As summer approaches, the weather is getting progressively better for day-long beer drinking sessions. The problem is that if you’re drinking beer that’s too high in alcohol, you might find yourself passing out by 3 p.m. Cue session beer, the beer you’re, quite literally, supposed to consume in a drinking “session.” The idea behind the session beer is that it’s low in alcohol – no higher than 5% ABV – so you can kick back multiple servings in one sitting. Session beers are perfect for picnics, parties, and long nights at the bar. Here are our seven favorites.
Let’s start by clearing up the misconception that session beers taste like nothing. Founders All Day IPA is the perfect initial beer to put your worries at ease. A nice floral nose gives way to an ale packed with hops and grassy notes. And the simple, refreshing finish will have you reaching for another bottle, which, with an ABV of 4.7%, you’re entitled to.
Like Founders, Stone Go To is bursting with hops. This is because the brewers use a technique called “hop bursting,” where a huge quantity of hops is added to the final phase of beer making. This is said to bring out “extreme” smells and tastes. However, while it’s very flavorful, we don’t really think of the word “extreme” when we think of Stone Go To. Instead, the word “balance” comes to mind, as the sweetness of the hops is cut nicely with a grapefruit tang. This is a real crowd-pleasing treat.
Before you count out this lambic beer, hear us out. Yes, this beer has an obvious taste: granny smith sour apples. And yes, it’s pretty sweet. But in addition to the sugary taste, the finish on this beer is astounding. After the sourness runs a chill through your body, you’ll get a shockingly malty and ever-so-slighty wheated aftertaste. This is perfect for someone who’s into hard ciders or funky, off-color beers.
They call it classique for a reason. This “Post-Modern Beer” (let’s call it a saison) is a true throwback. Because corn and rice are in the mashbill, you’ll get a unique barnyard flavor, but don’t think of manure and mold. Instead, prepare yourself for spicy hay, some pepper, and some telltale Belgian yeast (try sniffing out the bread). Bonus: classique comes in a can, so it’s perfect as an on-the-go picnic beverage.
Contrary to popular belief, dark beers like stouts and porters aren’t necessarily higher in alcohol than light beers. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is arguably the ideal dark session beer. Just scraping into the category with an ABV of 5%, this stout has typical “stouty” flavor notes, like chocolate, but it also has an exceptional amount of fruit on the palate. The comforting, roasted elements also make this a great beer to pair with simple breakfast foods, like pancakes and waffles. Who said you can’t have beer for breakfast? After all, it is an oatmeal stout.
Though this is technically not a session beer (it weighs in at 5.2% ABV), I would be remorse to not include this delicate, floral, whimsical beer on this list. Color Field is a wild ale brewed with rose hips, hibiscus, and chamomile, giving it a wonderful garden aroma. However, while still floral, the taste incorporates a good amount of spice and citric acidity as well.
I find that Sam Adams is very good at making nice beers that pair well with food. While there’s nothing particularly characteristic about Sam Adam’s riff on the typical German kölsch, it’s decidedly agreeable, with lots of lemon and wheat. This is a beer you set out to drink – not talk about. In fact, it’s what Budweiser is aiming to be, if Budweiser were any good.