Seven Beers, Ciders + Category-Defying Low-ABV Beverages

Refreshing and experimental concoctions made for the transitioning season

Along with oddball beer categories like fruited sours, “milkshake” IPAs and pastry stouts, all kinds of cross-contaminating, category-defying beverages continue to emerge—and please palates. Blurring the lines between beer and wine, beer and cider, and even cider and wine, producers across the country (and beyond) are experimenting with flavors and processes to create truly unique drinks. All of the beverages here transcend genre and are well worth trying this holiday weekend.

Saison Spritz With White Nectarines and Malvasia Bianca Grapes

Homage Brewing’s Saison Spritz series was crafted to create a beer “using influences such as wine spritzers, and hard seltzers,” the brewery explains. It’s lighter and less filling than typical saisons yet retains many of the qualities beer-drinkers value in the category. There are notes of hay and cracked pepper, but they’re balanced by fruit juice and the pomace of fresh fruit. Homage’s White Nectarine and Malvasia Bianca Grape Spritz (5% alcohol) comprises a barrel-aged beer, the juice of the aforementioned grapes and the pulp of succulent nectarines. Drawing flavor and lightness from the grapes, this beer becomes closer to being wine’s sibling than a distant cousin.

Pina Colada Preacher

Brewed in Hökarängen, Sweden, Pang Pang‘s beers tend to be, as they say, “unbalanced,” but they always have a clear intention: to stretch the category as far and wide as possible. Their newest brew, the Pina Colada Preacher (59 SEK), does just that. It’s a 6% ABV beer brewed with coconut cream and fresh pineapples. Though they call it a sour IPA, this particular iteration isn’t all that tart. It’s crisp, incredibly smooth and reminiscent of the fermented pineapple drink, Tepache, which originated in Mexico but can now be found—often homemade—across the US.

Palisades Blackberry and Sage Cider

Made using Fuji, Honeycrisp, Roxbury Russet and Dabinett apples, fresh Pacific Northwest blackberries and wild-harvested sage, Seattle-based Yonder Cider‘s Palisades ($72 for 24 cans) cider remains apple-dominant but far from ordinary. Sometimes, a blend of apples can result in a cider that’s lackluster, especially ambiguous and occasionally watered down. But, the combination of apples here, mixed with fresh dark fruit and herbs, produces a cider that’s rich with flavor and harder-hitting (at 6% alcohol).

Electric Mayhem

Vermont’s Co Cellars, a collaborative winery founded by Burlington’s Zafa Wines and Vergennes-based Shacksbury Cider, produces a collection of category-defying canned beverages. Their releases incorporate the ingredients grown by its founders—apples and grapes—but also employ various others grown across the state, from cranberries to floral elements. Electric Mayhem ($54 for six), which is available now in their online store, is a 6.9% ABV bubbly (and slightly citrusy) beverage made from Ellison Estate Vineyard’s “assertive yet delicate” La Crescent Grapes and Yoder Farm’s foraged wild apples. Three wild yeast fermentations—one aged for 18 months, one grape-dominant and one apple-based—are blended, carbonated and canned, and sold in packs of six.

2019 We’re Laughing

A combination of sparkling wild grape and cider, Hudson-based Greenpoint Cidery’s new release We’re Laughing ($23) provides tartness and dryness along with plenty of fresh fruit flavors. Lightly sparkling, it’s a cider that has been re-fermented with wild yeasts on whole grapes and the resulting texture proves undeniably refreshing and satisfying. With 6.65% alcohol content, the 2019 We’re Laughing is extremely limited.

Frequency Illusion: Sauvignon Blanc

Ardmore, Pennsylvania brewery Tired Hands has impressed with its experimentation since opening in 2011. Their “strange and beautiful” beers range from the subtly tweaked to incredibly out-there. Frequency Illusion, a series they launched in 2018, plays host to a handful of their most ambitious brews: beers co-fermented with wine grapes. The resulting concoctions are difficult to define; this is especially true for their fan-favorite Sauvignon Blanc iteration ($20), which is made by brewing a beer from Pilsner malt and raw white wheat, fermenting it with Magickal Saison yeast in a Foudre oak barrel, and re-fermenting it with New York-grown Sauvignon Blanc juice. It’s wine-ish, slightly spiced and naturally carbonated.

Pomquette Rouge

Based in NYC’s Red Hook, Rosehill Ferments calls their 2019 Pomquette Rouge ($10) a “piquette of sorts,” meaning it’s a bottled beverage made from leftover grapes added to water. Instead of using water, however, the producer uses apple water, adds pressed berries, grape skins and stems, and ages the mixture on oak. Bottled in 375ml portions, the resulting liquid drinks like a rich red wine but is less potent (5.7% alcohol). It’s also super-refreshing and proves suitable for a wide array of accompanying dishes.

Images courtesy of respective brands, hero image courtesy of Homage Brewing