Even in beer, the adage is true: Good things come in small packages. Some of the best beers on shelves are low-ABV session brews that trade big booze for drinkability, and never skimp on flavor. (“Session beer” is usually under 5% ABV; the idea is, you can drink more than one in a single drinking “session”.) Don’t believe you could ever be pacified by a placid pint? Here are sessionable versions of 15 beer styles.
Abbey ale: Belgian yeast is the star of Destihl Abbey’s Single: The 4.9% ABV means sweet bursts of fruit and bubblegum don’t fight for attention.
Rye ale: The 3.75%-ABV Mavericks Rye Pale Ale dials down the sharpness of bigger rye beers to a pleasant spice that offsets citrusy hops.
American wheat: Citra hops and zingy wheat flash orange and apricot notes through Tallgrass Halcyon’s almost creamy, 5%-ABV liquid gold.
Belgian blonde: Zesty pepper sets off the sunny sweetness of the awesomely creamy, 4.5%-ABV Manayunk Belgian Session Ale.
Hoppy wheat: The 4.6%-ABV Excel Flash Bang marries the creamy twang of a wheat beer with bitter, pithy orange hops.
Irish red ale: Smooth, sweet caramel swirls through Santa Fe Irish Red before the creamy, 4.5%-ABV sip cleans up nice and dry.
Gueuze: Yep, the most coveted beer in the world’s a session beer: The rare, sour Cantillon Classic Gueuze clocks in at just 5% ABV.
Fruit beer: Fruity! Salty! Sour! Soft! Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose is a veritable beer mimosa; the 4.2% ABV begs for brunch.
Pilsner: Grassy hops and a splash of wildflower honey spike Wiseacre Tiny Bomb’s crackery, crisp 4.5%-ABV swallow.
Berliner weisse: Creamy, tart and zesty, The Bruery Hottenroth’s sold in a big bomber—but its 3.1% ABV means you don’t have to share.
Brown ale: Blacktooth Saddle Bronc’s 4.8%-ABV swallow is unbelievably light, yet somehow still oozes dynamic nutty, cocoa and roast notes.
Stout: Fuller’s Black Cab Stout is everything you want in a stout—deep roast, sweet cocoa, rich fruit—in a 4.5%-ABV sip.
Pale ale: All-American hop notes of pine, lemon and melon shimmer above Ale Asylum Demento’s crisp, 4.7%-ABV swallow.
Saison: Oats round off De la Senne Crushable Saison’s loud, funky lemon, hay and grass notes; at 5% ABV, it’s a small but sensational saison.
Schwarzbier: Rich, roasty and loaded with coffee and dark chocolate notes, Uinta Baba Black Lager is just 4% ABV.
AND THEN THERE WAS THE SESSION IPA: Still hop-forward but toned down all around, session IPAs are now officially EVERYWHERE. Our picks:
Drake’s Alpha Session: The aroma’s intoxicating with awesomely ripe orange and grapefruit; on the tongue, it’s pithy and bitter, and every sip makes you wonder how they squeezed all those hops into a 3.8%-ABV beer.
Smuttynose Bouncy House: This perky, 4.3%-ABV brew recently gained year-round status—likely because its wildly fruity Calypso and Saphir hops so delightfully contrast the dry swallow and piney prickle.
Stone Go To IPA: A toned-down beer from Stone?! This 4.5%-ABV stunner is loaded with resiny, grapefruity hops and the kind of bitterness you expect from the team who pioneered West Coast IPAs.
Founders All Day IPA: Nothing fancy here: Just well-balanced citrus and pine in a clean, crisp 4.7%-ABV swallow.
Trinity Red Swingline: A tad tart (thanks to Brett and lacto), a little fruity (there’s tangerine zest in there, too), and pleasantly earthy (courtesy of coriander and a nap in French chardonnay barrels). Oh, and just 4.1% ABV!
Firestone Walker Easy Jack: The newest member of the Jack family is this 4.5%-ABV kick-back beer that spotlights spicy, leafy hops from Europe, New Zealand and America; a dose of oats smoothes out the sip.