Good news, beer lovers: You don't have to choose between your love of finely crafted ales and your dream of totally swole abs. We tend to think of craft brews as calorie bombs, but the growing popularity of session beers means there are plenty of tasty, low-alcohol drinks out there to crack open.
Alcohol contributes to weight gain in two ways: One, it contains calories, and two, it monopolizes your metabolism -- meaning your body burns alcohol calories first and stores unused food calories for later. So the higher the alcohol content, the bigger the weight gain. Session beers contain less than 5% ABV, so you can be svelte and not slur your words. The best part? These days no matter your style, there's a low-ABV beer option that'll please your palate. Here's what to drink to get the bite without the booze.
If you like hoppy...
Then you probably crushed your fair share of session IPAs this summer. Founders All Day (4.7%) is the OG of this category and Firestone Walker Easy Jack (4.5%) is a definite contender for new classic, and since both come from craft heavyweights they're widely distributed in their crushable (in more ways than one) cans. But don't let the flood of IPAs distract you from the fact that there are some seriously good APAs (American pale ales) around too. They’re a little more balanced and demure but still have a solid hop character. Game? Bell's Oatsmobile (4.3%) a shot, with the namesake oats giving it some serious body that belies its modest alcohol content.
Thrillist's Best (and the Rest): What You Actually Need to Know About Natural Wine
It's easy to assume dark, filling beers will go straight to your love handles. Yet the most well-known stout in the world, Guinness Draught, clocks in at a moderate 4.2% ABV (it's good for you!). Also hailing from the UK, Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout (5%) is another old favorite that brings all the rich, malty character with minimal guilt. For something a bit different, try a German-style schwarzbier like Uinta's Baba Black Lager (4%). These lighter-bodied beers are heavy on the roast flavor, without any of the bitterness often associated with dark beers.
If you like malty...
Look to the UK for styles that deliver those toasty toffee and caramel notes while keeping the ABV low. English-style mild and brown ales and Irish-style red ales were made for slow Sunday afternoons at the pub. Yards Brawler (4.2%) out of Philly is a beautifully balanced, ruby-hued example of a darker English mild that despite the violent name should keep you (and your waistline) on an even keel.
If you like crisp...
Lagers, blonde ales, and wheat beers are inherently lighter styles, which is why most mainstream light beers fall into this category. It's likely you already reach for a citrusy wheat beer -- like Schnickelfritz (4.8%) from Missouri's Urban Chestnut or Sierra Nevada's Kellerweis (4.8%) -- whenever the temperature hits 75. But more recently craft brewers have been making a case for the much-maligned lager. A standout like Stillwater Yacht (4.2%) will force you to rethink your lager-related prejudices.
If you like sour...
Sour beers and wild ales aren't for the faint of heart. These fruity, funky brews can be extremely challenging on the palate, and the alcohol levels really run the gamut -- if you're not careful you could find yourself with a 10% ABV drink in your glass. Westbrook Gose (4%) has become a widely sought summertime staple thanks to its ability to deliver the tart without the tipsy. If you’re a hardcore hophead looking for an entry point into this category, ever experimental Evil Twin's Sour Bikini (3%) is like drinking a session IPA through a lemon.
So that's your game plan for becoming a healthier, better-looking beer drinker. If all goes well you could one day be like these hero hundred-year-old grandmas who are still slaying at beer pong and kicking back with a cold one at the retirement home on the daily. Life goals, amirite?
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Sarah Theeboom is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer who wants you to know that Foster’s is not Australian for beer, bi-yah is. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.