Impress your friends with some craft beer knowledge. In this edition of craft beer 101, we look into the history of the term ‘Session Beer’ and see what it has come to mean today. As briefly discussed in our Stone Brewing’s GoTo IPA video review, a session beer is simply a beer that is ‘sessionable’. So what does that mean?
The term’s origins come from a British word defining a proper sit-down gathering where one might enjoy some good friends, some good suds and some good conversation. These sessions could last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Now imagine you were drinking an 8.9ABV Imperial Ale during this drinking session. Chances are you’d need to be scraped off the floor at the 2.5 hour mark. Thus, session beers in the UK typically defined any beer that could be easily crushed and enjoyed throughout the entire day – meaning a lower ABV typically hovering around 4%.
With the booming craft beer movement in the states, the term is commonly used today to refer to well-balanced, highly drinkable, and lower ABV beers. The commonly-accepted ABV cutoff point today is 5%, thus anything below can be defined as being a session beer.
With that said, session beers typically get a bad reputation from folks in the craft beer community. Why would anyone sacrifice flavor for drinkability? Although not specifically marketed as such, one could argue that Coors and Bud Light are the stereotype of traditional session beers, hosting ABVs right in the sweet spot, offering a highly drinkable albeit flavorless sud.
Luckily in recent years, microbreweries have been churning out some great session beers to help redefine the genre. No longer does one need to trade taste for drinkability. American craft breweries like Founders, Sierra Nevada, Stone and Lagunitas have been pushing out lower ABV beers, but with flavor profiles comparable to your favorite continuously-hopped IPA.
Advancements and experimentation in brewing techniques have created some super-tasty session beers that are no-brainers to bring with you to your next fishing trip compared to bringing Bud Light.
So whether it’s camping, fishing, mowing the lawn or hanging out at your nephew’s birthday party, drink responsibly and grab a lower ABV beer. As microbreweries continue to craft tastier beers, the session beer will hopefully clear its stigma of being a tasteless brew and take its spot in the hearts of beer drinkers everywhere – as an amazing all-day beer to enjoy with friends over the course of several hours.
Hooray for social drinking!