Parties and get-togethers might look more normal this summer, but we can’t say the same for the drinks cooler. Breweries and beverage companies have invented new summertime drinking options that move beyond the standard lager, canned cocktail or hard seltzer.
These warm-weather drinks blur categories, running the spectrum from hops-infused sparkling water to boozy beer Popsicles and even heavily fruited hard seltzers. Here’s a look at some of these unexpected sips.
Hops provide beers, most notably hazy I.P.A.s, with fruity fragrances and flavors that might evoke ripe papayas or oranges. The trade-off is that I.P.A.s can be boozy and caloric. Now breweries and beverage companies are using similar aromatics to create hoppy seltzers without grains, alcohol or calories.
This spring, Hoplark released its effervescent Hoplark Water line, featuring trendy hops like coconutty Sabro. The nonalcoholic beer specialist Athletic Brewing makes DayPack, zero-calorie flavored hop seltzers, with flavors like blood orange blended with Chinook hops. And Hop Wtr includes Columbus and Centennial hops, along with purported stress-relievers like the herb ashwagandha.
Hard Seltzer Smoothies
The season’s most surprising mash-up is the thick, sweetly fruity and still refreshing hard seltzer smoothie. Hard seltzers are typically crystal clear, crisp and flavored. Black cherry is a popular option. Smoothie-style hard seltzers add huge amounts of real fruit, such as strawberries, bananas and pineapple, to a neutral gluten-free alcohol base, creating a drink that tastes like a fizzy daiquiri or tropical cocktail.
Homes Brewery, in Ann Arbor, Mich., pioneered the trend with its dairy-free Smooj series, including a beach-ready piña colada version. Alvarado Street, in Monterey, Calif., makes its Bubble Bath hard smoothies with fruit combinations like strawberry kiwi, and Fair State Brewing Cooperative, of Minneapolis, offers the Fruity Boom, with blends such as mango, coconut and lime.
Summer is prime time for freezer pops, and breweries are channeling the icy childhood treats into playful adult indulgences. The Natural Light spinoff Naturdays, a fruity lager brand, now has an alcoholic frozen option. Each plastic pouch contains a sweeter, stronger version (8 percent alcohol by volume) of the Naturdays lagers, in their signature flavors of strawberry or pineapple lemonade.
If you prefer drinking your Popsicle, the New Orleans brewery Urban South channels the patriotic red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop in its tart Rocket Pop Gose, packed with cherry purée, blue raspberry flavoring and lime juice.
The michelada balances bright acidity with savory heat by combining light Mexican lager with lime juice, hot sauce and varied seasonings. Mass-market Mexican breweries have long sold canned micheladas, removing the fuss of mixing at home, but now breweries are taking canned micheladas into other flavorful directions by changing the base beers.
SLO Brew, in San Luis Obispo, Calif., blends the brewery’s softly textured hefeweizen beer with tomato juice, assorted spices and fruits such as mango in its Tío Rodrigo micheladas. Golden Road’s first release in its Chelada Cart series mixes a guava-flavored beer with zippy Clamato. Estrella Jalisco also uses Clamato in its zesty Tropical Chamoy Chelada lager, along with pineapple juice and chamoy, the fruit-based condiment that hits all the notes: sweet, salty, spicy and sour.
Less Sweet Hard Tea
Hard tea used to be synonymous with sugar-packed brands like Twisted Tea, but the latest releases are helping the category shed its sugary image. In June, the hard kombucha producer Jiant will release three gently carbonated hard teas that are brewed with floral oolong, complex pu-erh or fruity and smooth Keemun. They’re complemented by fruits and herbs like raspberry and mint; each 12-ounce can contains 100 calories and no more than two grams of sugar.
Occasion-Based Fruit Beer
Easy-drinking fruit beers are a summer mainstay, effortlessly crashing any party. Now breweries are tailoring fruit beers to mealtimes, the outdoors and calorie-counting concerns.
New Belgium aims for brunch and daytime drinking with its mimosa-inspired Dominga, a mix of a wheat and wood-aged golden sour ale and calamansi juice. Now released year-round, it is bright and citrusy, with a carbonation reminiscent of sparkling wine.
The lightly tart Little Grove line from the Belgian specialist Allagash comes in black currant or peach and kombucha, both just 100 calories. And Stone hits the beach with Buenaveza, a Mexican-inspired lager finished with sea salt and lime.
Barrel-Aged Hard Seltzer
Craft breweries commonly age beer in oak barrels that contained bourbon or wine. Now they’re producing barrel-aged hard seltzers, adding spirited nuance to a beverage not known for complexity.
New Holland, in Holland, Mich., adds purified water to freshly emptied bourbon barrels, letting the water extract lingering bourbon and notes of vanilla and char. The seasoned water is carbonated and flavored with blackberry, cherry or orange to create Dragon’s Share hard seltzers, which are like low-alcohol highballs. (The 90-calorie seltzers are a moderate 4.6 percent A.B.V.)
Upland Brewing, of Bloomington, Ind., creates its 100-calorie Naked Barrel Hard Seltzer by fusing oak-aged sour ale with neutral hard seltzer, complementing the mix with fruits and botanicals including hibiscus and grapefruit.