From Saisons to Sessions and even a Grisette, here are the best lower-calorie, lower-alcohol brews for Labor Day.
Matthew Giles 1 / 7
Six Beers Perfect for Day Drinking
Labor Day unofficially marks summer’s end, but that doesn’t mean the stickiness and humidity that has accompanied the season’s long days disappears. Whether you are at the beach, or helping man the grill at your friend’s backyard all-day BBQ, you'll want an ice-cold beer in hand. So, we spoke with Joey Pepper, the beer sommelier at Brooklyn’s legendary Torst, for some of his go-to brews. These six beers are perfectly suited for several hours of drinking while you hang, no matter your plans for the last holiday before the leaves turn.
The Berlinner Weiss is a style that has become increasingly prevalent among mainstream palettes. The sour is infused and then fermented with lactobacillus bacteria, which leaves a pleasant tang on the tongue without the puckering that may accompany other sours. Athena, with its accompanying low alcohol content, is one of Pepper’s favorite sours: “The intensity of the sourness is not too much, and it is fairly soft.” Pepper also praises the beer, which is made by the up-and-coming Georgia brewery, for its unique aftertaste, adding, “It has a touch of creaminess to it while still giving you that nod of the hat to Berlinner Weiss.”
The perfect beer for a day spent over an open flame. The saison has none of the barnyard funk that typifies a saison, and has a gentle fizziness that makes it impossible to enjoy just one. “It is just super clean and dry,” says Pepper. “Extra Dry is a great easy drinking beer—there is nothing that will turn you off.”
Featuring the lowest alcohol content on this list, Bikini Beer is something of an OG in the genre of ideal day drinking beers. The secret to the session IPA’s appeal is its balance. “Bikini Beer has a surprising amount of body to it,” says Pepper. “That is the key to that beer—how well it is designed. It is super simple. It is remarkably hoppy that you think you are tasting an IPA, but with only 2.7% ABV, you won’t pass out in the sun from enjoying more than one.”
The majority of this Connecticut-based brewery’s offerings are farmhouse ales, including this toasted hay grisette, a style that is a relative newcomer (historically, these beers were imbibed by mine workers who started the shift with white shirts that turned gray by the time they began to drink). The Lade Øl has a distinct tartness, but what separates it from other grisettes (or farmhouse ales) is the presence of the toasted hay—the hay isn’t overpowering, but provides a nice counterbalance to the sharpness of the bacteria. “I would love to see grisettes have their day,” says Pepper.
Yet another beer you can keep drinking throughout the day. Boat’s kolsch yeast and German malt both add a refreshing bite to the brew, while the aromatic hops keep the palette intrigued. It’s a session, yes, but there is much more complexity to Boat than one would expect from session IPAs, a category that keeps on improving as the craft community continually moves away from the hop bombs of the mid-2000s and towards more nuanced and flavorful IPAs.
A relative newcomer, House Brewing only makes one beer: House, a retro lager with notes of straw and cracker before leaving a creamy aftertaste. House is inoffensive, and perfect for your own enjoyment, or for those friends who insist they only drink macro lagers like Budweiser or Coors.