Just under the wire (with 10 minutes to spare till midnight)!
I would like to spotlight Stone Brewing Co's session ale, Levitation, which clocks in at 4.4%. It's probably cheating to quote the brewer's website, but I like their philosophy here:
It's been said that "Gravity Sucks." Simple enough. Well, we at Stone have identified gravitational forces in the beer world. And we have come to the conclusion that they, well, see above. So we avoid these less-than-desirable gravitational forces. We avoid dumbed-down flavor profiles and the vigorous pursuit of the lowest common denominator. We avoid big dollar marketing mentalities. We avoid additives, cheap adjuncts, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. So in the defiance of gravity we bring you Stone Levitation Ale.I appreciate the acknowledgement of the challenge the market poses to creating a quality low-ABV beer.
Levitation has many characteristics of a standard American Pale Ale, with a slightly lighter body. It's hoppy and crisp, with great floral hop aroma-much more than one would think given the color and ABV. (Mmmm... Amarillo...) It's a damn fine beer at any ABV.
I was talking with someone in the industry last night about session beers, and she mentioned that one issue that folks ought to be aware of is the fact that session beers do not hold up well if stored improperly. So that's definitely something to keep in mind if you've had disappointing experiences with session beers- heat and light take much less time to turn a lower gravity beer funky (the bad kind of funky) than a beer with more alcohol (more booze=better preservation ability)
I love that Stone, a West Coast brewer that totally grooves on big beers with big flavors and big ABVs, has a well crafted, easy drinking, unapologetically sessionable beer. Because it's important to have that diversity. Because it's also a true test of brewing skill. With a low ABV beer, there's nowhere to hide (its fragility in bottles out in the market as discussed in the previous paragraph attests to that) -everything must be perfectly balanced. You can't hide your flaws behind the heat of higher alcohol content or crazy amounts of hop flavor and bitterness. I respect the hell out of brewers that recognize and embrace that challenge.