Beer is, of course, wonderful for weathering these dog days, and though nearly any beer tastes pretty great in hot weather, there are some brews that are particularly effective cool-me-downs.
Germany has more traditional styles of wheat beer than any other brewing culture, and many of these brews were designed with refreshment in mind. From the hazy hefeweizen to the tart Berliner weisse, these styles -- and the American craft brewery's interpretation of them -- make for sublime summertime drinks.
Why does wheat turn a barley-based beer into a cooling potion? The extra protein in wheat gives the beer a smooth, slightly creamy mouthfeel, and it will add a pleasant dryness to the finish. Wheat also provides a subtle, crisp tartness -- like a squirt of lemon in a glass of ice water. Add some interesting yeasts to the mix and the resulting brew gets more fruity and complex -- or even more tart and acidic.
The hefeweizen is likely the first of this family to come to mind, and these brews match the crisp citrus character of the wheat with the signature fruity and spicy yeast character.
Hefeweizen literally means "with yeast," and the unfiltered brews are hazy with the suspended yeast. If you find the clove and banana flavors of the standard hefes a little overwhelming, try the kristal weizen variant that filters out much of the yeast for a sparkling and even more refreshing beer. Old World producers such as Weihenstephaner and Paulaner are easily found in bottles and on draught around Los Angeles, and there are plenty of American craft versions of this popular wheat beer (try the outstanding Kellerweis from Sierra Nevada).
The Berliner weisse is another historical style that's made a big comeback in recent years, and the style is best known for its intense tartness, lower alcohol content and thirst-quenching ability.
Orange County's The Bruery bottles Hottenroth, a complex example with a manageable tartness and crisp crackery malt flavor. Bell's Brewery Oarsman is another low-alcohol version that's easily found in bottle shops, and Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery packs peaches into their seasonal Festina Peche.
The hottest German wheat beer style these days may be the gose. Native to the industrial areas of northern Germany, the gose (pronounced "goes-ah") is tart like the Berliner weisse, but the acidity is more restrained.
The style also commonly features the addition of coriander to add a subtle floral and spicy quality, and gose is perhaps best known for tasting salty. It isn't overwhelming like seawater-salty but the salinity should certainly be noticeable, and once you're used to the subtly salty twang, the gose becomes a nearly unbeatable thirst-quencher.
Light in body and low in alcohol with a gentle tartness and subtly salty finish, the gose is the beer world's equivalent to Gatorade.
Anderson Valley Brewing's canned gose -- The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose -- is an excellent introduction to the style, and the Bay Area's Almanac Brewery makes a couple of gose varieties. Golden Gate Gose is a traditional take and is available in bottles, while Meyer Lemon Gose adds citrus for an even lighter, tarter thirst-quencher.
So as the mercury rises during the next late-summer heat wave, leave the "lawnmower beers" and light lagers in the fridge, and instead reach for a traditional German-style wheat beer -- brews built to combat the summer swelter.