For many people, the start of a new year represents an opportunity for change, a chance to start fresh or be better. Some resolve to exercise more often, while others commit to learning a new skill, or donating time to a nonprofit or volunteer organization. If you’re a regular Sip reader, perhaps you’ve considered cutting back on your alcohol intake in 2021. There are plenty of good reasons to do so, and a variety of ways to accomplish it, from going dry for a period of time, to drinking less frequently, to choosing lower-alcohol beverages.
When it comes to beer, the good news is that lower alcohol doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Numerous breweries across the Northwest are now producing sessionable, easy-drinking options that dial back the booze without ending up bland.
Apero | Kulshan Brewing – Bellingham, WA
Spritzy and seltzer-like but brewed with toasted barley, two-row barley and a pinch of hops for balance, Apero is a new series of low carb, low calorie, and low alcohol fruited beers from Kulshan. Light-bodied, crisp and dry – with a pleasant fruitiness and a clean finish, I particularly liked the lavender-hued blueberry, the newest variety. (4.5% ABV)
Dark Mild | Machine House Brewery – Seattle, WA
Rich brown in color with ruby red highlights, this English-style ale welcomes the senses with aromas of brown bread, walnuts, coffee and even dark berry fruit. Toasty malt, bittersweet chocolate and a subtle earthiness then mingle on the palate, adding up to an approachable beer with the ability to lure curious drinkers over to the dark side. It begs for a pub and a fireplace, but will taste just as good at home. (3.7% ABV)
Golden Hammer | Hopworks Urban Brewery – Portland, OR
A good lager is often a reliable place to turn when you’re looking for sessionability, and Golden Hammer is no exception. Shimmering gold in the glass, it’s floral on the nose with a sweet cereal note and a suggestion of flaky biscuits. Light bodied with a malty roundness and an herbal undertone, this Munich-style Helles is nothing less than a delight to drink. (4.8% ABV)
Self Care | Three Magnets Brewery – Olympia, WA
Non-alcoholic beers have tiptoed into the spotlight recently and, in Washington, Three Magnets introduced the first in a series of better-for-you-beers back in September. The latest release is a hazy IPA that throws off aromas of key lime, honeydew melon, leafy greenness and a kiss of spicy pineapple. While somewhat thin, it screams with tropical hop character and finishes with just enough resinous bitterness to prompt another sip. (0.5% ABV)
Steady Orbit | Ninkasi Brewing – Eugene, OR
Pale gold with a slight haze, this so-called “grounded IPA” smells like a fruit bowl overflowing with peaches, mangos, nectarines and sweet tangerine or mandarin orange. Oats in the recipe help to provide some extra body, but this beer is really all about the hops. And when mango, orange, grapefruit and pine flavors combine this deliciously, you won’t care about the alcohol by volume. (4.5% ABV)
Threezy Does It | No-Li Brewhouse – Spokane, WA
Lemon yellow with a meringue-like head of foam, this low-calorie IPA first appeared on shelves in late September and makes a strong first impression with its soft citrusy aroma that also carries hints of cracked wheat and a whisper of evergreen. Better yet, the flavor of lemon-lime bread gives way to a semi-dry finish with a quenching quality and pithy linger. (3.5% ABV)
Author of The Great Northeast Brewery Tour and a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Beer, Ben Keene has judged beer competitions across the United States and frequently speaks at industry conferences and conventions. He lives in Seattle.