PICTURED: East End Fruit & Flower Ale. Photo submitted

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Ice cold beer and hot summer days go together like surfboards and the Ventura County coast. ’Tis the season for local craft brewers to pour out the crisp, the fruity and the refreshing for thirsty patrons . . . especially for all those Memorial Day celebrations getting underway this weekend. Here are a few of the seasonal selections that intrigued us — and were available last we looked. That can change in a heartbeat, however, so be sure to check the various social media channels or give the tasting room a call. 

East End
Ojai Valley Brewery
307 Bryant St., Ojai

OVB’s beloved fruit and flower ale is a complex Belgian blonde infused with prickly pear cactus fruit and hibiscus, which gives it a vibrant red color. The taste is equally bright, mildly bitter and a bit tart with notes of summer fruits like berries and melon. Take heed when imbibing, however: At 7.2% alcohol by volume, this is no shrinking violet. Cans are all sold out, but East End is currently available in 750 ml bottles.

Oxnard Special Ale
Red Tandem Brewery
1009 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard

An easy-drinking pale ale that’s perfect for every occasion. Made with Magnum, Nelson and Dr. Rudi hops, it’s exceptionally clean and a bit aromatic. Great for the beach . . . and keep an eye out for a summery strawberry version rumored to be available soon!

Pier City Cider
2290 Eastman Ave., #110, Ventura

Pier City Cider. Photo submitted


The latest project from Four Brix Winery. When co-proprietor Karen Stewart became gluten intolerant, husband Gary Stewart turned his winemaking talents to gluten-free hard ciders. The result is a super-refreshing brew that is unfiltered, sulfite-free and juiced up with natural flavorings. Cucumber, sour apple, chile, pineapple, persimmon and blackberry are among the many ingredients that have made an appearance in these tasty tipples, but quantities are limited, many are only available by the glass in the tasting room and the menu is changed up frequently. But rest assured: If you like beautifully balanced ciders, Pier City will deliver.

Tank Tops and Tanlines

Tank Tops and Tanlines. Photo submitted

Tarantula Hill Brewing Co.
244 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks

The name alone will tell you that this IPA is summer ready. Lighter in body but big on flavor, with that West Coast-style bitterness that goes so well with fish tacos and takes some of the bite out of scorching hot weather. Crisp and balanced with a touch of floral and grapefruit. If it’s unavailable on your next visit to the tap room, give the ever-popular Cali Day IPA a try.

Tart Cherry Blonde
Institution Ale Co.
3841 Mission Oaks Blvd., Camarillo

Pucker up for this sour ale, full of tart cherry flavor and color. Stone fruits are fabulous in the summer, and this is one delicious way to put them to good use. If the sour feels too aggressive, the lighter Raspberry Day Dreamin’ fruited ale might be more your style. Both are currently on tap at Institution’s Camarillo location, and the fruited ale is also available for purchase as a 32 oz. crowler.