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It hit 50 degrees in Chicago this week and I must’ve looked out the window of my office building at the barren patio of Ceres Café at least twenty times. For some, the first mild temperatures of the year remove the greyed cataracts of winter and generate excitement at the prospect of experiencing naturally-produced Vitamin D again. For me, walking outside confidently without a winter jacket for the first time gets me excited for all of the great beers I’m going to drink at various outdoor venues this year – and boy, do I have a lot on my list.
Outside of my typical 9-to-5, I write about craft beer. It’s an awesome hobby to have as it combines a bunch of my favorite things into one, sometimes-hazy experience. I’ve had some really weird beers, but if I’m at a loud bar, Miller High Life is my drink of choice. For as much fanfare as craft beer gets, your standard Bud and Miller lagers still dominate the general beer market due to their approachability – and they’re not going anywhere.
Coming from a Wisconsin school (go Badgers), I, along with many of my peers, developed an affinity for the no-nonsense appeal of Miller Lite. It didn’t overwhelm the senses like many hop bombs nowadays do, it didn’t cost a lot, and it was ideal for day drinking situations. Now that I’m a few years out of college, I still enjoy light lagers as they serve an important purpose in the life cycle of any summer experience. But if you’re looking for something not made by a beer conglomerate and with a little more substance, I have a few options for you to consider.
Founders Solid Gold
Chances are you’ve probably had an All Day IPA fill your favorite koozie over the years. It’s the beer Founders is most known for now and it has gone gangbusters recently in sales. But they also make some awesome other beer. One of those being their new Solid Gold lager. This beer is appealing for multiple reasons, but I’m going to highlight two in particular. First, it comes from Founders. If you’re familiar with the Michigan brewer, you know that they rarely make a poor beer and Solid Gold is a reminder of that – it’s a damn good lager that doesn’t try to be too fancy. The second? Quantity. This new lager will come in Founders’ familiar 15-pack and will sell for around $15, not a bad buy for the quality return you’ll receive. Plus it looks awesome in those cans.
Revolution Brewing Cross of Gold
Chances are if you’ve visited Chicago, you’ve had a Revolution beer. Taking down a few of their IPAs (shout out to their Hero series) might lead to a rough morning after, but one of their beers that I’ve consistently enjoyed is on the lighter side – and is an award winner in its own right. Cross of Gold comes in at under 5% ABV and is a consistent best-seller across their on-premises and 8+ state distribution footprint due to its appealing flavor profile. A golden ale – not lager – Cross of Gold still embodies the standard characteristics of a light lager like Miller Lite, delivering the familiar crispness of the macro beer, but then adds to it with a light layer of hops afterward. It’s a quality summer day drinking brew that doesn’t try to do too much – which it’s why it’s so successful. Oh, and I did I mention this one also comes in 15-packs?
Surly Brewing Hell
This one might be the hardest for you to find but it is totally worth it. Available across Surly’s 7+ state footprint, Hell has a solid lager profile coupled with the familiar hop kick you’d expect from a Surly beer. If you’re skeptical about the hops – don’t be. If Surly wanted hops to be the star of this, it would be, but thankfully this lager is led by its light malt body and clean aftertaste. This is probably the closest lager version to what they serve at Oktoberfest. Plus the name and branding are awesome and won’t put you in Dante’s Inferno after drinking several. Double bonus that they come in tallboys.