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Best session ales

10 Best Session Ales For Summer

With summer starting on the first of December, it’s officially time to start thinking about summer activities. Get our board shorts, tank tops, and thongs, and get ready to throw all of your meals on the barbie. It’s the summer for crying out loud. Warm, sunny, summery weather also means it’s time to change your beer choices. Finish off those maltier, darker beers, because while it’s a new season on the calendar, it’s also a new season when it comes to your fizzy, frosty, alcohol-fueled beverage of choice.

Summer is a time for the lighter, lower ABV, easy-drinking beers you’re going to be imbibing during the impending summer heat. What would you rather bring to a day at the beach, a bold, robust stout or a light, refreshing session ale? We think the answer is obvious. If it’s not obvious to you then this means you likely don’t know what a session ale is and that’s more than okay. We’re in the business of helping and if you learn only one thing today, it should be what a session beer is.

How Man of Many Chose the Best Session Ales

To arrive at this list of products, the Man of Many team went through hours and rigorous testing, implementation and analysis before culling it down to the very best. Over the last 12 months, we’ve worked on curated products that push boundaries and pioneer new fronts, across the automotive, fashion, lifestyle and technology verticals. Sure, we love getting the latest piece of kit in our hands, but being able to point out the benefits and shortfalls objectively is at the heart of what we do.

In addition to tasting every sale on this list, we also turned to the wider public for their overall ratings. Our list takes into account three major perspectives to determine the overall rating. In addition to our own opinions, we take into account reviews via alcohol retailer Dan Murphys and the Australian drinks forums. Each beer identified in the list was measured on:

  • Flavour profile
  • Value for money
  • Appearance

Best Session Ales

Now we’ve rounded up our favourites, let’s check out the full list. Fear not, you don’t have to go looking for these affordable gems on your own. We did the work for you. We found fifteen of the best bourbons under $100. Keep scrolling to see all of the corn-based, sweet, sippable, flavourful, smooth expressions. You’ll be happy you did.

Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's

Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

1. Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale

Brand: Mountain Goat
Release: Organic Steam Ale
Size: 330ml
ABV: 4.5%
State: Victoria

This 4.5 per cent ABV beer isn’t like most session beers. It’s not an IPA or a classic, easy-drinking lager. Not only is it a steam beer, but it’s also organic. It’s an ale that’s brewed at a lower temperature similar to a lager. The result is a truly unique, crisp, flavourful session ale with a nice mix of malts, tropical fruits, citrus, and herbal, floral hops. It’s a great take on the Steam beer style popularized by California’s Anchor.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Mountain Goat)  Buy it here (First Choice)

2 capital coast ale

Capital Coast Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

2. Capital Coast Ale

Brand: Capital Brewing Co.
Release: Coast Ale
Size: 375ml
ABV: 4.3%
State: ACT

This is the kind of session beer that you’ll want to drink as fresh as possible. Well, you kind of have to because there are no preservatives. Brewed with Saaz, Hallertau, and Superpride hops, this 4.3 per cent highly sessionable beer is known for its mix of caramel and bread-like malts, citrus, and slightly bitter, floral, earthy hops. It’s another great example of a low-ABV steam beer done right. Capital Coast Ale is the kind of beer you’ll want to fill a cooler with before you head out on a day at the lake or beach.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Capital Brewing Co.)  Buy it here (First Choice)

3 pilsner urquell

Pilsner Urquell | Image: Dan Murphy’s

3. Pilsner Urquell

Brand: Pilsner Urquell
Size: 330ml
ABV: 4.4%
Country:  Czech Republic

The epitome of a crisp, no-frills, classic session beer, Pilsner Urquell is the first-ever pale lager. This Czech Republic-made 4.4 perc ent ABV pilsner has been brewed the same way since its inception way back in 1842. It’s known for its complex flavour profile featuring Pilsner malts and Saaz hops. The result is a crisp, thirst-quenching pilsner with notes of freshly-baked bread, caramel, and floral, piney, Noble hops. All in all, a must-have summer session beer.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Pilsner Urquell)  Buy it here (First Choice)

4 hook norton haymaker

Hook Norton Haymaker | Image: Dan Murphy’s

4. Hook Norton Haymaker

Brand: Hook Norton
Release: Haymaker
Size: 500ml
ABV: 5%
Country: United Kingdom

This 5 per cent pale ale is brewed with Fuggles, Goldings, and Challenger hops. Its malt backbone comes from the addition of Pale, Caramalt, and Enzymic. It’s well-known for its citrus, tropical fruit, malty, and floral flavour. It’s the classic flavourful pale ale you’ll want to pack on a weekend trip or afternoon spent floating in a river or lake. Complex, well-balanced, and very refreshing.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Hook Norton)

5 coopers original pale ale

Coopers Original Pale Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

5. Coopers Original Pale Ale

Brand: Coopers
Release: Original Pale Ale
Size: 375ml
ABV: 4.5%
State: South Australia

A Burton ale is a strong, sweet beer and while Coopers Original Pale Ale isn’t even close to a strong ale (check the ABV if you don’t believe us), it’s made in the same “Burton-On-Trent” style. This is a secondary fermentation that gives this beer a hazy, cloudy, slightly sweet, slightly hoppy, and bitter flavour profile. It’s a truly unique session beer that you’ll go back to again and again. But before you take a sip, roll the bottle to mix up the sediment unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Coopers)  Buy it here (Liquorland)

6 founders all day ipa

Founders All Day IPA | Image: Dan Murphy’s

6. Founders All Day IPA

Brand: Founders Brewing
Release: All Day IPA
Size: 355ml
ABV: 4.7%
Country: USA

There are few session beers as famous as Founders All Day IPA. This 4.7 per cent session IPA was literally created to be enjoyed all day long. Grab a pack of these American-made, well-balanced, complex IPAs and fill a cooler for a day at the beach or lake. It gets its bold, hoppy, piney, and citrus flavour from the addition of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Crystal hops. All this in an easy-to-drink, refreshing, low-ABV package.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (Founders Brewing)

7 john boston the point pale ale

John Boston The Point Pale Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

7. John Boston The Point Pale Ale

Brand: John Boston
Release: The Point Pale Ale
Size: 330ml
ABV: 4.2%
State: NSW

The Point Pale Ale gets its name from a truly historical Australian beer moment. The beer is named for Bennelong Point (where the Sydney Opera House is now located). At one point John Boston’s mill was located there and he used the milled grains to make the first beer in Australia. Today, this sessionable pale ale pays homage to this historical event. It’s known for its easy-drinking, fruity, slightly herbal, floral, crisp, thirst-quenching flavour.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (John Boston)  Buy it here (BWS)

8 four pines ‘freshy extra refreshing ale

Four Pines ‘Freshy’ Extra Refreshing Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

8. Four Pines ‘Freshy’ Extra Refreshing Ale

Brand: Four Pines
Release: ‘Freshy’ Extra Refreshing Ale
Size: 330ml
ABV: 4.1%
State: NSW

With a name like Four Pines Freshy, you likely have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for with this beer. This 4.1 per cent ABV session pale ale is brewed with Australian malts and grains and Melba and Pride of Ringwood hops. It might be light in alcohol content, but this award-winning beer is just as the name suggests. It’s known for its light, easy-drinking, slightly malty, citrus, and pine-forward flavour profile. As lower-ABV session beers go, this one is a winner that you’ll want to stock up on this summer.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (4 Pines)  Buy it here (First Choice)

Anchor Steam | Image: Anchor Brewing

Anchor Steam | Image: Anchor Brewing

9. Anchor Steam

Brand: Anchor Brewing
Release: Steam Ale
Size: 330ml
Country: USA

One of the first widely available session beers ever made, Anchor Steam can trace its history all the way back to 1896 (with its first modern brewing back in 1971). It got its name because it was the nickname assigned to beers produced on the west coast of the United States in the last 1800s and early 1900s using less than contemporary brewing techniques and no refrigeration. Brewed with 2-row Pale and Caramel malts as well as Northern Brewer hops, it’s known for its bready malts, caramel, and lightly fruity, hoppy flavour profile.

Buy it here (Anchor Brewing)

Algorithm Pale Ale | Image: Dan Murphy's

Algorithm Pale Ale | Image: Dan Murphy’s

10. Algorithm Pale Ale

Brand: Algorithm
Release: Pale Ale
Size: 375ml
ABV: 5%
State: NSW

Continuing the trend that pale ales (and to a lesser degree steam beers) seem like the go-to beer when it comes to session beers, Algorithm Pale Ale is an English-style pale ale. It’s brewed with select malts and specialty hops. The result is a complex, well-balanced 5 per cent ABV pale ale with notes of tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, caramel malts, and lightly floral, herbal, earthy, piney hops. It’s a nice mix of sweetness, fruit, and hops wrapped up in an easy-to-crack open package. You’ll want to stock up on this beer for the impending overly hot days to come.

Buy it here (Dan Murphy’s) Buy it here (4 Pines)  Buy it here (BWS)

What is a Session Ale?

In the simplest terms, a session beer is a beer that was brewed to be enjoyed in a long drinking session. This means that it’s lower (sometimes much lower) than most beers you’ll come in contact with. We’re talking 4-5 per cent range in most cases. These beers are known for their thirst-quenching, less-filling flavour profiles that make them the ideal choice for summer drinking.

Still confused? That’s all right, we still didn’t explain what exactly session beers are. The term “session” is usually simply added to a bottle or can in order to explain that it’s light, less filling, and lower in alcohol as opposed to a classification of an actual beer style. This is because while you’ll find a ton of pale ales, lagers, and IPAs listed as session ales, pretty much any beer style can receive this title.

Now that we learned a little bit about what a session beer is, it’s time to drink some. And while you can spend an afternoon scrolling online retailers or the aisles at your favourite beer store, we figured you’d be better off if we did the work for you. Keep scrolling to see ten of the best session beers to drink this summer. Some are Australian gems and others are international favourites. All are light and highly crushable.

General FAQs

What is a Session Ale?

Session Ales generally refer to beers that are lower in alcohol and crisp. Most beers in this category will be under 4 or 5% ABV and not too filling. These beers also tend not to be too anything.

What is the difference between session and IPA?

The phrase IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and sits within the pale ale category. These beers are often heavy in ABV and quite decadent with their flavour profiles. Conversely, session ale refers to beers that are lower in ABV and better suited to hot, outdoor drinking during summer.

CONTRIBUTOR

Christopher Osburn

Christopher Osburn is a pop culture, travel, food, and drinks writer located in New York. He's been writing professionally since 2006 when he got a job as a beer columnist at his local newspaper. Since then, the culture and drinks expert has written for Men's Journal, Thrillist, Esquire, Food & Wine, Uproxx, Matador, Maxim, and many more sites and magazines.