Friday, July 10, 2009

The Beer Cooler

Now that it's summertime we're all going to cookouts, barbecues, pool parties and block parties. Typically at these things you're lucky to get even a Miller Lite, let alone something that actually tastes great. You're also hamstrung by the fact that you're going to be drinking from the bottle or can. I rarely, as in never, drink from the bottle and I've realized over the past couple of days exactly why that is. The beer doesn't quite taste the same way when drank from the bottle (this will be the subject of an upcoming KC Star article so I'll leave it for then). So the question becomes what do you stock up a beer cooler with if you're going to host a party or a bunch of houseguests.

Now over the past couple of days I've been drinking from a beer cooler with selections of Boulevard Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Summer Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Schlafly No. 15, New Belgium Fat Tire and Skinny Dip. I know, woe is me. But, I've really only enjoyed drinking the 2 pale ales, the rest don't quite have the flavor straight from the bottle that I'm used to.

So in the interests of treating your guests to good craft brew balanced by the need to have cold beer available in bottles to cool them down, I thought a list of summer cooler beers should be in order. Keep in mind this is not a list of the best summer beers and it's not a list of great beers. It IS a list of beers that taste good cold, straight from the bottle, reasonable cheap and are accessible to all beer drinkers.
  • Boulevard Pale Ale - We're in KC, you must have a flagship KC beer. Boulevard Wheat is best in a glass and a lot of people might want a lemon. You don't want to deal with all of that trouble. Pale Ale tastes great from the bottle and is available in 12 packs for as cheap as any craft beer.
  • Shiner Bock - It's a popular beer and it tastes good from the bottle. It's a nice choice because it's accessible to the beer novice and tastes nice on a hot day.
  • Leinenkugels Summer Shandy - I went to a lake party last year that only had Busch Light and Miller Lite available. When I saw a couple of people drinking the Summer Shandy I had to ask where they got them (they had brought their own). I craved that beer and it's quite nice to drink on a hot day.
  • Sam Adams Summer Ale - This is one of my favorite summer seasonal beers and it tastes great from the bottle. Again, beer novices know the name Sam Adams, so it's quite accessible and it is quite refreshing.
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - To this day, it's one of my favorite beers. It is better in a glass, but it tastes just great from the bottle as well. If you can convert one novice into a Sierra Nevada drinker, you will have done your job as a host.
  • Big Sky Moose Drool - Brown ales aren't typically thought of as a great warm weather beer, but if you're serving burgers or bbq, it's the perfect style to pair with your food. Moose Drool just happens to taste great from the bottle and seems exotic to the novice. Inexperienced craft beer drinkers will talk about it to all their friends for months. Moose Drool is or should be soon available in cans which makes it even better for the backyard, but if you can only find bottles it's still great.
You can fill up a couple of coolers with these beers for around $60 (12 packs of the Sierra Nevada, Boulevard and Shiner, sixers of the other 3 equalling 54 beers, good for 12-18 people depending on the drinkiness of the crowd). You will also have coolers full of refreshing, good tasting brews that can please a diverse crowd. If you have a couple of hardcore beer drinkers you can use your savings to fill up another cooler full of IPA's and some other challenging beers if you so wish. Just keep in mind what the beer tastes like coming from the bottle.


  1. Would you just man up and keep a pint glass in your car like a respectable drinker, please? You can settle for a red, plastic Solo cup if you must, but I know that you haven't been honing your beer tasting skills all of these years to drink out of plastic.

    Next time you're in your local pub, just walk out with your pint glass like it's the most natural thing in the world. Pop your trunk and slip it in the corner so that it doesn't roll around. Then, next time you find yourself in some bozo's back yard, about to drink a can of watery, American lager, walk out to your car and retrieve your glass. Believe me, it will improve your beer and your mood!


  2. KC Guy, It's possible I didn't get this written correctly, I did write it after 6 beers.

    I'm not grumpy about the whole thing and it reeks of pretentiousness to carry around a pint glass. Also a pint glass with the kids around is a recipe for spilled beer. I'm trying to bring people into the craft beer world and not give them ammo against the beer snob.

  3. The Boulevard Pilsner is decent straight from the bottle.

  4. Honestly, I stopped reading at "Summer Shandy". That is one of the worst excuses for a beer I've ever had. Tasted like they had a bad wheat beer in one hand and fake lemonande in the other and combined. You might as well go all the way and drink Mike's Hard Lemondade or some crap.

  5. I'll add some of my own to your list...

    - Boulevard Single Wide - I think it does great in the bottle.

    - Boulevard Pilsner - just as good in the bottle as in the glass.

    - Fat Tire in cans. Yum

    - The Caldera IPA is better in the can than in the glass, IMHO. Way more grapefruit and hops in the can. I think it concentrates the aroma at the opening of the can or something.

    The downside to the Caldera is $15/6 price tag, especially if you run the risk of having some beerless a-hole grab one from your cooler and then set it down after one sip because "it's gross."

  6. I'll agree on the Summer Shandy, nasty. +1 on the Fat Tire in a can. Talk about a bad a$$ at a bbq, people who don't know good beer will like this. For beer snobs at a BBQ with a bottle I suggest Boulder's Sweaty Betty or New Belgium's Mothership Wit.

    I re-tried the Single Wide after Bull said he loved it and I just can't get in to it. Sorry Bull and BLVD. I waited so long for this beer and I LOVE a hoppy beer but there is something very wrong with this brew and my taste buds.

  7. The summer shandy tastes really good on a hot day outside. I wrote this one after spending the better part of the day outside in the heat and humidity, summer shandy sounded really good.

    No worries, Hophead, about not enjoying the Single Wide. I do like it and don't really enjoy Torpedo, which I'm drinking right now. We're all entitled to our tastes and I don't think there's a right answer either way. I prefer Single Wide.

    As for Fat Tire in cans, I had it in my head but I couldn't recommend it because I haven't had it from the can and don't make recommendations on beers I haven't had. Generally, I'm not that big of a fan of Fat Tire anyway so I left it off.

    Caldera IPA is really good from the can. I left it off for exactly the reason mentioned, it's not accessible to the beer novice and you'd hate to waste a $3 beer on someone who doesn't appreciate it.

  8. I'm not sure about Leinie's "Shandy" but I do like real shandies, radlers, whatever you want to call them. In Germany it's beer mixed with lemon soda, usually, in about a 1:1 proportion.

    Of course, there is also always the "summer beer" which is beer, lemonade and vodka. Ouch.