The weather is changing, and most of us can be found at social gatherings, around pools or on the patio of our favorite local watering hole. I have taken special care to choose five beers that craft beer drinkers will enjoy, as well as those who typically do not enjoy craft beer. Here are some of my favorites – all locally brewed and readily available nearby. Cheers!

Notch Brewing Infinite Jest (4.3% ABV)
This Salem brewery recently celebrated its seventh anniversary, and coincidentally, I sampled this beer on exactly that date. This is an American pale wheat ale. I have noticed that some sessionable, hop-forward ales tend to have a drier finish than I like, which defeats the purpose of a warm-weather beer, in my opinion, but not Infinite Jest. The finish is just like the rest of the beer – remarkably balanced. The Citra, Equinox and Mosaic hops work well together but do not over-dominate the wheat and pale malts. Mouthfeel is light, so it goes down easy, while the carbonation is not overpowering, so you don’t fill up. I can see this occupying space in my fridge this summer for sure.

Allagash White (5.1% ABV)
This is a Belgian wheat beer that is made in Maine, and – dare I say – it is the best one out there. It has been around for a while, but sometimes it is good to go back home. It was cloudy before being a hazy beer was the cool thing to be. It is brewed with coriander and orange peel, but please do not put an orange on the glass; drink it as is. If you have not had one in a while, go back. If you have never had one, try it. This is one of my “gateway beers” that I use to bring people over to craft beer.

Honest Weight National Salary Cap (4.5% ABV)
Here is another American pale wheat ale. I really hope this style is going to catch on and become more widespread. First thing I noticed was the small, pronounced white head and the aroma of tropical fruit, notably pineapple from the hops. This one drank smooth with just a hint of a dry finish. Tropical hops – and their balance within the grain bill – are the star here. I cannot believe how much is going on within this small ABV of a beer. Look for this on tap, as I do not believe this brewery is canning or bottling yet.

Clown Shoes Mango (5.5% ABV)
This is the only fruited beer on the list. A kolsch is traditionally a light ale brewed within the Cologne region of Germany with a certain type of yeast, hops native to the area and certainly does not include fruit. This is an Americanized version that includes all-natural mango flavor. The smell of mango is there as you pour the beer, and there’s not much in the way of malt or hops. It is a hazy, golden yellow color with a brilliant white head. This is a well-balanced fruit beer. It is not overly sweet, not overly hopped, not overpowered with fruit. It’s a super drinkable beer that will bridge the gap between those that prefer beer and those that do not.

Jacks Abby Brewing House Lager (5.2% ABV)
I saved this beer for last because I can say so much about this one that I already have about the others, but yet it is different. This is the least hop-forward beer of the bunch. The malts take a front seat here, with familiar aromas, tastes of biscuits and bread and just a slight background of hops to balance out this beer. The head retention is quite low, but with how drinkable this beer is, it won’t be sticking around long enough to be admired anyway. It has a slightly sweet finish that most people seem to enjoy, with no lingering bitter finish.

Kerry Cyganiewicz