Summer is in Session
For these daylong drinking marathons, the high ABV, barrel-aged big beers that warmed us in the winter are pushed aside for lighter options that are equally thirst-quenching, but won't have us sprawled out underneath a picnic table after 3 glasses. And luckily, session beer has become an increasing point of focus for breweries around the country, giving us an increasing amount of options for beers that are below (or hovering right around) the 5% ABV mark. Here are a few of my favorites, as well as some others that you may want to keep an eye out for as you make your liquor store runs or set up shop on a bar patio this summer.
This is one of my favorite warm weather beers, and in my opinion, is also criminally underappreciated. I'll even admit that I tend to forget it's a year-round beer, but sure enough, every May, as the temperature starts to rise, it's like the guy on the label reaches out and smacks me with his oar to remind me he's on the shelf. Though it isn't specifically called a Berliner Weisse by Bell's, Oarsman's characteristics flirt closely with the style; a tart wheat ale clocking in at 4% ABV. Light bodied, with a sourness that isn't overwhelming, this is amazingly refreshing and easy to drink.
Though I previously thought that Summit may be a one-hit wonder brewery with their thoroughly enjoyable Saga IPA, they proved me wrong when I recently tried their new Meridian Session Ale. Inspired by the Belgian Enkel (single) this beer has excellent balance of funk, spice, and fruit flavors contributed by Meridian hops. A very unique and complex beer, I highly recommend keeping an eye out for this one, as it quickly shot to the top of the list as one of my favorite Summit beers.
Deschutes River Ale
Though Deschutes already had two solid session beers in their lineup with Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Twilight Summer Ale, they recently introduced their new year-round River Ale, and I think it takes the cake as their session beer leader. Though the phrase 'Blonde Ale' may not excite most, this beer is crisp, flavorful, and could serve as a great transition beer for people interested in shifting from a BMC beer as their day-drinking fuel of choice. This affordable, 4% ABV beer is now readily available around town in six-packs.
By now, most people are probably familiar with Stiegl's Lemon and Grapefruit Radlers, but Stiegl just changed the game this year with their latest addition to the line: cans. Not just any cans, but 17 ounce cans filled with Stiegl Grapefruit Radler. Now this 2% ABV blend of Stiegl Goldbrau and grapefruit juice is even easier and more convenient to drink. Grab one of these pounders (pound-and-an-ouncers?), toss it in a koozy and enjoy. Go on, drink it right out of the can. I dare you.
Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse
The 16.9 ounce bottles of 1809 Berliner Weisse may not be the most convenient or portable vessel for summer drinking, I just couldn't leave it off my list. Easily my favorite beer on this list, 1809 (in my opinion) is the quintessential Berliner Weisse. Wheat character with some mouth-puckering lemon and green apple sourness, complimented by a little spice and a perfect, slightly dry mouthfeel. Can you tell I like this beer? You may not want to bring this one into the pool, but it's a great beer to split with a friend or significant other while enjoying the sun.
Others To Look For
Founders All Day IPA and Lagunitas DayTime IPA are two beers that, while they didn't blow me away, are solid additions to the sessionable beer world. If your tastes lean on the hoppy side, these might be more up your alley than the options I listed above. Another hop-forward session beer that is headed our way soon is Odell Loose Leaf American Session Ale. This 4.5% ABV extra pale ale is brewed with five varieties of hops and is finished off in Odell's Hop Back with whole flower Cascade hops. The catch? Initially, Loose Leaf will only be available in Odell's new Montage variety pack, a twelve-pack that will start hitting shelves in KC in early June. Finally, don't forget about Mother's Sandy, their hoppy wheat beer brewed with grapefruit peel. As if a witbier and a pale ale took a sweet and slightly tart roll in the hay, this crisp beer comes in at 4.8% ABV and is incredibly drinkable.
These, of course, are just a few suggestions, and there are many other options out there to quench your summer thirst. Any that I didn't include that are on your list of favorites?