We are officially past what I like to think of as “Big Beer Season” – winter through early spring – which brings us higher ABV brews such as winter warmers, imperial stouts, bourbon barrel-aged beers, imperial IPAs, and doppelbocks, to name some of the more prominent suspects. I certainly enjoyed my fair share of these, but now that summer weather has arrived, I find lighter beers (both in substance and alcohol content) to be more suitable. Enter the session beer.
An ABV level of 5% or less is a general guideline for defining a session beer. A session beer is perfect for those times when you want to enjoy several beers without feeling too full or having your senses dulled. While many of the available mainstream lagers meet this threshold for alcohol and can actually be pretty refreshing when nice & cold, they obviously are also lighter in flavor and are all very similar. But, since we craft beer drinkers appreciate flavor and variety, it’s good to know that there are other options.
Some traditional styles that fit the bill include kölsch, pilsner (Czech or German styles), Bavarian weizen/weissbier, Belgian wit and English mild. These can check in at under 5% ABV while still offering plenty of flavor. More and more craft brewers are making excellent interpretations of these styles. Ah, but even better, American brewers have really started to catch on to this need and demand for session beers and, in typical US fashion, this has involved stretching the boundaries of an existing beer style. Enter the “session IPA” which is somewhat of an oxymoron since traditional IPAs are brewed to slightly higher ABV levels. The session IPA dials that back below a typical craft brew, yet retains a generous hopping level. Pure genius, if you ask me.
So, here’s to enjoying some tasty yet lighter beers this summer. Get your session on!
by Bill Lau of potablepastime.wordpress.com
Courtesy of The Brew News