In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne, Tim Robbins' character, remarks, "I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds." Goddamn do we feel manly right now. We sampled a dozen summery beers with local homebrew guru Nick Phelps to compile this compendium of local summer seasonals, along with a few year-round beers that just taste better when the sun's out. Unless otherwise noted, all of these beers can be found at Belmont Station (4500 SE Stark St., 232-8538).
1. Eugene City Honey Orange Wheat Ale
Wheat beers vary wildly in quality, and if you're drinking a wheat beer, you might as well drink one that makes you think. Despite its flowery name, Honey Orange Wheat Ale is a multifaceted brew. The honey flavor is intense, but tamed by highlights of orange, and the raw quality of the dark—perhaps buckwheat—honey reveals itself in some serious spice. Cinnamon and orange make this beer sweet and bitter, but never heavy. This is a summer meadow in a bottle. ($5.29/22 oz.)
2. Captured by Porches Wit
A summer release from DIY brewery Captured by Porches, the witbier reflects its homebrew beginnings. Full of flavor from wheat and traditional spices—coriander seed and Curaçao orange peels—it tastes like what summer-favorite Hoegaarden must have when it was still brewed by a Belgian milkman in his hayloft. Available on draft at Clinton Street Brewing (2520 SE Clinton St., 238-5588), Tin Shed Garden Cafe (1438 NE Alberta St., 288-6966), and Green Dragon Pub (928 SE 9th Ave., 517-0606) ($4/pint)
3. BridgePort Haymaker
Even microbreweries tend to fall into the tired practice of appealing to the middle. Haymaker has the mild citrus notes of many summer beers and catches the eye with hints of spice, but the taste is rather thin. That said, the effort BridgePort put into Haymaker makes it a better summer brew than, say, Miller Chill. BridgePort will sell a lot of Haymaker, but only with a ton of marketing behind it. ($1.59/12 oz.)
4. Deschutes Twilight Ale
A round-up of Northwestern summer beers would not be complete without one for the hopheads. It's difficult to make a light beer hoppy; tradition dictates bitterness to stand up against a malty body. Deschutes eschews tradition by providing an ale that, at its best, is light, crisp and bitter, but can also display medicinal hop flavor. ($1.17/12 oz.)
5. Rogue American Ale
A big seller every July 4, this amber ale is probably as popular for its stars-and-stripes logo as it is for its great taste. Rogue covers all the bases, providing a beer that is full-bodied and drinkable. That's a very general description, but this is just a generally good beer. ($1.99/12 oz.)
6. Full Sail Session Premium Lager
A new approach to the classic American lager, Session gives off a classic doughy aroma with a touch of flowery hops. Its taste begins with sour citrus and rounds off into a thin maltiness that quickly dissipates. Overall, it's a very clean beer—there's nothing about it that lasts long, making it as refreshing as water, and its stubby brown bottle is as summery as baseball. ($1.04/11 oz.)
7. Ninkasi Schwag
A testament to the importance of drinking fresh beer: After just a few days sitting in a growler in my fridge, the flavor of Ninkasi's lager—available only on draft—um, evolved. What may have originally been a slight nutty character from the yeast developed into a full-blown peanut butter taste. Yes, it's weird, but interesting. What didn't change is Schwag's clean and refreshing lager style. This is a perfectly suitable summer beer for anyone who wants to try something completely different, once brewer Jamie Floyd refines his inner nuttiness. Available on draft at Henry's 12th Street Tavern (10 NW 12th Ave., 227-5320) and 9 Muses Pub (2715 SE Belmont St., 236-3848) ($5.50/pint)
8. Full Sail LTD 02 "Limited Edition Lager"
With its clear, copper color, this beer looks pretty, but it's no summer draught. The second installment of Full Sail's Limited Edition series is an all-malt lager brewed with wheat, which makes us think of a crisp thirst-quencher. At 6.4 percent alcohol by volume, there is plenty of room for flavor, but LTD 02 comes up short. It's rather sweet, and the high alcohol lingers. A fine beer otherwise, this brew doesn't justify its summertime release. ($1.49/12 oz.)
9. Miller Chill "Chelada Style"
If you can get past the smell (vomit) and the taste (fruit punch), you'll find this beer accomplishes all its goals: It's light, has no aftertaste and bears no resemblance whatsoever to beer. For those who need a summer beer but hate everything about the beverage (and love artificial fruit flavoring, maybe), it's Miller time. Available at 7-Eleven (multiple locations). ($1.25/12 oz.)