We’ve been thinking a lot about low-ABV beers lately. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not because we don’t love their über-boozy counterparts, but rather because we feel there’s a time and a place for everything—and the place for chocolatey, midnight-black pastry stouts is not at our next weekend barbecue. Once the days start getting longer, we start craving uncomplicated, crushable beers we can enjoy all afternoon long. January is for slowly savoring waves of nuanced flavor by the fire; springtime is all about sipping lagers, pilsners, and fruit-forward sours in the sunshine. These session beers are both perfectly crafted and perfectly suited to lazy, laid-back day-drinking.
Rhinegeist’s Cheetah Lager
“Extremely drinkable, Cheetah Lager is an uncomplicated yet well-done representation of an American lager,” writes Jesse Bussard of this straw-yellow sipper with an ABV of 4.8%. The flavor profile is fairly straightforward with notes of “bready dough and corn flake flavors,” a whiff of “citrus and spice” from the Saphir hops, and a “creamy, pillowy mouthfeel and crisp, clean finish.” It’s hard to imagine a summer setting in which this low-key libation wouldn’t be welcome.
Saint Archer’s Mexican Lager
“Mexican lager is the perfect summer session beer, light enough in flavor, feel, and alcohol to stand up to the hottest day,” Tucker Anders declares of this “summer crusher” that “begs for a wedge of lime and a sunny day, and would be an excellent base for a spicy michelada or tangy beermosa.” With a 4.4% ABV, this is “crisp, clean, and refreshing” lager brewed with flaked corn is an ideal thirst-quencher.
Oskar Blues’ Little Yella Pils
“This is a damn fine beer for any style, but particularly a pils. The hops, malt, and carbonation work in concert from start to finish. The hops bring bright lemon, deep herbal, and light floral notes to go along with plenty of bitterness,” writes Tucker Anders. Pilsners don’t always get the love they deserve, but these crisp, clean and eminently drinkable beers are the unsung heroes of many a sunny Sunday afternoon. Even chefs say they pair well with all kinds of food and at just 4.7% ABV, this textbook example of the style is an instant classic.
Great Divide’s Denver Pale Ale
This “really solid, old-school, and truly ‘Denver’ pale ale” is “so much about the dank flavors. It's sticky and sweet without a ton of bitterness, staying true to style,” writes Tucker Anders. Tropical, hazy IPAs might be trendy, but the brewers at Great Divide opt to take their pale ale in another direction. And at 5% ABV, it’s well-suited to afternoon sipping.
Harpoon Brewery Rec. League
We’ll let you in on a little secret: our reviewers haven’t gotten to this American pale ale yet and it’s not the kind of hot new release that’ll have lines snaking down the block. It is, however, what we’ll be drinking this weekend. With an ABV 3.8%, it goes down like water but with all the tropical aromas of a hoppy IPA. Since it’s brewed with things like chia seeds and buckwheat kasha, it’s light enough that your health-conscious friends can enjoy it. It also has an incredibly crisp, minerally flavor profile that’s good enough to win over beer snobs. It’s not fussy or fancy in the least and that’s exactly why we love it.