I have met a lot of great people at beer bars. Whether the conversation starts with an apology for bumping elbows or parachuting into someone's conversation, there's a good chance they won't act like you've tried to cut them off in traffic. Plus, there's always beer to talk about if the conversation stalls out - most people are there for the same reason, after all. I like beer bars, but June is hardly a time for working on your hunchback impression over rings stained into a wooden bar, is it? No, ma'am. The recent spate of thunderstorms have currently left my basement in good condition to solve the drought problems of the entire American southwest, but it's still outdoor drinking season, dammit.
Outdoor drinking, especially outdoor day drinking, is the best drinking. Park, yard, beach, rocky outcrop in the Dolomites, it doesn't matter: you've already escaped the four walls which house most of life's tedium. Simply getting outside at all apparently makes us happier all on its own, but a drink in the hand does tend to add a certain air of possibility.
It used to irritate me to no end throughout my entire twenties that every time I went to a party with a keg, it was invariably light beer. Bud Light, Miller Lite, it didn't matter, it was like a reflex for people instead of a choice. The macro-brew didn't bother me - I mean, the point was to arrive, fill your cup, mingle a little, and then play Beirut until you woke up in the tub wearing someone else's shoes - it was the fact it was extra-watery macro-brew. "Keg, therefore: light beer" seems as counterproductive as it does boring.
We are now closing in on the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. Not only do we have a multiverse of new options in beer, we have plenty of widely available, reasonably inexpensive, tasty options. Let's start off with a few ideas we can all find at most halfway decent liquor stores, buy in quantity without blowing through too much dough, and get on with the business of being some place where the wearing of pants is discouraged.
1. Harpoon Summer Beer is a straightforward name. It's like when you watch a movie from the early 1980s before product placement became so widespread and the characters are drinking from white cans that say "BEER" in black letters. It is, nonetheless, a particularly apt name. This particular Harpoon is a German-style kolsch*, a style developed just for the summer months that is light in color and weight, with a slight nod at some hoppy citrus to stay on the refreshing side. This is one of your best bets to bring to a gathering of unadventurous beer drinkers, but something you'll happily drink yourself. You may even open a few minds and break the Bud Light/Corona stranglehold while you're at it, and can then convince yourself you've done a good deed and have earned this sixth piece of BBQ chicken.
*Speaking of kolsch, if anyone knows where to get any of Barrier Brewing Company's Icculus in Connecticut, let me know, and I'll add you to my personal Helping Friendly Book.
2. I've written about Brooklyn Summer Ale in this space before, and those words hold true to this day. It is still an excellent choice, easy to spot in a baby blue 12 pack of cans, and great to share with a group. If you want to make a bit more of a splashy arrival, and who doesn't, get a few bottles of the Namaste I mentioned in that piece. It's a great hot weather beer and the bottles make it look all upscale*.
*Re: upscale-looking bottles - do yourself a favor and get a bottle of the store brand prosecco at Fairway in Stamford for like $12. It's delicious, and it practically feels like party crashing at that price.
3. Cisco Whale's Tale. I've written about this one before, too (see the link), and it's still a great one for people who aren't afraid of some malt. It froths up nicely in a glass, so it looks great, but it's also available in cans, so it's completely beach/park friendly.
So there you have it: no need to puzzle over a wall of beer options, no need to spend a ton, and no need to be bored and regretful with your choice because you grabbed the first thing you saw on the shelf. Taste AND pantslessness: what a country.
Like a long summer day, we're not done yet. I was recently up in Portland, Maine and had occasion to sink a few pints at the absolutely outstanding Novare Res Bier Cafe. It's fun to wander around the old harbor district in town, and Novare Res is right in the middle. Go there if you're in town - seriously.
Anyway, the Constitution State recently started taking delivery of Maine Beer Company products from Portland. I grew up near some freshwater wetlands as a kid, and I was always stoked the first night every year I'd step outside and hear spring peepers starting their tiny calls. MBC's spring beer is called Peeper, and it poured a light, barely cloudy gold with a thick, thick head from the large format bottle with the slick, white label over brown glass. The aroma is all oily pine and citrus, but there is a surprisingly mild maltiness on the first sip, almost pils-y. Lemony hops and a very mild bitterness show up, but there's less of either than you'd expect, based on the nose. It's just such a fresh little number. A little more of those resinous hops show up as the beer warms, but I'd say Peeper was meant to be a frosty cold summer beer, with its eye-opening scent and low 5.5% ABV.
I don't know if I'm down with Portland-area shacks serving their lobster rolls with a golf ball sized dollop of mayo balanced on top, but I'm definitely on board with Portland's recent contribution to the Connecticut beer scene.
Get outside and get drinking, people. What are you doing wearing clothes this time of year, anyway?