Of all the ridiculous food and drink holidays, National Beer Day is one of the few that celebrates a notable event in history. On this day in 1933, President Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act into law officially ending prohibition. But America wasn’t quite ready for the massive, high alcohol monsters that are so fashionable today. The law legalized beer as long as it was less than four percent ABV. So to celebrate the heady holiday we went in search of great beers that don’t include words like “imperial” or “double” in their names. In the immortal words of FDR, we’ll drink nothing but beer and beer itself. That was the quote that won the war right?
1. Deschutes River Ale – 4.0% ABV
This one could almost sneak in under Cullen-Harrison, but it’s got the sort of west coast hop power you’d normally associate with a bigger beer.
2. Hill Farmstead Clara – 4.0% ABV
This small Vermont brewery has staked out a place for itself as one of the must-travel-to spots for beer geeks. And if you want their beer, you really must travel to them. They don’t distribute outside of Vermont. The selection from Hill Farmstead constantly rotates, so keep an eye on their website to see when this Grisette (like a lighter saison) gets its next bottling.
3. New Glarus Totally Naked – 4.25% ABV
Full disclosure: The writer of this list is a Wisconsin boy, which means he grew up on New Glarus beer (at least after his 21st birthday mom). But, hometown allegiances notwithstanding, if you want to veer away from hoppy ales, this smooth, under-stated lager fits the bill.
4. Carton Boat Beer – 4.2% ABV
Fruity and crisp thanks to the Carton’s choice of kolsch yeast for brewing. Boat beer as the name suggests, is an excellent choice if you happen to be out on the water.
5. Evil Twin Bikini Beer – 2.7% ABV
This is the only beer on the list that would actually qualify as legal in 1933 (less than four percent is a really low bar to get under people). Amazingly, it still tastes like something! Actually, it tastes great. ET managed to pack in lots of hop flavor considering the constraints they were working under.
6. North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner – 4.4% ABV
Light, crisp, dry—everything you want in an easy-drinking beer.
7. Surly Bitter Brewer – 4.0% ABV
The brewers say this is “Not really a British bitter,” probably thanks the heavy dose of American hops that give it such wonderful aroma.