Ask any brewer in Pittsburgh right now what they’re drinking, and they probably won’t say an IPA, a stout, or a sour. Instead, most of them will probably tell you about their favorite light beer (seriously, I asked them).
Lagers and pilsners, cream ales and saisons, pales and kolschs; if a brewery has something light and crushable on its menu, you have something perfect to drink for these hot summer months.
So where should you go to find the best of the best in these styles? Luckily, I’ve done the research. And with multiple Pittsburgh festivals this spring solely focusing on these styles — Allegheny City Brewing’s Logger Jam, Old Thunder’s Pilsburgh, and Golden Age Beer’s Lager Fest, for instance — it was as easy as it's ever been to sample everything the region has to offer. While I don’t have the time to mention all the amazing ones, which includes everything from Dancing Gnome’s classic Lustra to just about every light beer Old Thunder puts out, below are five of the best light beers that you can find in Pittsburgh right now:
Penn Weizen - Penn Brewery - Hefeweizen
800 Vinial St., North Side. pennbrew.com
It would feel almost like sacrilege to not include one of the original staples of these styles in the U.S., Penn Brewery. They are the go-to for German-style beer in Pittsburgh, and their Hefeweizen is the cream of the crop. It’s everything you’d want in the style, all banana and clove while maintaining the restraint that makes it a summer crusher. Penn is a master of all the German styles, but this is the one I seek out whenever I get a chance to.
Lil’ Cinder Lime - Cinderlands Beer Co. - Light Lager
3705 Butler St., Lawrenceville. cinderlands.com
The rising all-star of the bunch. Lil’ Cinder has been a staple of Cinderlands in the past, and a really solid beer. But their debut of the lime version turned it into a must-have summer beer. Extremely light at 4.2%, this beer is basically a Bud Light Lime except, you know, it’s really damn good. Light, crushable, and an ultimate poolside sipper, cheers to Cinderlands for taking a good beer and finding an even more fun spin on it.
Microprocessors - Coven Brewing - Cream Ale
4901 Butler St., Lawrenceville. covenbrewingpgh.com
Coven doesn’t need any more love from me. The freshman brewery has already aced just about every style they’ve tried, and they’ve tried quite a few. But as an original resident of upstate New York, home to the iconic Genny Cream Ale, I have a soft spot for a good example of the classic, fruity ale. Coven nails this one like always, and it proves to be floral without losing its classic sensibilities.
Helles - Golden Age Beer - Helles Lager
337 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead. goldenagebeer.com
Dedicating your entire brewery to a very select number of light beers is a bold move if you don’t have the cache of Penn Brewery. Luckily, when you have the talent of Golden Age Beer, that’s a pretty easy obstacle to overcome. Another newcomer on the scene, Golden Age has decided to be very restrained in the number of beers it puts out, and it's paid off. This Helles lager is as good as you’ll find, unbelievably smooth and brewed with a clear deep understanding of what makes the style tick. Keep an eye on anything they put out.