This, frankly, is the greatest time in history to be an American beer drinker, what with the revolution in craft brewing and ever more supermarkets, package stores and bars offering a staggering selection in terms of creativity, flavor and sheer enjoyment. And summer is the best season to enjoy it. Through careful, hands-on research, I've constructed a no-risk list of suds to relish this season. All are American-made, and all are world-class.
TRUMER PILS Trumer Pils is brewed in Berkeley, Calif., and could be the best Pilsner-style lager available in the country. It is extraordinarily crisp, clean and delicious. There's also a Texas connection: San Antonio-based Carlos Alvarez, the man who rescued Spoetzl, the maker of Shiner Bock, set up the Berkeley brewery and brews just this one lager. $9.59-$9.79 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's Fine Foods, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
SAINT ARNOLD SUMMER PILS A very drinkable Texas-made, Pilsner-style lager is Summer Pils by Houston's Saint Arnold Brewing Co., one of the state's more successful craft ventures. Winner of a gold medal at Denver's Great American Beer Festival, this is a perfect session beer, meaning you'll be downing several before you realize it. St. Arnold recommends pairing it with Mexican fare, pizza and lamb kebabs. But it will go with almost everything except dessert. $8.49-$9.19 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's, Kings Liquors, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
MAMA'S LITTLE YELLA PILS Mama's Little Yella Pils comes only on draft and in cans. This is a hoppier lager than most Pilsner-style beers but less extreme than other beers made by Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons, Colo. Because of the extra hops, many drinkers of major-brand Pilsners might not recognize this as the same style. And it's stronger, with 5.3 percent alcohol by volume, so don't down as many as usual. $9.49-$9.99 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's Fine Foods, Kings Liquors, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
MAGIC HAT ELDER BETTY Wheat beers are always great in hot weather. German, unfiltered versions can be called weiss or hefeweizen. And Vermont-based, New York-owned Magic Hat has added elderberries -- just enough to give it a berry aroma and rewarding aftertaste without overpowering the ale. $8.99-$9.49 per six-pack. Central Market, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Goody Goody Liquor, Kings Liquors and Whole Foods Market.
SIERRA NEVADA SUMMERFEST Sierra Nevada Summerfest, a Czech Pilsner-style lager brewed in Chico, Calif., is a well-balanced, beautifully golden summer beer with just enough hops to set it apart. $8.99-$9.59 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's Fine Foods, Kings Liquors, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
ALASKAN SUMMER KÖLSCH-STYLE ALE Kölsch is a top-fermented beer that originated in Cologne, Germany, where it is a year-round favorite. Not as crisp as a Pilsner, this is a smoother, slightly sweeter, refreshing tipple. Relatively new to our market is Alaskan Summer Kölsch-Style Ale, which doesn't use the traditional Kölsch yeast -- instead, the Juneau brewery uses its proprietary ale yeast -- but is scrumptious. $9.49-$10.09 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's Fine Foods, Kings Liquors, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
VICTORY SUMMER LOVER ALE At 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, just slightly stronger than most of the beers cited here, Summer Love Ale from Victory Brewing Co. of Downingtown, Pa., is made with whole-flower German and American hops, then balanced with German Pilsner malts. This pale blond ale is one to savor with Middle Eastern or Italian food. $9.99-$10.79 per six-pack. Central Market, Oliver's Fine Foods, Crockett Street Bottle Shop, Whole Foods Market and Goody Goody Liquor.
RAHR & SONS STORMCLOUD INDIA PALE ALE Stormcloud is a year-round beer from Fort Worth's own Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., and right for the moment when you just want something a bit more substantial, a bit more flavorful. At 6 percent alcohol by volume, go easy on a hot day. This hearty ale stands up to spicy Thai, Indian or Mexican food. And it has a beautiful rosy golden color. $7.99-$8.99 per six-pack. Central Market, Kings, Oliver's Fine Foods, Whole Foods Market and Kroger. (Regrettably, we do NOT distribute Rahr & Sons products)