Beer Blog: Session Beers and Local Examples

| May 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

beer2A trend that has seemed to have caught on in the past few years in the craft beer industry is brewing a “session beer” or a
beer you can sit down with and have several of in one drinking “session” and still be functional.  These are not necessarily summer beers, but certainly make good choices for poolside, oceanside – or any other time you want to enjoy a few beers during the day – drinking.

Here are a few more thorough definitions of a session beer:

In its Beer Style Guidelines, the Brewer’s Association defines the style as:

“Any style of beer can be made lower in strength than described in the classic style guidelines. The goal should be to reach a balance between the style’s character and the lower alcohol content. Drinkability is a character in the overall balance of these beers. Beers in this category must not exceed 4.1% alcohol by weight (5.1% alcohol by volume).”

Beer Advocate’s definition of “session beer” is:

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.”

This is certainly not a new idea as a high percentage of beers historically have been brewed at these lower alcohol levels.  England’s “milds” and “ordinary bitters” are good examples. Locally, Oliver Breweries (located in the basement of Pratt Street Ale House) brews great examples of English ales.

A recent release is the Oliver “Burial at Sea.” This is a English mild that has a dark reddish amber color. There is a slightly sweet nutty malt aroma. The taste is simple but satisfying, consisting of malted barley with a slight tinge of hops in the finish. It is a great traditional English session beer at 3.2% abv and no gimmicks.

Many modern day craft breweries have a reputation for pushing the envelope, brewing a bigger, darker, hoppier product. Some breweries have applied this practice to their session beers – pack in as much flavor as possible, but keep the alcohol content within the sessionable range.  Oliver has recently released a beer that fits this description as well.

Oliver “Meridian #6” is coined a “session coffee stout,” and at 4.2% abv it fits the bill. I ordered a nitro pour at Pratt Street Ale House during a recent visit.  The beer is deep brown with a creamy beige head. The aroma is sweet freshly ground coffee with a touch of cream. A sweet coffee rush makes its way along the tongue initially. The thin body turns to flavors of caramel and cream with a hint of roast lingering after the finish. I found that there is an amazing amount of flavor packed into this 4.2% abv beer.

BeerAnother local brewery, Duclaw Brewing Company, just released a session IPA.  “Oz Fractional IPA” pours a transparent straw yellow with a fluffy white head. The aroma provides a welcome smack to the face immediately with grass, lemon, mango and fruit salad. Up front the beer is very light, but hops punch the tongue quickly after contact. Flavors of mango, grapefruit rind and passion fruit introduce themselves then fade as pine needles prick the tongue and cheeks and continue to linger through the dry finish and well after.  This session beer did its job perfectly. I enjoyed it thoroughly and when my glass emptied I craved another.

And for all of you summer beer fans, Evolution Craft Brewing has a sessionable summer seasonal appropriately called “Summer Session.” It pours light straw yellow with a thin white head. It has a nice bready aroma with some slight herbal hoppiness.  It is bright and crisp with flavors of lemon and grainy bread making it all too easy to drink.

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About the Author:

I'm a South Baltimore resident that commutes and travels everywhere I can via bicycle. Craft beer used to be a hobby that grew into what might be considered an obsession. When I'm not sampling new beers, you can usually find me either running through the streets of Baltimore training for my next race, in the weight room, or playing with my dogs. Geotechnical engineering pays the bills.
Filed in: Dining