Defining The Craft is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either. In addition, Defining The Craft takes a glance at various elements of craft beer culture to further enhance your knowledge and know-how!
What is a Session Beer?
Sometimes during the most stressful of weeks, the one thing that keeps you going is what’s on the agenda as soon as that final whistle blows Friday evening. It could be fun with the family, a weekend getaway, your favorite leisure activity, or a cookout with your friends. And typically, when friends get together, the good beers flow…and flow in great quantities!
It’s not unlike any of us to blow off some steam with a strong drinking “session.” The term “drinking session” is derived from British lore and refers to drinking a large quantity of beer during a specific period of time without becoming too inebriated. Typically, any sort of social occasion or gathering can be classified as a session. Other research has found that sessions were the designated times of allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed shell production workers during World War I. During these two 4-hour periods, workers would consume low-ABV beers that allowed them to return to work not completely wasted.
Now, as a craft beer enthusiast, you know just as well as I do that a lengthy session with high ABV craft beers is not impossible…but it’s definitely shorter. Sure, we all love the hoppiest, maltiest, most high-quality beers we can get our hands on, but those brews don’t necessarily lend themselves to a full day of drinking amongst friends. And if they somehow do, typically those friends are helping you find the nearest couch to crash or booking you a cab.
More often than not, hours upon hours of beer drinking has meant you have to revert back to old habits and break out the punch-top cans and cold blue mountains. But you know as well as I do…this is difficult. In most circles, it’s downright frowned upon and earns you no points. Once you go craft, yaddy yadda…you get the picture.
So how do you participate in an extended drinking session without sacrificing the quality and flavor of craft beer that you’ve come to know and love AND avoid being ostracized by your peers? Hello, Session Beer, my old friend!
Session Beers have woven their way into the craft beer tapestry and have quickly gained extreme popularity. A Session Beer, dating back to its aforementioned British roots, was Mild or Bitter and tipped the scales at 3-4% ABV, but no higher. Today, a Session Beer is defined as a beer that contains no higher than 5% ABV and offers the same characteristics you’re accustomed to in your favorite high-ABV brews: quality ingredients leading to a nice balance of malt and hops, a smooth, clean finish, and a considerable level of drinkability. This allows you to have multiple beers throughout your session without getting bombed beyond all recognition.
A session beer must be under 5% ABV. But why? According to BeerAdvocate, the average ABV of the 30,000+ beers in their database is 5.9%. It’s been discovered that as beers surpass that 6% threshold, you actually feel the impact of that additional 1% quite significantly throughout your drinking session. Body chemistry and tolerance varies from person to person, but 5% ABV seems to be the happy medium for everyone and allows you to enjoy a solid beer, stay social, and not be “that guy” at the party.
Due to the overwhelming demand for session beers, practically every brewery has added this style to their portfolio. With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely your favorite craft brewery or breweries won’t have a session beer you can adopt as your go-to. Speaking of go-to, my personal favorite is Stone’s Go To IPA. I’ve also become a big fan of Fat Head’s Sunshine Daydream IPA, Lagunita’s DayTime Fractional IPA, and Founder’s All Day IPA and frequently crack into these brews when the summer weather hits and patio beers become a staple of the season. There are also other less-hoppy styles in session variety as well.
In addition to your favorite national breweries, check out the tap lists of your local breweries, too. More often than not, they’ll have a drinkable session brew on tap for you to enjoy in their taproom or to-go via growler.
Your conundrum of staying loyal to craft while enjoying lengthy drinking sessions without seeing triple has just been solved. Go forth and consume responsibly…for days!