Outstanding Craft ‘Session’ Beers for Your July Fourth BBQ
SeaQuench Ale by Dogfish Head (4.9% ABV)
Just reading its name will make your mouth water, and this offering from Delaware-based Dogfish Head doesn’t disappoint. Sour-style beers are à la mode among craft brewers right now, and SeaQuench is a limey, satisfyingly salty take. There’s also some subtle spice in this one—pepper and coriander. If you’ve only had Dogfish’s stellar IPAs, it’s time to branch out.
DayTime by Lagunitas Brewing Co. (4.65% ABV)
Easy Jack by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (4.5% ABV)
North American hop strains—notably the “three C’s,”—Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus hops—are among the most respected in the brewing world. But to give his Easy Jack a few extra layers of complexity, Firestone Walker master brewer Matt Brynildson chose to invite some German and New Zealand hops to the party. When you taste this beer, you’ll find it hard to argue with Brynildson’s decision. Toasty malt notes mix with citrus hops flavors for a bold but exceptionally drinkable brew.
Oarsman Ale by Bell’s Brewery (4.0% ABV)
The State of Michigan punches well above its weight when it comes to award-winning craft breweries. Recently, Kalamazoo’s Bell’s Brewery edged out its neighbor Founders to take home the American Homebrewers Association title as the nation’s “top brewery.” While Bell’s is best known for its Two Hearted Ale, Oarsman is an easy drinker that eschews the bitter, hop-forward profile of pale ale in favor of the slightly grassy, slightly tart Berliner Weiss-style beer. It’s not the flavor bomb you’re used to from your craft beer, but that’s the point.
Philadelphia Pale Ale by Yards Brewing Co. (4.6% ABV)
Yards Pale is a staple at South Philly barbecues and neighborhood ballparks thanks to its refreshing mix of citrus hops and toasty malt. It's at once smooth and satisfying, with enough carbonation to give it a light mouthfeel that pairs well with grilled fish and sunshine. The brewers at Yards have been at it since 1994, and their experience shows.
All-Day IPA by Founders Brewing Co. (4.7% ABV)
The American Homebrewers Association just rated this IPA the 13th best beer in America. That’s among all beers—not just low-ABV brews. After a big hit of floral-and-pine on the nose, All-Day IPA packs enough bitterness to satisfy hop heads without chasing away those accustomed to drinking less flavorful macrobrews.
Hell by Surly Brewing Co. (5.0% ABV)
If the name of this beer and its brewer sound a little sinister, this refreshing lager is anything but. Helles-style beers are among the most popular in Germany, and you’ll understand why when you taste this lightly bready, floral lager. Minnesota-based Surly is a favorite in the Upper Midwest, and Hell is the kind of beer that is quickly expanding their fan footprint.
Go To IPA by Stone Brewing (4.8% ABV)
Southern California-based Stone is among the most well-known and well-regarded craft breweries in the country, and their namesake IPA is their flagship. Everything about their Go To IPA—from its two-finger head and citrusy aromas to its fruity, not-too-bitter taste—measures up to its acclaimed older brother. But Go To’s ABV clocks in a full 2% lower.
Pinner Throwback IPA by Oskar Blues (4.9% ABV)
Colorado-based Oskar Blues was one of the first craft breweries to catch the canned-IPA wave with their iconic Dale’s Pale Ale. (Many brewers believe cans help keep beer fresher than bottles.) With their Pinner, the brewers at Oskar Blues set out to make a beer loaded with all the hop and malt flavors drinkers are looking for from an alcohol-heavy IPA, but in a lower-ABV “crushable” package. They succeeded.
Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA by Southern Prohibition Brewing (4.9% ABV)
Southern Prohibition isn’t as well known as many of the breweries on this list. But if they keep producing beers like Devil’s Harvest, that will change in a hurry. They call this a “breakfast IPA,” presumably because you could have one for breakfast and walk into work without stumbling. Orange and grapefruit are apparent on the nose, and those come through on your taste buds along with cracker and biscuit notes.
Pikeland Pils by Sly Fox Brewing Co. (4.9% ABV)
This pale, straw-colored pilsner from Pennsylvania-based Sly Fox is a nuanced, satisfying take on the classic European style. Bready and grassy, Pikeland also has a sweet, lemony bite that helps it stand up to heavy barbecue fare. You may struggle to find it outside of the Mid-Atlantic. But if you spot it, don’t pass it up.