Summer ‘Session’ Is In!
June 20, 2012 by Ryan Montrie, Certified Cicerone, District Manager
Session beer that is, and I am fully enrolled. They are so named because you can enjoy several of them in a drinking 'session.' These full flavor and aroma, artfully balanced, lower alcohol beers are perfect for the hot summer days spent outdoors at a park or cookout, when you want a brew with character and depth that won't knock you off your feet.
While not an official Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) category of beer, most experts agree that they must be below 4.5% ABV. Any style can be made to be 'session-able', the key and difficult task a brewer has is making them balanced and flavorful without the wallop a higher ABV can provide.
In recent years, beer geeks have had the mentality that bigger is better. They celebrate and ballyhoo the huge Imperial beers and grapefruit bombs every brewery seems to be putting out there. Now the pendulum is swinging back and these artful creations with minimal alcohol seem to be taking hold. Don't get me wrong, I love sipping and pairing an enormous beer as much as anyone, but session beers are so much more practical and I find myself in situations more often that call for their full flavor and low ABV. It's nice to see more options being created.
This idea of a session beer is not a new concept. It has been firmly entrenched across the pond in English pubs for decades. Cask ales and ordinary bitters usually are below 4% ABV, yet well nuanced and crafted, and are a mainstay of the English public. The culture there has completely embraced this concept of good beer in its lower ABV form, and fortunately for us the American beer drinker is now calling for them now as well.
Here are a couple fine session beers that we carry that I think you'll really enjoy:
21st Amendment Bitter American
This is a wonderfully crafted session beer with huge citrusy hop aromas and a stunningly balanced malt body. It comes in a 4.4% ABV and 42 IBUs in cans and draft from the great brewery 21st Amendment out of San Francisco and is my top choice for the summer. And did I mention it has a monkey in a spacesuit on the can? Try and not smile with every sip.
Atwater Dirty Blonde
A 4.5% offering coming from our neighbor to the north in Downtown Detroit, this beer from Atwater Brewery is made with unmalted wheat, coriander, and orange peel. It's crisp, refreshing, and perfect for a day outside or at the ballpark. I am definitely excited Atwater has hopped aboard Heidelberg Distributing's network for Ohio and Kentucky.
Great Lakes Wright Pils
From our good friends at Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Co.comes a classic Bohemian style pilsner. At 4.2% this brew has a very floral bouquet and crisp, dry finish making it perfect for any summer session. This beer has been offered at Great Lakes' Brewpub for a while, but is now available in package and draft as a summer seasonal for the first time this year.
If you want to learn more about session beers, checkout the website sessionbeerproject.blogspot.com. Lots of great info on there!