Continuing with a warm-weather local-brew theme during American Beer Month, let's take a look at the lighter side of top-fermented beers. As is typical with ales, summertime quenchers can take several forms. Most obvious are the ales that imitate their blond lager cousins. Hale's Cream Ale is an obvious contender, made quaffable by pouring from nitro taps for smoother (read: less gassy) body. There are plenty of other blond ales dispensed by more conventional means, like Hale's Blonde, Boundary Bay Blonde, Redhook Blonde, and Maritime Pacific's Islander Pale Ale, that resemble craft lagers but retain a bit of the fruity character of ales.
Then there are those that borrow from a Germanic take on ales, in this case the local style of Cologne, like Pyramid's Curve Ball Kölsch and Hale's Kölsch. Of these two, Hale's gets my nod for being the most faithful rendition of the style, complete with that subtle, gently fruity softness that is typical of Kölsch. Compare it to imported Reissdorf Kölsch, which is as close as it gets to the real thing around here, unless someone manages to coax some kegs and bottles from the likes of Cologne-based Früh or Gaffel.
Wheat beers comprise another class of great summer quenchers. Start with the straightforward crispness of American wheat beers like Pyramid Hefeweizen, Mac & Jack's Serengeti Wheat, Maritime Pacific's Clipper Gold Hefeweizen, and yes, Widmer Hefeweizen, the beer that put American wheat beers on the stylistic map. For continental styles, look for Baron Brewing's Hefe-Weisse, Far West Alewives Hefeweizen, or Diamond Knot's Hefeweizen to emulate the banana-and-clove notes of southern German wheat beers; more elusive are beers like Diamond Knot's Wit Bier, Hale's Honey Wit, or Dick's Silk Lady, beers that emulate the spice-and-citrus notes of Belgian witbier. For even more off-kilter summer refreshment, turn to Elysian Brewing's curious yet refreshing Avatar Jasmine IPA, an India Pale Ale flavored with jasmine flowers. If this is summer's beery answer to jasmine iced tea, let it pour until October.