- March 27, 2017
But what exactly is a session beer?
A great starting point is an aptly named blog called “The Session Beer Project.” Its author, Lew Bryson, is an authority on the subject. He says a session beer must be suitable for drinking over an extended period of time and should be:
• 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
• Flavorful enough to be interesting
• Balanced enough to enjoy multiple pints
• Conducive to conversation
Many breweries now offer session beers that are available year-round, so let’s take a look at some standouts. All of these examples are low ABV, but some exceed Bryson’s recommendation slightly.
First up is Hoppy Table Beer from Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine.
It’s a beer inspired by Belgian tradition, but it’s clearly a hybrid American style. Hoppy Table Beer features a hop-forward aroma, notes of grapefruit and the flavors of pine, citrus and stone fruit to round out its finish. It is brewed with four different hops (Chinook, Cascade, Comet and Azacca), then dry-hopped again, which gives the beer its piney citrus notes.
“A huge part of Belgian tradition is using different ingredients and brewing methods to create new flavors,” said Allagash Brewing Company founder Rob Tod. “That’s exactly what Hoppy Table Beer is.”
Another great choice is the new GFB from Green Flash Brewing Company in San Diego, CA. GFB is a light, refreshing, crushable blonde ale with hints of honey and orange peel, complemented by a mellow malt character.
When asked what the appeal of a session beer is, Green Flash Brewmaster Erik Jensen had a ready reply. “If you like to drink beer… sometimes a lot of beer, you can’t always do that with an IPA, Belgian tripel or barrel-aged stout. With GFB, you get a lower-alcohol, high-flavor beer in line with other great Green Flash beers of the past that have been easy to drink and keep you coming back for more.”
If you want to offer a beer from a local brewery, Delco Lager from 2SP Brewing Company in Aston, PA is a wonderful, sessionable lager. Delco Lager incorporates smooth malts, clean hops and a crisp finish. It is a classic, everyday beer, updated for today with premium ingredients.
A few months ago, Michael Contreras, Director of Sales & Marketing for 2SP predicted that session beers, and lagers in particular, would be a trend in the Philadelphia area in 2017, and apparently he was right. “It seems each region has their own style,” said Contreras. “In Colorado, New England and California, they favor various versions of IPAs… but our top two selling beers are Delco Lager and 2SPils, a German lager. As session beers become more popular, we look forward to having a strong identity in the region.”
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA offers a variety of sessionable beers. Sidecar Orange Pale Ale is a pale ale with a twist. It’s brewed with Cascade, Equinox and Mandarina hops, which all have a bright, citrus-heavy character. There’s also a hint of orange peel from additions in both the brew kettle and the fermenter that tweak the classic hop profile and add a zesty pop of bright orange flavor. Sierra’s Nooner Pilsner is a crisp, hoppy take on a classic German-style pilsner, one of the original session beers. Nooner is easy drinking, yet packed with the big flavor of spicy and floral whole-cone hops. And for a true artisan experience, Kellerweis is the brewery’s hazy wheat ale, inspired by traditional Bavarian techniques. This brew has a full, fruity aroma with notes of spicy cloves and banana bread.
Bottom line, a session beer simply needs to be lower in alcohol, but NOT low in taste. The flavors can run the gamut from spicy to fruity to extremely hoppy. Have fun choosing your selection for 2017, as there is no shortage of options.
Written By Steve Hawk A.K.A. The Beer Guy