Session Beers: The Freedom to Drink Outside, All Day

Drinking outside at the Phoenix Brewing Co. The light!

Beauty pageant winners in my book. At the Phoenix Brewing Company in Mansfield, Ohio

Independence Day is an important holiday for both its historical and cultural significance. We celebrate our independence from Britain, we wave mini flags at beauty pageant winners grinning stiffly from convertibles, we use copious amounts of lighter fluid in our meals.

Most importantly, we openly exercise our freedom to drink. Outside and all day. This year I enjoyed a beer on my stoop while the local Fourth of July parade went by. The insurance agents and scout leaders who handed out swag eyed my beer avidly and threatened to return. They didn’t though; and does anyone want a State Farm water bottle?

Drinking outside is really one of my all time favorite summer things to do, if you can call it “doing” (which you can, and that’s part of why I love it). It’s perhaps second only to my love of backyard badminton, at which I am a crack shot. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely what it is that I find so appealing about indulging outside: the glow of a pint in the midday sun, the crisp bite of hops on a muggy day, or how much more charming I become over the afternoon.

Outdoor at The Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland

Outdoors at The Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland. Check out the twins.

The activity (or inactivity, depending on badminton availability) is not without its perils, of course. Craft beers are known for packing more of a punch than their macro-brewed cousins. While one could conceivably drink a case of Bud Light on her own in an afternoon, one would be terrifically unwise to attempt such a feat with, say, Dogfish Head 60 Minute. Which is where session beers come into play.

Session beers are beers with low alcohol content; typically one is considered a session if it’s under 5% abv. But hang on, you say — my roommate’s High Life is 4.6%. Does that mean it’s a session? I would argue no for two reasons: 1) I have a bad attitude about cheap, mass-produced beers that spend more money on their marketing campaigns than research and development, and 2) session beers must be beers you want to drink all afternoon, not just that you can. Sessions are as flavorful as other beers, but with a more forgiving alcohol level.

They are perfect for, and often designed specifically for, lazy afternoons of drinking outside because they are well-balanced beers as well. Those imperial IPAs and syrupy scotches are just peachy, but the aftertaste of hop residue or malt on the back of your tongue does not tend to encourage drinkers to keep quaffing it all day long. Outdoor drinking tip Numero Uno: start with your higher-powered beer of choice, so everyone else at the picnic knows you know what’s up, and then retire to a slow-paced afternoon of session beers. Slow and steady wins the race, and have you ever seen a drunk tortoise? I didn’t think so.

Here are a few I’ve had and recommend:
Founders All Day IPA
Great Lakes Sharpshooter Session Wheat IPA
Fat Head’s Sunshine Daydream Session IPA
Green Flash’s Hop Odyssey: Citra Session IPA
They are not all IPAs, of course; it’s just that I lean that way.