Beer is For Breakfast
Remember the 1980’s movie Cocktail? Brian Flanagan’s friend Doug quotes…”Beer is for breakfast, drink or be gone!” It’s one of my favorite movie lines. That’s how beer used to be. Watery, low alcohol, yellow beer (I suppose that type of beer is still on the market), that’s light enough to pour over your bowl of Cheerios. Part of your nutritious breakfast! This was before the days of high ABV craft brews. In the past decade of this craft beer revolution, the trend has been to cram as much alcohol into a pint of beer, while still retaining some sort of hop/malt balance.
Most recently however, the pendulum from the high gravity beers seems to be swinging back. More and more people are demanding session style beers, light enough to have a few pints and not fall off your bar stool, but enough ingredients to give you the complex flavor you are craving.
I love a full-bodied, full-flavored craft beer as much as the next person. But a lot of times that means high alcohol to go along with it. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always in the mood to drink to get drunk. I have a pretty good tolerance, but for a 5’6″, 125lb female – one and a half pints of a 9% beer and I’m ramping up for a late night.
Luckily brewers are getting the hint and crafting some mighty tasty low ABV beers these days; beers that will get you through an evening at the bar with your best buddies without feeling the wrath the next morning. These beers are starting to become more accessible – your favorite local brewery may even have a session style ale or lager. But what exactly is a session beer?
The style has actually been around since World War I, but has remained dormant until recently. As the story goes, during WWI shell production in England, workers were only allowed to have a few pints at their local watering hole during government regulated “sessions” of 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm. Since they were shift workers and many of them were returning to work at odd hours, they could only be served low alcohol beer in order to avoid being sauced on the job. Heavy equipment + drunk Brits is a bad combo.
Here is the official definition from Beer Advocate:
Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.
Probably the most well known session style beer theses days is (aptly named), Session Lager, by Full Sail Brewing Company. Winner of the World Beer Awards 2010 and coming in at 5.1% ABV. There are numerous other beers classified as session style as posted on the label, and still others that you might just have to classify on your own. A new summertime favorite and perfect boat beer is Cisco Brewing Sankaty Lager in both bottles and cans, at 3.8% ABV. Not specifically a “session” beer, but I am going to go ahead and classify it as one.
The hot days of summer are just around the corner. Now is the time to seek out your new favorite session beer!