The Super Bowl XLIX festivities begin at noon on Sunday, February 1. Pundits are going to spend the entire day analyzing the players, discussing past Super Bowls, and making deflated ball puns. The game itself starts at 6 PM, and will end around 11 PM after all the awards have been given out and more analysis of the game. That is a long drinking day for anyone. You have to pace yourself through a day filled with salty snacks, good friends, and lots and lots of fine, locally crafted beer. Fortunately, British brewers thought of this decades ago, and developed something called a session beer.
During World War I, production of material for the war effort was important. Parliament created a law that allowed for two drinking sessions a day; one at lunch and one at dinner time. Since drinking was much more limited, any typically could only be done at a bar, people would have a few more at lunch then they normally would. They did not want to go back work around dangerous equipment inebriated, so British brewers started to brew beers that were lower in ABV. They typically capped at 5%, but many went as low as 3%. Pilsners, bitters, and pale ales were the styles that were used, offering the most flavor while delivering a love tap of alcohol.
The United States does not have the same fondness for low ABV beers. The legacy of the “little beer” began just before Prohibition as a desperate attempt by then president Woodrow Wilson to stop the inevitable. He proposed that beers of no more than 2.75% ABV be brewed, minimizing the harsh effects of the terrible affliction of alcohol on a delicate public. Clearly, that did not work, and the country dried up for thirteen years. The first beer that came out after the Volstead Act was repealed but before the 21st Amendment went into effect? 3.2% beers. Our legacy with them is much more contentious, thus when the craft beer movement rolled forward, the LAST thing brewers wanted to do was create beers in the Budweiser range of ABV. The ABV War began, trying to create bigger beers, beers full of flavor and alcohol. The winning brewery at this point in time is Brewmeister’s Armageddon out of Scotland, ringing in at an overwhelming 65% ABV. Most beers like this are brewed once for effect, then retired.
Session beers just came back into vogue in the last ten years as a reaction to all of the high ABV beers flowing through the country. Founder’s All Day IPA may be the beer that brought this type of beer to the general attention of the public. This great Michigan brewery sells this in a fifteen-pack, acknowledging that you can sip on this all day and still be able to function at your desk on Monday. It was mentioned more than a few times as a great session beer by the people I spoke with. The 4.7% ABV is perfect for a long session of drinking, and the hops ensures that it is not boring to drink. Fat Head’s Sunshine Daydream out of Cleveland is another highly recommended session beer, creeping up to 4.9% ABV and still delivering with refreshing flavor.
Looking for a local, low alcohol growler fill for the big game? Here is a list of what was found on tap (or in a can) around the Miami Valley. Not all of these fall into the session beer category, but they all hover around the 5% ABV range.
- Lock 27 – Pugilist’s 4.7% ABV seems light for a beer with a fighting name. Session beers are not all light and hoppy. Here is an irish stout whose punch is in the flavor, not the spirits. Order some of their Smoked Wings while you are there. You will not be disappointed.
- Yellow Springs Brewing – If you are going to go to one brewery for all your low ABV beer needs, this is the place to go. They have the biggest selection of tap beers that fall into this category. Their Kerfluffle, an English Mild beer, is the lowest on the list at 3.1% ABV. They also have Daily’s Comet Saison (3.8% ABV), Handsome American Brown Ale (5.5% ABV), Ryatt’s Eviction English Pale Ale (5.0% ABV) and Zoetic Citra American Pale Ale (5.2% ABV). A little something for everyone!
- Dayton Beer Company
– Patterson Pale Ale, at 5.5% ABV, is higher on the list for a session beer, but a delicious option. While you are there, get a growler of their award winning Java Man Cometh (7.0% ABV) to help celebrate if your team wins, or cry into if they lose.
- Warped Wing Brewing Company – They have some heavy hitters in their line up (Baltic Argonaut at 11.5% ABV would make a short session), but they offer their own Self Starter Session IPA at 5.2% ABV. Ermal’s Belgian Cream Ale at 5.4% ABV and their delightfully unique Wedding Beer at 4.5% ABV are options for Super Bowl growler fills.
- Fifth Street Brewing – For my money, kolsch is my favorite style of lighter beer. FSB’s 1600 Kolsch (5.0% ABV) and Deluge Pale Ale (5.4% ABV) are both excellent beers to add to the game day menu.
- Star City Brewing – If you already have plans and will have to miss their Super Bowl Potluck Extravaganza, you can enjoy their kolschy Blonde Ale at 3.8% ABV or Weizen Star Hefeweizen at 4.8% ABV at home with a much different pot luck.
- Lucky Star Brewery – While you are in Miamisburg, you can stop by this brewery as well and pick up their Ojos Locos Mexican Lager at 3.9% ABV or their Redemption Red at 5.3% ABV. Their Wicked Step Mutha Double Stout weighs in at 9.9% ABV, but would be a delicious late game addition to cap off the party.
- Toxic Brew Company – Relax. There is always some Practice Yoga (5.6% ABV) to enjoy during an all-day football binge. Sign up for the Shuffle Board League while you are there so your sports enjoyment can last after football is over. Abby’s Cure at 9.6% ABV came highly recommended for Sunday, but as a tasty treat with your all day sippers.
- Eudora Brewing Company – Another award winning craft brewery in Dayton, their Sundowner Blonde Ale weighs in at 5.0% ABV. Supporting them means you are also supporting charity:water, providing clean water to those with no access to it.
- Hairless Hare Brewery – Hello friends up north! The American Ale here sits at a sessionable 4.9% ABV. And is there anything more American than watching the Super Bowl?
Not enough options? Belmont Party Supply has many, many selections for session drinking. Cincinnati favorites like Madtree offers Lift at 4.7% ABV and Rhinegeist releases Cougar at 4.8% ABV for you to consider. Rivertown’s Little Sipa IPA at a nice and light 4.5% ABV is another Cincinnati option on the table. The new kid in Ohio, Boulevard Brewing Company, has their Pop Up Session IPA that sits at a respectable 4.3% ABV and 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat at 5.5% ABV. Fans of New Belgium Brewing can get their hands on Slow Ride Session IPA sitting at 4.5% ABV. You can also pick up He’Brew’s Dry Hopped Session Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) or Heavy Seas’ Cross Bones Session IPA (4.5% ABV) there. If you want a little more heavy in your seas, their Loose Cannon IPA is an amazing choice with a little more punch (7.25% ABV).
The Super Bowl has become more than just the championship game for the NFL; it is a cultural event that brings people together with friends for good food and good company. Whether you are cheering for the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks, or just a halfway decent Super Bowl ad, session beers are one way to sip on great beer all day and still be ready to shout, cheer, cry, and celebrate when the game begins. Now, time to start researching the wings and nachos. Cheers!