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Craft Beer Experts Share Their Absolute Favorite Session Beers For Winter

Porters, barrel-aged stouts, and strong ales are great in winter. But they’re… a lot — heavy, thick, and often high in ABVs. That’s where session beers come in.

If you’re new to this term, “session beer” refers to a beer with a lower ABV. They usually sit between two and five percent and can touch on everything from stouts (Guinness is only 4.2 percent ABV) to lagers to IPAs to ales. Anything you might have a few of in any give beer-drinking “session.”

To help you find the best session beers to drink as winter wanes, we asked some well-known craft beer experts, brewers, and beer professionals to tell us their picks for the best wintry session beers. Keep scrolling to see all of their picks!

Live Oak Hefeweizen

Live Oak Hefeweizen
Live Oak

Kevin Smolar, lab manager at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $9 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Wheat beers were the first style that got me into craft beer. That love for them fell by the wayside over the years but was rekindled the first time I tried Live Oak’s Hefeweizen. It’s a perfect example of the style. The blend and balance between the banana/bubblegum esters and the clove phenols are outstanding. The wheat in it comes through with such a fresh, sweet flavor that I ask for this beer anytime I know someone traveling through Texas.

It’s a great year-round beer but there’s something about it during the cold, Indiana winter that just makes me happy.

Barrel + Beam Petit

Barrel + Beam Petit
Barrel + Beam

Garth E. Beyer, certified Cicerone® and owner and founder of Garth’s Brew Bar in Madison, Wisconsin

ABV: 5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Petit by Barrel + Beam is a farmhouse saison that is the perfect winter sessionable beer. Everything about it is low-key but super refreshing and it lifts the spirits up during the cooler months. It has a very slight hoppiness to it while holding notes of morning dew and barnyard.

Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner

Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner
Jack

Joe Connolly, director of Springdale Beer Co. in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: $9.50 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

I’m sticking to pilsner this season. German styles with snappy hop character can stand up to real hearty flavors without alcohol intensity. I’m still enthralled by the tweaks the team at Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner has made this year, which is pouring better than ever with a huge cap of foam.

Little Dry Creek Broken Arrow Altbier

Little Dry Creek Broken Arrow Altbier
Little Dry Creek

Ryan Pachmayer, head brewer at Yak & Yeti Brewpub and Restaurant in Arvada, Colorado

ABV: 5.5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Little Dry Creek Brewing’s Broken Arrow Altbier is a newer one for me. It’s difficult to balance an Alt beer and this brewery does a fantastic job of it. The hop bitterness is firm but doesn’t distract from the maltiness or drinkability of the beer. A very complex and delicious offering from a newer brewery.

Nola Brown Ale

Nola Brown Ale
Nola

Indy Grap, brewer at Urban South Brewery in New Orleans

ABV: 3.9%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

NOLA Brown Ale from NOLA Brewing has a low ABV but a big flavor. Warm and cozy, this beer is the perfect come-down from a busy holiday season. It also goes well with a shot of whiskey if you have had a particularly stressful time.

Guinness Draught

Guinness Draught
Guinness

John Montes De Oca, co-head brewer at Barebottle Brewery in San Francisco

ABV: 4.2%

Average Price: $8 for a four-pack of 15-ounce cans

Why This Beer?

When in doubt, I always reach for a Guinness Draught. It’s light, creamy, and refreshing. It has hints of roasted malts and chocolate to help quell your sweet tooth. Even though it is dry and has a pretty low ABV, it feels heartier than most other beer, making it a great transition from big bombastic winter beers to springtime IPAs and lagers.

Chuckanut Helles Lager

Chuckanut Helles Lager
Chuckanut

Chris Hotz, research and development brewer at Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego

ABV: 5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

I would define a session beer as anything five percent or below and is easy drinking. Chuckanut Helles Lager meets that definition and has proven its worthiness with a handful of GABF medals. This beer is less hoppy than a pilsner while still highlighting the bready maltiness from high-quality Pilsner malt.

There is nothing to hide behind in a beer like this and is representative of the quality of the brewing and brewers at Chuckanut Brewing.

Writer’s Pick: Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell
Pilsner Urquell

ABV: 4.4%

Average Price: $10 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

In our opinion, there’s no wrong time of year for a crisp, refreshing, well-balanced pilsner. And there are few better than the classic Czech-made Pilsner Urquell with its slightly malty, sweet, and dry flavor. It pairs just as well with wintry activities as it does with steamy, humid summer days.

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