NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Craft beer geeks and mainstream beer drinkers usually don't mix, but summer has a way of getting everybody to the same bar.
By necessity, beer drinkers tend to shift to lighter, more refreshing brews as temperatures rise. They also tend to drink a lot more of it than at any other time of the year. The Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's statistics show that brewers produced roughly 17 million barrels last may and 18 million barrels a month from June through August. That's well up from the 14 million to 15 million a month they generally crank out during the rest of the year.
Considering that uptick in volume, is there any way to buy beer during the summer without breaking the bank or sipping swill? With help from folks at multistate wine and beer sellers Total Wine and reviewers at RateBeer and Beer Advocate, we priced out 10 of the summer's best beer offerings that won't break your budget. Price may vary by location, but these widely available brews won't:
Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat
Price per six-pack: $6.99
BeerAdvocate rating: 3.38 out of 5
Rate Beer rating: 2.91 out of 5
That cloudy haze in your glass, coriander scent before and citrus flavor with each sip are all trademarks of witbier, a Belgian style that Americans have come to know as wheat beer. There's going to be a lot more of it on this list, but Leinenkugel's deserves special attention for its bittersweet flavor and sweet price. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing has been owned by Miller (TAP) since 1988, and that size and distribution range comes with certain advantages.
Price per six-pack: $6.99
BeerAdvocate rating: 3.39 out of 5
Rate Beer rating: 2.95 out of 5
Citrus tends to be the one element that binds summer beers, and Sam Summer is full of it. Boston Beer (SAM) will blather on about the "Grains of Paradise" that spice up this brew, but it's the lemon zest that really comes through and gives the Summer Ale its distinct flavor. But how does a craft brewer push out a beer for the same price as a macro? Boston Beer's no average craft brewer: It has three breweries and poured out nearly 2.5 million barrels last year. The next closest craft brewer, Sierra Nevada, didn't top 1 million.
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