Summer is in Session

Who says a “craft beer” has to be a super-hopped flavor assault? Local brewers also make “session-strength” beers: lighter, food-friendly, and perfect for summer.

If you’re like us, you can’t say the phrase “local craft beer” without picturing a blitzkrieg of hops and caramel malts storming your palate. And that’s fine. We love a bold brew. But the thought of drinking one when it’s 90 degrees out…well, that makes us a little surly (heh). So this patio season, we’re shifting over to local brewers’ “session-strength” offerings: lower-alcohol beers (true sessions clock in at or under 4.5 percent) engineered so that you can drink several in the sun without fearing a hangover. Since sessions prep the palate rather than flavor-bomb it, they require exquisite balance and are often considered a true test of a brewer’s skill, since imperfections can’t be masked with bitterness or booziness. Try ’em with these patio/food pairings:

1. Harriet Wodan Weizen

Too alcoholic to be a true session, but the light mélange of banana and clove, folded into a graham-cracker maltiness, makes it a nice summer sipper; 5.3 percent

The place: Harriet Tap Room, 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls.,
The pairing: On-site food trucks concoct beer-specific menu items
The patio: Minneapolis’s newest tap room features a tasting terrace with a view of the Minneapolis skyline

2. Lucid Air

So light it’s almost atmospheric, a bright citrus medley with hints of key lime; 4.2 percent

The place: Happy Gnome, 498 Selby Ave., St. Paul,
The pairing: Shrimp pasta with tomato crème fraîche, chorizo, pea tendrils, and pecorino
The patio: A well-appointed wood deck with semi-private booths and a thick canopy of tree leaves

3. Fulton Lonely Blonde

A golden American blonde with a buttery, cracker-crisp finish; 4.8 percent

The place: Republic, 221 Cedar Ave., Mpls.,
The pairing: Happy-hour fish tacos
The patio: A panoramic view of Seven Corner and its melting pot of frat boys, law students, Somali immigrants, and theatergoers

4. Lake Superior Kayak Kolsch

Clear, golden, and hay-flavored, haunted by the faint sweetness of dried apricot; 4.5 percent

The place: Mill Valley Kitchen, 3906 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls.,
The pairing: Spinach, Donnay chevre, and sweet-onion flatbread
The patio: A breath of NorCal eco-trendiness—complete with herb garden—on the edge of St. Louis Park

5. Steel Toe Provider

A cloudy orange ale with a light lemon zest and a note of grassiness; 5.0 percent

The place: Muddy Waters, 2933 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls.,
The pairing: Mexicali hot dog: all-beef dogs stacked with bacon, ancho chilies, queso, and cilantro
The patio: A narrow, vaguely Parisian alley, packed with foodies and fashion kids