Craft beer enthusiasts in recent years seem to choose their beers using a “bigger is better” rule of thumb. Big, bold beers with high alcohol content fly off the shelves at LetsPour every day. But beer drinkers shouldn’t rush to toss low-alcohol craft beers into the same camp as bland, bodiless beers like Budweiser and Coors. There are some fine craft beers with alcohol levels below 4.5 percent (often referred to generically as “session beers”).
From brown ales and sour ales to witbier and saisons, we’ve pulled together a list of our best-selling craft beers with alcohol levels of less than 4.5%. We’d love to hear from you about your favorite session beers!
Style: Brown Ale | Color: Mahogany | ABV: 4.4% | IBU: 19 | Mississippi
Lazy Magnolia did the south proud when it released the world’s first pecan beer a few years ago. In a stroke of genius, the pecans are roasted and used like a grain, resulting in a nutty flavor and dark mahogany color. Southern Pecan Nut Ale is smooth, sweet and delicately hopped.
Style: Brown Ale | Color: Brown | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 20 | Colorado
Maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes. The hint of maple syrup Tommyknockers added to this Maple Nut Brown Ale lends a mild sweetness to the ale. The malt profile is driven by nuts, toffee and chocolate, with a malty caramel finish. Skip the maple syrup and have this with your pancakes!
English Mild Ale
Style: Pugilist Style Ale | Color: Brown | ABV: 4.2% | IBU: 12 | Pennsylvania
Yard’s Brewing has crafted an ale with a man man-sized whallop of chewy malts and overtones of berries, citrus and spice. Brawler’s bready character and tasty malts impart just enough sweetness to this winner of the 2013 Great American Beer Festival’s Silver Medal for English Mild Ale!
Style: Fruit Beer | Color: Red | ABV: 4.2% | IBU: N/A | Belgium
Is it beer or an apperitif? According to Belgian brewer Liefmans, it’s both (they call it a sparkling appetizer beer). In fact, you’re encouraged to plop in some ice cubes and feel the European vibes. Bubbling with berry flavors – think strawberries, blueberries, cherries – this is a perfect cross-over beer for wine lovers (dare we say, a rose beer?).
Style: Fruit Beer | Color: Hazy Yellow | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: N/A | Oregon
Don’t be fooled by the quirky name 10 Barrel Brewing gave this grapefruit-infused beer. With a Berliner Weisse base, this definitey is not swill. Think of it as a big, soda-like, lemony lager full of grapefruit aroma and spiciness. Very refreshing and quite mouthwatering. If you’ve ever had a Radler, this is pretty close (but more beer-y).
Golden / Blonde Ale
Style: Blonde Ale | Color: Golden | ABV: 4% | IBU: 22 | Washington
Feather light, big on flavor, mildly sweet maltiness – this is an excellent Northwest-style golden ale from Big Al Brewing. With just 4 percent alcohol Rat City Blonde is very refreshing. We love the additional flavor added by the Irish ale yeast Big Al used.
Style: Golden Ale | Color: Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: N/A | Washington
Using wild herbs and following old-world traditions, Propolis Brewing has crafted a beer that Mother Nature herself would drink. With a Pilsner malt base, Erthe Golden Herbal Ale is soft and herbaceous, with an earthy-bitter, dry finish. Pair with a day of gardening.
IPA (India Pale Ale)
Style: IPA | Color: Yellow | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 45 | California
Quite a few brewers are jumping into the Session IPA craze, but Green Flash’s version (and this should come as no surprise) is several cuts better than most. This is, despite the low ABV and a light, sessionable character, is a real IPA. A hoppy beer that doesn’t over-amp the octane while keeping all the flavor. This is a solid IPA by any description. As a session IPA, it’s a freakin’ miracle!
Style: American Light Lager | Color: Golden | ABV: 3.9% | IBU: 16 | Oregon
This is beer, plain and simple. Lawnmower Lager from Caldera Breweing is about refreshment, keeping cool in hot weather, and no-fuss great taste. Creamy and dry, you won’t a beer that’s easier to drink on a scorching day. Brewed with flaked barley and flaked rice, it’s loaded with flavors of toasted whole-grain bread and caramel. Beer Advocate gives it a 90-point rating.
Style: Premium Lager | Color: Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 15 | Washington
As lagers go, Shorty’s from Skagit River Brewing delivers 5x the flavor. It’s rich with malts, tasting of nice citrusy hops, and very drinkable. A classic summer beer that refreshes as it delivers a big wallop of orange, toast, lemonade, caramel, and mild red berries.
Style: Blonde | Color: Golden | ABV: 4% | IBU: 28 | Oregon
Need a beer to get your BudMillerCoors hold-out friends over to the the craft beer side? This session beer from top brewer Deschutes River will do the trick. Light as an MGD, River Ale is a stream of sweet, mellow malts, with barely a touch of Crystal, Cascade and Nugget hops. There’s a hint of sweetness and a crisp finish that begs for that next sip. Winner of the 2013 Brussels Beer Challenge Silver Medal in its category and awarded the title of “World’s Best Bitter up to 4%” at the 2013 World Beer Awards.
Style: Pale Ale | Color: Orange Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 40 | Oregon
Hair of the Dog is known for wildly delicious beer. That’s why Ruth is a perfect choice when you want a beer that has a lower alcohol profile, but is still worthy of a craft beer geek’s palate. It’s refreshing and dry with hints of apples, lemons and biscuits.
Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Style: Saison/Farmhouse | Color: Murky Brown | ABV: 4.3% | IBU: Approx. 25 IBU | Michigan
“Bam” is right! This dark farmhouse ale brewed by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is more intense than most Saison’s can ever hope to be. Dark caramel in color, Bam Noire is creamy, dusky and tinged with graham and spices. It’s got substance that won’t weigh you down. Rate Beers gives it a 94.
Style: Saison | Color: Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 18 | Oregon
Brewmaster Alex Ganum at Upright Brewing has created a lovely, enchanting saison that will please just about any beer drinker. Four is a bubbly, light and very aromatic Belgian-style farmhouse ale. The Belgian yeast adds spiciness and blonde malts create a pleasing silkiness and a biscuit-like character. This is one of those beers you could – a might just – drink with every meal.
Style: Saison | Color: Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 20 | California
Saison Diego is California’s answer to Belgian-style saisons and farmhouse ales. Green Flash’s version is hoppier, lustier and more intense than its European inspiration. Full of tropical fruit, mustiness, and spice, Saison Diego is infused with Seville orange peels, Chinese ginger and grains of paradise. A flamboyent beer with low alcohol and a tsunami of flavor.
Style: Kolsch-Style Ale | Color: Golden | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 20 | Washington
Freya’s Gold from Odin Brewing is a timeless favorite at LetsPour – it’s crisp and refreshing with a nice amount of hoppiness and spice (thanks to zingy ginger root infused in the beer). Aromatic, light and absurdly flavorful, Freya’s bright citrus and wafer flavors emerge on the clean, crisp, lingering finish.
Style: Berliner Weisse | Color: Golden | ABV: 3.1% | IBU: 2 | California
Very authentically German craft beer. The Bruery uses lactobacillus and brettanomyces to lend a tart flavor to Hottenroth, so despite a crazy-low ABV profile, this is tasty beer. A traditional way to enjoy this type of beer is to sweeten it with a berry syrup.
Style: Lambic | Color: Golden | ABV: 3.5% | IBU: N/A | Belgium
Lambic beer meets Kombucha! This is a very inventive twist on one of the great beer styles of Belgium. Brewed in Belgium for Vanberg & Dewulf, this tart ale captured the Experimental Beer of the Year award at the US Open of Beer. Esquire named it one of the 10 healthiest beers in the world. And Time Out New York said it’s one of the 100 best tastes of the year.
Style: Lambic | Color: Orange | ABV: 4% | IBU: N/A | Belgium
This seasonal beer from Timmerman’s in Belgium defies the notion that low-alcohol beers are all a pale yellow color with bland taste. It’s like pouring Autumn in a glass, with pumpkin, brown sugar backed by wheat and tart, funky earthiness.
Style: Berliner Weisse | Color: Burgundy | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: N/A | Denmark
Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing partnered with Westbrook Brewing to create a Berliner weisse that tweaks the traditional style with a fat infusion of blueberries. Berliner weisse is supposed to be spiced subtly with coriander and sea salt. In Justin, the macerated blueberries prettily offset the sourness found in Berliner weisse beers, but without adding much actual sweetness. The result is different, refreshing and delicious!
Style: Ginger Beer | Color: Light Orange | ABV: 4% | IBU: N/A | Scotland
Ginger beer for grown ups! Although it’s a bit on the sweeter side, Crabbie’s Spiced Orange Alcoholic Ginger Beer is still quite refreshing! Following a secret recipe, the beer is steeped in ginger (from the Far East, as Crabbie’s points out) for up to six weeks. It’s then combined with real orange extract imparting a very zesty flavor.
Style: Spiced Beer | Color: Amber | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 7 | Delaware
Leave it to the crazy brewers at Dogfish Head to recreate an ancient Egyptian beer inspired by hieroglyphics and using yeast, spices, herbs and fruit native to the Cairo area. Ta Henket is brewed with an ancient form of wheat and loaves of hearth-baked bread. The result is an earthy ale with a taste of chamomile tea, followed by curry, nutmeg and cinnamon spices.
Style: Witbier | Color: Hazy Gold | ABV: 4.5% | IBU: 12 | Belgium
This is a love story in a bottle. Once upon a time around 1300, the King of Sweden and Norway fell in love with a beautiful princess named Blanche of Namur. She soon became his wife and Queen of Norway, Sweden and Scania. Brasserie du Bocq captures her sweetness and delicacy in this award-winning witbier (also known as bìere blanche). Blanche de Namur is now capturing the hearts of beer lovers everywhere. Some awards bestowed to this delicious witbier include Best Wheat Beer in the World, Best Wheat Beer in Europe and Europe’s Best Belgian-Style Witbier.
What are you favorite low-alcohol and session beers? Drop us a comment – we’d love to know!