Essential Info

  • Color: Varies
  • ABV: 2.8%-5%
  • Commercial Examples: Notch Brewing Session Pils, Founders All Day IPA, Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager, Evil Twin Brewing Bikini Beer

One of the more confusing terms in the modern beer world, but also one you’re going to be hearing a lot more of, as breweries continue putting out their own versions of a “session beer.” So what is it?

Simplest answer: session beers are low in alcohol. In fact, it doesn’t get much more complicated. Session beers top out at 5%ABV (more of them are closer to 4 or 4.5%, tops). The origins of the term are a bit hazy (there’s an idea it came from the two historically acceptable daily drinking periods, or “sessions,” for British ammo workers during World War I). The easiest way to think about it is to consider the word itself: if you’re going to be drinking a few beers in a “session,” it’s probably best they’re low alcohol, right? Unless, that is, you have plans to be dancing on the bar by the night’s end.

Session beers can be ales or lagers, and many beer styles can be made into “session” versions, even typically strong IPAs. But more often, session beers will have a nice balance of malt and hops and some refreshing carbonation. The point here isn’t an in-your-face beer demanding attention, but a delicious beer sitting there politely, nice and chill and very easy to drink. Whenever you’re ready for it.