Class in Session
A primer on Austin's most drinkable beers
So, what are your plans for the weekend? Urban farming? Inking a Sharpie mustache on your index finger? Attending the second birthday party of a very small hipster-looking child? Or any one of the other million tiny triumphs of excessive Austin-ness?
How about tailgating on trillion-degree asphalt under a nearly translucent pop-up gazebo for a dozen hours in the maddening swelter of the it-really-should-be-autumn- now summer?
The gravity of our profane situation as sweaty Austinites is that getting slung on high-gravity beers isn't in the forecast until November – at the absolute earliest – so swinging your neck on a stout or a porter with a modicum of atmospheric appropriateness isn't sensible practice just yet.
But one doesn't have to just accept stodgy, uninspired beer because of this seasonal hitch. That is, "light" beer doesn't have to necessarily mean "lite" beer, and fortunately for us, our local beermakers tend to get intimate with our needs: easy-drinking, thirst-busting, flavor-banging, alcohol-downsizing, sessionable beers that are custom-designed for our daylight marathon-boozing needs.
For the sake of comparison, the quizzically popular and fully mechanized American "session" beers, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud Light – all classified as pale lagers by style – weigh in at about the same 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV). For the calorie suitors, Bud "Heavy" comes in at 5% ABV, while the more exotic options, like Bud Light Lime and Lime-a-Rita, buzz in at 4.2% ABV and 8% ABV, respectively. For the ultimate Texas traditionalists, Lone Star punches its weight at 4.65% ABV.
As an expression of solidarity, the Chronicle has selected a handful of these lo-fidelity beers made by our local beer artists to help you get through the seasonal lethargy, made even more accessible by recommending beers based on availability in a hyper-convenient 12-ounce aluminum keg for maximal ease of transport, consumption, and disposal. So put it in your diaries and drink up; there is almost an inexhaustible supply of this stuff.
The One They Call Zoe (5.2%)Hops & Grain Brewery
The first beer is a tunnel of love. It's considerably relevant to begin this indoctrination with, as this beer is also classified as an American pale lager, much in the vein of the mega-lites, but that is pretty much where the comparison bottoms out. Zoe – as it is colloquially referred to by the locals – is perhaps the city's best gateway beer, even if it's not its most pervasive. Zoe is exceptionally well-rounded, tropical, and smoothly hopped; it's the pale lager you want to be noticed with beachside if you want others to see you as someone with an actual backbone.
Peacemaker Anytime Ale (5%)Austin Beerworks
If you are more of the ironic type, as if to suggest that in your checkered past, you've done your best day-drinking at Wrigley or in an alleyway, this is the one to try. This is the same beer that ABW offered to its customers at a cut-rate deal of 99 beers for $99, which would typically set off alarm bells for French wine or rib eyes, but since this is delicious extra pale ale, we went along with it, and lo, were we happy. Peacemaker is ABW's Le Picador, their original masterpiece which doesn't seem to get enough credit for spawning artistic discipline in Texas' craft landscape. Peacemaker is a remarkable way to extinguish the heat with its long washes of zest and note-perfect flavoring hops.
Lazy Day American Lager (5.5%)Uncle Billy's Brewery
A reasonably new contender in the canned-goods circuit, Uncle Billy's is mostly notable for their marvelous can design denoting their pale ale, and Lazy Day. While this beer is at the higher end of the "sessionable" spectrum, Lazy Day is a genuinely approachable, full-bodied lager with a deft grain bill and nearly nonexistent hop profile. If a traditional interpretation of a midcentury American beer exists in Austin, this one is it, bungalow renters.
Metamodern IPA (4.5%)Oasis, Texas Brewing Company
For those unaware, the Austin area claims its very own "session brewery" where an entire production facility has dedicated itself to our passive character. None of Oasis' mainstay beers creep beyond the 5% boundary. Metamodern is their imminently classic session IPA which coordinates two of the trendiest hop varietals at the moment – Citra and Mosaic – and leads them to a bubble bath of seductively juicy and invigorating beer.
Hans' Pils (5.3%)Real Ale
Before you even think about cruising over to your dad's crib for the game with a couple sixers of "not your father's root beer" under your proud elbows, consider that you will likely be able to read his everlasting disappointment face about your life (and beverage) decisions, and you will then feel bad. Instead, go with Hans' Pils, of course, for delicious pilsners are roughly 85% of a father's chemical makeup.
RedBud Berliner Weisse (4.5%)Independence Brewing
Gose (4.4%)Real Ale
If you are the kind of person who prefers beer to simply keep you well-oiled throughout the day, then there are solutions to your drinking problem. RedBud and Gose hardly even taste like beer, or rather the terrible beer you used to drink in place of these. RedBud is a sour wheat beer that emulates a shandy or possibly a lemonade radler, while Real Ale's Gose is a take on the traditionally salty and tart, malted wheat beer of northwest Germany. And if there is a culture day-drinkers in Texas should be mirroring, it's that of the Germans. One should keep in mind, however, that the last sixers of each have been pushed out for distribution, so go out, find them, and hoard like the wind!