Back to the picnic, this time with lots brewing.
And there are plenty of candidates for the cooler that don't take in Bud, Miller, Coors or Corona.
From New Hampshire: Smuttynose IPA, a citrusy, very refreshing mainstay that's terrific with spicy Asian food and ideal with a juicy hamburger. The Portsmouth brewery's Shoals Pale Ale is a tangy, hoppy alternative that's equally first-class. If you want something richer, look for Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog, an expressive riff on English ale that's fine with all grilled fare. These Smuttynose brews come in at $10-$11 for a six-pack.
Big and hopped up is Stone Levitation Ale, an amber-hued, dependable and spirited Californian that's a refresher on its own as a sipper, or with any chicken dish, cold cuts and hard cheeses. Figure $12-$13 for the Escondido brewer's citrusy six-pack.
Magic Hat comes through with a summer variety pack, an assortment that includes Magic Hat Pistil, a distinctive brew made with dandelion for a little grassy, tart flavor; and Magic Hat Elder Betty Ale, a hazy, bready thirst-quencher made with tart elderberry. The 12-pack from the South Burlington, Vt., brewer is $15-$17.
And for a classic wheat beer, sample an import from a great Bavarian brewery: the Ayinger Ur-Weisse. It's more complex than most, gilded and fruity, with a head like a pillow. Outstanding. A four-pack from Ayinger, which is about a half-hour from Munich, is approximately $12. A 16-ounce bottle, $3.50 or so. Find any excuse to enjoy it.