Broadly speaking, what beer fans call a “session beer” is one that should wield a low enough alcohol content that, if consumed in succession during one sit-down “session” of drinking, one doesn’t get too inebriated. Now, the specific line of demarcation in alcohol by volume (ABV) that constitutes a session beer is subjective. However, for the sake of ultimate refreshment during record-high temperatures this summer, let’s call it below 4 percent. Here are 10 easy drinking examples that run the gamut of flavor, listed in order, from highest to lowest ABV.
OEC (Connecticut) - Exilis (3.8% ABV)
OEC is one of America’s most exciting producers of Old-World-meets-New-World sour beers. Their Exilis is a Berliner Weisse (a cloudy, sour style of beer born in Germany) that is partially fermented using natural yeasts native to the air around the brewery. It is tart and very thirst-quenching, with lemon acidity, herbal funk, and a bone-dry finish.
Off Color (Illinois) - Yuzu Fierce (3.8% ABV)
Off Color is an aptly-named idiosyncratic brewery that focuses mostly on lesser-known historic styles of beer. For Fierce, this variant of its Berliner Weisse, the team added Asian citrus fruit Yuzu. The resulting taste is remarkably akin to a Sanpellegrino Limonata, and is therefore almost dangerously refreshing.
Oxbow (Maine)/Naparbier (Spain) - La Griseta (3.8% ABV)
Of all the New England farmhouse craft producers, Oxbow is the most modestly excellent. (Its slogan is: “Loud Beer From A Quiet Place.”) For La Griseta, they collaborated with punky Spanish brewery Naparbier for a gently tart beer in the style of old-school Belgian Grisette, a Saison-like format that’s becoming more and more popular these days. This one is citrusy, grassy, and dry throughout.
Brasserie Dupont (Belgium) - Avril (3.5% ABV)
Brasserie Dupont reliably brews great, archetypal Belgian Saisons. Their Avril is one of the more enjoyable true table beers on the market that’s generally readily available. It boasts fresh, yeasty aromatics, bubble-gum softness, and an underlying spice character.
Bissell Brothers (Maine) - Diavoletto (3% ABV)
Bissell Brothers is known for unapologetically turbid, hop-forward beers. For Diavoletto, the brewery managed to keep the robustly juicy characteristics from its bigger beers but find a more modest alcohol level. The bite of the hops is dank, but the mouthfeel is light, and there are enjoyable floral side notes.
Jester King (Texas) - Le Petit Prince (2.9% ABV)
The brewers at Jester King are passionately committed to antique farmhouse practices, combined with forward-thinking aesthetics when it comes to their bottles. Le Petit Prince is their table offering, perfect for immodest gulps at mealtime. Fantastically easy to drink, it has a light barnyard funk and a pleasing, peripheral tartness.
The Kernel (England) - Table Beer (ABV varies)
The U.K. has long been the de facto epicenter of session beer (see: cask ales in pubs), and London’s the Kernel has turned the tradition into an art with its Table Beer. While ABV and hop varietals vary from batch-to-batch, deliciousness is a constant. A recent 2.8% Citra-hopped release was beautifully citrusy, clean, and ephemeral on the palate.
Evil Twin (New York) - Bikini Beer (2.7% ABV)
The pool of gypsy craft brewers (beermakers who use other people’s facilities to make their own brews) has grown a huge amount in recent years; it can even be hard for one of them to find to space to use now. But Evil Twin brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø manages to churn out beer after delicious beer from some of the most prominent craft breweries in the world. The goal of Bikini was to make a delicious beach-ready crusher, yielding roughly half the alcohol content of most similar macro-brewed options. The result is nicely bitter—yet not astringent—and it's incredibly refreshing.
De Garde (Oregon) - Bu Weisse (2.1% ABV)
De Garde releases some of the most sought-after sour beers made stateside. Berliner-style Bu Weisse is the base for many variants that De Garde barrel ages with different kinds of fruit. At a kombucha-like alcohol strength, this one feels akin to rustic, unsweetened lemon soda.
Einbecker (Germany) - Brauherren Alkoholfrei (0.5% ABV)
Some times call for a beer stripped entirely of alcohol (technically, less than 0.5%). Einbecker’s certified non-alcohol pilsner is easily one of the most convincingly tasty ones out there. Think gentle hop-bite, bready malt character, and clean finish.