Corriea says. “The banana and vanilla notes balance out the acidity while adding another layer of complexity.”


“This is a great traditional German pilsner (a pilsner malt and 100% Hallertau Mittelfruh),” Corriea says. “It’s crisp and clean with some notes of earthy pine and lemon, and a must-have when you’re in Jersey.”


“Love these guys here in New York City,” Corriea says. “No shortcuts. This is a house culture, foeder fermented berliner made with passionfruit. The mango notes from the Mosaic hops really drive this home. The flavor is as clean, refreshing, and nuanced as their process.” 


“Straight from the land of sky-blue waters, this beer just does what it should,” Corriea says. “Making it a very successful beer in my book.”


“Fifth Hammer is a standard for me,” Corriea says. “This particular beer is minimalism through addition. Passionfruit, mango, strawberry, blood orange, and guava all reinforce a sour that’s great by itself.” 


“Jack’s Abby is always topnotch and this beer is a rare find on the East Coast where black lagers are few and far between, with ones as good as this one even rarer,” Corriea says. “Great for a session and dry enough to keep me coming back.”

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