With warm summer days supposedly here to stay, there are a lot of people who may find their weekends filling up fast. Neighbourhood barbeques, outdoor hikes, afternoons spent on a patio, yard work, or weekend getaways all get better with the addition of craft beer.

I think that most of us at this time of year start looking to something on the lighter side of the beer spectrum. I start to see a lot more lagers and radlers appearing at barbeques — which is great — but I want to take this space to highlight a different, lighter option: session beers.

If you’re not familiar, a session beer is usually defined as a low alcohol beer that sits below 5 per cent ABV.  That leaves us with a pretty big category with a full range of flavours and styles. There are times when I want a flavourful craft beer but I don’t want the effects of the alcohol content. Barbeques can last late into the night, work may need to get done after a pint at lunch, or editing a column can be way more enjoyable with a tasty session beer. 

Session beers are not new — they have been around for a long time, but it seems that more and more of them pop up in the warmer months of summer. There are plenty of great options being produced across Ontario, but one huge advantage of living in Waterloo Region is the plethora of top-notch breweries we have right here at home.  Most local breweries seem to always have at least one session beer available — there are some great ones out there. 

Short Finger Brewing Co. has two phenomenal beers that I want to highlight here. Eula (4.2 per cent) is a dry-hopped golden sour that is complex and oh so delicious! Short Shorts (3.5 per cent) is a series of American style Berliner weisse beers that can have fruit or dry-hop additions; they are all refreshingly tart and tasty.

Counterpoint Brewing Company has released two variations of Red Violin (4.7 per cent), a gose that has been fruited with whole berries. If this is on their list, you should get there quickly.

Block Three Brewing Co.’s flagship King St. Saison (4.6 per cent) is a great well-balanced saison that’s easy drinking and pretty much always available.

Innocente Brewing Co. has a crazy low abv Tafelbier (3.1per cent) that is very crushable with some great Belgian yeast characteristics.

Together We’re Bitter’s Hydrocut (4.5 per cent), named after the famed local bike haunt is a session IPA that is light and refreshing — great after some time spent on the trails.

I think many have shied away from lower alcohol beers as they have had a bit of a bad reputation for being bland. Craft beer has always been about big bold flavours, but it’s also been about subtle well-balanced, well-crafted beers; session beers can be both. If you’ve dabbled in lower ABV beers before and weren’t impressed, I urge you to try again.

Justin is currently enrolled in the Brewmaster program at Niagara College.