We here in the Hudson Valley are blessed with the gift of great craft beer. So what should you have at your summer picnic or Fourth of July cookout?

The warm weather demands a beer that's delicious and, most importantly, refreshing. Now, some people will like a heavy Russian Imperial Stout or something similar regardless of weather, but many of us would prefer something with a lighter body and crispness at the sip.

Last year I made a list, and for the most part I featured different local beers this year (just one exception). If you'd like to compare this to last year's list--the beers of which are all still available--you can check it out here.

In no particular order...

  • Newburgh Brewing Company: Cream Ale (Newburgh) - Last year, their saison topped this very list. But then again, last year, they did not have cans of Newburgh Cream Ale available. There's something incredibly satisfying about hanging out at a grill with a cold can of beer in your hand. It even lets you use a koozie. And if that doesn't make you feel like your cool-ass grandpa sessioning American beer from cans in the 1950s and 60s, well then I don't know what to tell you.
  • Rushing Duck: Naysayer Pale Ale (Chester) - I've never had a beer from Rushing Duck that was anything less than stellar. Whether you're looking for something sessionable, like this perfectly hoppy (but not bitter!) take on a traditional pale ale, or you're looking for something to knock you back in your seat like their crazy good Russian imperial stout Ded Moroz, you just can't go wrong if you've got a nice cold growler full of Rushing Duck beer.
  • Mill House Brewing Company: Kold One (Poughkeepsie) - This might be the most "traditional" beer on the list, but don't mistake the word traditional for being a pejorative. Beer is a world steeped in tradition, and the more you understand and appreciate those traditions, the better a brewer you'll be. Fortunately, Jamie and Larry at Mill House know, love, and live beer; their take on a traditional German kolsch is the perfect balance of full flavor and crisp finish. With an ABV around 4.5%, it's easy to have a couple, but you won't find yourself face down in the potato salad.
  • Keegan Ales: Mother's Milk (Kingston) - Look, I know that including a stout on the list of BBQ beers is counterintuitive; usually you want something crisp and easy to drink in the heat of the sun and grill. But there are plenty of great reasons for including this stout on a list of BBQ beers. First of all, some people just flat-out prefer dark beer. That's fine! No one says you have to be knocking back a lager or a hefeweizen just because it's July. Plus, let's be honest: sometimes, Mother Nature doesn't care about your plans. It's a bummer to be sitting inside drinking a beer with a smiling sun or whatever on it when it's pouring outside. And, finally, the best reason to include this milk stout on your menu of summer beers: it's just delicious.
  • Sloop Brewing Company: The Sauer Peach (Poughkeepsie) - This is the only beer that I allowed myself to keep on the list from last year. Sure, we had others that are and were excellent and worthy of drinking year after year, but this is the only one I would not have allowed myself to leave off. Simply put, I love this beer. And with so much going on with Sloop (they're opening a brand new, awesome tap room this summer!), hopefully this will be all over the Hudson Valley very soon.

Now, listen, this is by no means a definitive list. And there are plenty of breweries that could be featured on this list, too! I just couldn't let myself go into 15, 16, 17. But please make sure to check out all of the other local breweries that we have in the area like North River, Plan Bee, 2 Way, and anyone else. We're spoiled with tons of great breweries here in the area, and you simply can't go wrong with any of them.

And don't even get me started on cider; that's a whole different world of incredible local drinking.