(Update 9/2/2022: A few years back we asked our staff for Labor Day drinking picks that wouldn’t put you under. While not all of those staffers are still with the IH team, we stand by our previous picks for sessionable drinks.)
Your Labor Day weekend is long. So pace yourself when you’re imbibing, and grab something sessionable.
A session beer, as CraftBeer notes, is “not defined by flavors or aromas, which can place it in almost any style category. Instead, what makes a session beer is primarily refreshment and drinkability.”
While this tends to mean low alcohol by volume (ABV), we’ve expanded the category a bit for our guide to sessionable drinks, which doesn’t stop at just beer … and doesn’t rely on specific ABV numbers. The idea here is something alcoholic that is drinkable over a long, lazy period of time, without too much harm to the imbiber (note: stay safe out there!).
The easy-going quaffs of choice from the InsideHook staff, below.
I ride hard for the shandy, which is beer mixed with … not beer. Certainly beer doesn’t need anything in it to be enjoyable, but a) a full day of IPAs will put even the hardiest of souls in the casket, and b) you’d be surprised at what sort of tasty, refreshing doors you open up when you start experimenting. For further evidence, look no further than our recent piece in which certified cicerone (aka beer nerd extraordinaire) Anne Becerra clued us in to a few of her favorite suds concoctions. — Danny Agnew, former Creative Director
It’s the perfect day-drinking beer — fruity, hoppy and super crisp — but, at 5.8% ABV, you gotta watch yourself. I find the general one-six-pack-per-person rule usually keeps things in line and rolling smoothly. Also, the label is perfect — who doesn’t want to look at that orange sun giving you the side-eye all day? — Charlotte Cruze, former Associate Director of Branded Entertainment
Five Boroughs Brewing initially created this light craft lager as a “shift beer” for workers at the brewery. Unable to keep it to themselves, they released it earlier this year under the name City Light. The straw gold-hued beer checks in at 4.2% ABV and is brewed with German malts, Czech Saaz hops and New York City water. It tastes different than the Super Bowl commercial light lagers you grew up on — Five Boroughs brews City Light with an all-malt base, instead of syrups — and is as crushable an all-day beer I’ve ever come across. — Tanner Garrity, Associate Editor
“Sessionable” isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of an IPA, but in recent years the aptly named session IPA sub-style has offered the perfect solution for hopheads who crave their favorite type of beer without the high ABV. It’s a fine line to toe, but Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack pulls it off. The light version of the craft brewery’s popular Union Jack IPA offers up a hoppy aroma and a hint of malt for balance at just 4% ABV. — Bonnie Stiernberg, Managing Editor
If it’s sunny and I know I’m going to be outside all day, I am absolutely reaching for a kölsch of some sort — and Von Trapp’s is one of the best. They may be more well-known for singing and The Sound of Music, but their Austrian-style brewery is worthy of the legendary family name. Light-bodied and crisp, their Kölsch Style a perfect summer session ale, and at just 5% ABV, the hills are alive with the sound of me cracking open several of them. — Bonnie Stiernberg, Managing Editor (who, yes, made two picks)
As a devoted Autumnophile, I am pretty much done with summer by the time Labor Day rolls around. The thought of sitting on a beach or having to endure the heat and humidity for another BBQ is not at all appealing. So when making my beverage selection for this weekend, I will likely opt for an Oktoberfest. They’re drinkable enough that you won’t find yourself on your ass if you happen to make it through the better part of a six-pack, but they also offer just enough malty richness and earthy hops to serve as a perfect teaser for the coming season. Sierra Nevada’s version is among the best in the world (this year’s was brewed in collaboration with Germany’s Bitburger Brewery), ), and it’ll only set you back $11 or $12 for six. — Mike Conklin, Executive Editor
Through much discipline and practice, I am finally in a place where I genuinely enjoy the subtle, diverse flavors that sour beers bring to the table, rather than forcing them down with a grimace while telling my cooler, more palate-evolved friends things like, “Oh yes, I can totally perceive those dulcet notes of hibiscus and Velvet Falernum that you are talking about.” I would hesitate, however, to call any sour beer “sessionable.” Except for this one by Dogfish Head, the very mild and agreeable sour beer that got me into the category in the first place. It’s truly the gateway beer for sour-style skeptics, and also quite easy to drink a six pack of them over the course of an afternoon. — Walker Loetscher, former Editor in Chief
The only question I ask myself when looking for an all-day drinking beverage is “Will I still be able to go out tonight?” and White Claw has never prevented me from that. The hard seltzer is light, refreshing, doesn’t have an overwhelming artificial fruit taste, and at 5% ABV, it gets the job done. And most importantly I don’t feel super gross after my post-beach, pre-bar nap. — Logan Mahan, Senior Editor
After reading our features editor’s ode to the whisky highball, that’s pretty much all I’ve been drinking this summer. It’s just so dang simple: two ounces of Japanese whisky, a few ice cubes, seltzer and a lemon wedge (heavy on the seltzer/light on the whisky if you’re going all day). I’ve been using Suntory Toki a lot simply because it’s available at even the sorriest excuse for a liquor store, and I’ve been mixing up the lemon with grapefruit, blood orange and whatever other citrus looks good that day. — Alex Lauer, Senior Editor
If I drink one of anything, I will also drink a thousand of that thing any day or night, all day or night. This might mean that I simply tend to prefer “sessionable” drinks in the first place, but it probably just means that I think all drinks are sessionable because I have no concept of moderation. Either way, I’m planning to drink away my Labor Day weekend in a series of Aperol spritzes. The drink kicked off the summer back in May as the star of the NYT hot take that launched a thousand counter-takes. While the Times didn’t exactly give the spritz a glowing review, it’s sweet, it goes down easy, and I can’t think of a better send off for summer ‘19 than raising a glass of its most controversial drink. — Kayla Kibbe, former Staff Writer
If I’m going to drink something responsibly all day, it’s going to be water. So, if I’m going to irresponsible and imbibe, I’ll usually choose to go with something on the stronger side. With a 7.2 percent ABV, Flower Power from Ithaca Beer Co. fits the bill. Once rated the best IPA in New York State, Flower Power comes in with a hoppiness that has some lighter, tropical notes blended in. The bottle is also quite festive and there’s nothing wrong with that unless you hate fun. Do you hate fun? — Evan Bleier, Senior Editor
What makes ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails an all-day, lazy-day sipper is twofold: They’re convenient (cans!) and the ABV tends to be lower than if you made ‘em yourself. Cutwater, from the people behind the forward-thinking Ballast Point brewery in San Diego, has turned their genius into a series of margaritas, mules and mai tais. They’re great, but look around: There’s bound to be a good local distillery in your area making their own canned tipples. — Kirk Miller, Senior Lifestyle Editor
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