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Easy Drinking Doesn’t Mean Nasty Flavor: Craft Beer Experts Name Their Favorite Summer Session Beers

When summer weather hits, we tend to gravitate towards lower-alcohol beers for multiple reasons. First of all, there’s a good chance a lower-ABV beer will be light, crisp, not too heavy, and refreshing. Secondly, since they are low in alcohol, you can drink a few more than you might normally drink while you enjoy the warm, sunny weather on your back deck, patio, or a small strip of grass in the middle of a local park. In the industry, we call those kind of lower-ABV beers “session beers.”

Session generally refers to any beer that’s under 5% ABV. While many beer styles fall under that category, they’re generally lighter than their high-ABV counterparts and have a good balance of malts and hops. Crisp, refreshing, light.

Session beers are great for summer drinking, so it’s high time to let you in on some of the best available choices. To that end we decided to ask a handful of our favorite craft beer experts and brewers to tell us the best session beers of all time.

Modelo Especial

Modelo Especial
Modelo

Seth Wile, head brewer and owner of Okay Beer Company in Honeoye Falls, New York

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I choose Modelo Especial. Modelo is one of my favorite summer session beers because of how crisp and clean it is. It’s a very light pilsner-style lager that doesn’t drink thin or watery and is able to exhibit wonderful flavors of light honey/biscuit from the malt and agreeable herbaceousness from the hops. They go down easy and never disappoint.

What the writer says:

When it comes to Mexican lagers, it’s tough to beat the sessionable, crisp, easy-drinking nature of Modelo Especial. It’s the kind of beer I’ll reach past many other lagers in a cooler to get to on a hot summer day.

Miller High Life

Miller High Life
Miller

Jeremy Marshall, brewmaster at Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: $6.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I like that we aren’t necessarily talking session IPAs and I generally tend to think of session beers as what could be referred to as “spacers.” A spacer is anything that has a low alcohol content that tends to taste better the colder you can get it (the reverse is also true, so tastes not good the warmer it is). The key is to literally anesthetize your mouth if it is really cold. That said, the ultimate spacer is Miller High Life, but again, I should say extremely cold Miller High Life. Crisp, clean, refreshing, and very easy to drink.

What the writer says:

Miller High Life is undoubtedly one of the best, most sessionable beers of all time. It’s not just the iconic glass bottle either. It’s the light, crisp, easy-drinking, highly crushable flavor of the High Life. It’s the kind of low-ABV beer you want to pair with summer afternoon yard games.

Woven Water Failsafe Pilsner

Woven Water Failsafe Pilsner
Woven Water

Dan Esperon, owner and brewer at Crazy Dingo Brewing Co in Fort Myers, Florida

ABV: 4.8%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

I’m digging Failsafe Pilsner brewed by Woven Water Brewing for a sessionable, crisp brew. Definitely fits the bill for a classic session brew that goes down easy with a subtle hop classic pilsner finish. It’s an all-time favorite when it comes to summery sessionable, easy-to-drink beers.

What the writer says:

Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to try this one. But it sounds right up my alley. I can’t turn down a crisp, well-made pilsner during the summer months.

Founders All Day IPA

Founders All Day IPA
Founders

Eric Espinoza, bartender at Signia by Hilton in San Jose, California

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Founders Brewing All Day IPA. This one is such an easy session IPA. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for the bigger flavors of an IPA but don’t want to be drowned in the higher ABV they tend to come with. All Day IPA is just what the name says. It’s a no-brainer as an alternative to a lager or pilsner and has just the right balance of citrus and piney notes. Never too much of any one thing.

What the writer says:

There’s a reason this beer is called “All Day IPA”. It’s slightly bitter, floral, and filled with bright citrus flavors that make it perfect for a hot day. The low-alcohol content makes it extremely sessionable as well, but doesn’t take away from the overall flavor.

Zero Gravity McLighty’s Lager

Zero Gravity McLighty’s Lager
Zero Gravity

Justin Tisdale, head brewer at Rejects Brewing Co. in Middletown, Rhode Island

ABV: 3.2%

Average Price: $15 for a twelve-pack

Why This Beer?

I generally avoid anything that deliberately labels itself as a “session beer” since it’s generally just a knocked-down boring example of an already existing offering. But, if I were to go for something lower in alcohol, and something more “sessionable” for a big day out in the sun, I would have to lean towards Zero Gravity’s Mclighty’s Lager. I just discovered this beer and it’s been secretly hiding in my brewery cooler ever since I found it. It’s super low in alcohol, yet crazy high in flavor and body. Solid beer to go crush in the cooler while you wait for your spare shirts to dry out on top of the kettle.

What the writer says:

With a name like Mclighty’s Light Lager you might assume this is nothing but yellow, fizzy water with little to no flavor. You’d be completely wrong. While the name is a cheeky way of explaining that it’s a session beer, this lager is still crisp, flavorful, and highly memorable.

Notch Session Pils

Notch Session Pils
Notch

Mike Kelly, senior brewer at Harpoon Brewery in Boston

ABV: 4%

Average Price: $10.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Notch Session Pils is a great beer to drink in the summertime. This light lager has tons of malt flavor, and plenty of Saaz flavor and aroma, matched with a clean fermentation profile. A no-brainer for the summer. It’s one of the most perfectly balanced summery, sessionable beers on the market.

What the writer says:

Notch is well-known in the craft beer world and they might not have a more famous beer than its Session Pils. Even though it’s touted as a low-ABV pilsner, it’s loaded with floral hops and crisp citrus flavors.

Cannonball Creek Trump Hands

Cannonball Creek Trump Hands
Cannonball Creek

Chris Pinns, tasting room manager at Societe Brewing Company in San Diego

ABV: 4.6%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Cannonball Creek Brewing Trump Hands is my go-to. The hardest part of making a session IPA is not sacrificing the flavor in pursuit of lower alcohol. This beer sacrifices nothing with its bright, citrusy hop profile, and clean, crisp finish. Overall, a very well-balanced, well-made session IPA that will make you rethink your thoughts on low-alcohol beer.

What the writer says:

I was lucky enough to try this beer a few years ago. And while it has a politically silly name, the beer itself is complex and well-balanced with sweet malts paired with citrus and floral, piney, slightly bitter hops at the finish.

Collective Arts Guava Gose

Collective Arts Guava Gose
Collective Arts

Marshall Hendrickson, co-founder and head of operations at Veza Sur Brewing Co. in Miami

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $11.99 for a four-pack of 12-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Collective Arts Guava Gose is my go-to session summer beer. I love this Guava Gose from Collective Arts. It’s very well balanced with great guava flavor and not too tart. It’s easy to put down two or three of them without wrecking your palate, which isn’t true for a lot of sours.

What the writer says:

I love this pick because many people immediately look to lagers, pilsners, and IPAs when they think of session beers. This slightly tart, salty, fruity Gose definitely belongs on this list as well.

Lindemans Framboise

Lindemans Framboise
Lindemans

Ty Nash, head brewmaster at Little Dry Creek Brewery in Denver, Colorado

ABV: 2.5%

Average Price: $11.99 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

Lindemans Framboise. This Lambic beer is slightly sweet and slightly tart and infused with raspberries during the aging process. We always start Memorial Day weekend with a bottle and will sip on this throughout the summer. At 2.5% ABV, this is beyond session and becomes the perfect beer for toasting.

What the writer says:

One of the most well-known beer brands in the world, it’s difficult to find a more flavorful, sweet, tart, fruity beer than Lindemans Framboise, and certainly not at a low alcohol level like 2.5%.

Notch Salem Lager

Notch Salem Lager
Notch

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Beer in Boston

ABV: 4.5%

Average Price: $12.99 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

Notch Brewing was one of the first breweries to focus exclusively on session beers and they’re still one of the best. Their Salem Lager would be my go-to summer session pick. Bready malts mix with a mellow floral hop character and a soft creamy finish.

What the writer says:

While its Session Pils is more well-known, its Salem Lager might be even better. If you’re a fan of session beers with more malt character paired with citrus and floral hops, Salem Lager should be your jam.

Writer’s Pick:

Evil Twin Bikini Beer

Evil Twin Bikini Beer
Evil Twin

ABV: 2.7%

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

When you see this beer on the shelf at your local beer store, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into — a low-alcohol, crisp, refreshing, easy-to-drink session beer. The kind of beer you load your cooler with and sip on all day in between dips in the ocean or lake you’re lounging near.

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