Now in session

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First Posted: 4/1/2014

As we continue the transition from the freezing cold winter into the spring thaw-out, we have emerged from our blanket cocoons and now have some work to get done around the house. This means less sitting around and more moving around and, unfortunately, our heavier and higher ABV beers that we enjoy during the winter months may interfere with these plans. Thankfully, many craft brewers have been hard at work brewing full-flavored lighter ABV session beers.

For many years, craft beer lovers have been asking brewers to make session beers. This was mainly due to the fact that if craft beer lovers go out for a night of drinking with non-craft beer drinking friends, it typically would lead to some conflict; craft beer drinkers have chosen quality over quantity, and this normally leads to ending the evening earlier.

Session beers are beers that are lighter in alcohol, typically between three and five percent ABV, but this range can vary depending on the drinker and who is writing about the topic. The reason it is referred to as a “session beer” has some historical roots that date back to England during WWI, when drinking “sessions” were allotted. Many English beers, such as the English Mild or Bitter, are lower in alcohol and fall well into the category of session beer. Somewhere along history the term “session beer” came into being used as it is today.

It stands to reason that many British brewers have long been brewing session beers, and you can see this on the shelves at your favorite beer shop: Guinness, Harp, Newcastle Brown, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, and Bass Pale Ale all fall well within the limits of what would be deemed a session beer.

However, many American breweries have adapted these English styles, typically making them more flavorful and with a higher ABV, with resounding success. Now the demand has gone the opposite route and American craft brewers are once again answering the call.

The biggest difficulty brewers face with brewing these beers is to keep the intense flavors while restraining the ABV and maintaining a solid balance within the beer; this can be much more difficult than many of us realize. Thankfully, breweries such as Stone Brewing Co., with its new Go To IPA, have been able to create beers that pack an intense flavor and keep the ABV at an incredible 4.5 percent.

There is no end to great fully-flavored beers that fall into the session category, but brewers have been targeting this category as of late with fantastic results. These are some brews that are five percent ABV or under to try: Founders Brewing, All Day I.P.A.; Tröegs Brewing Company, Sunshine Pils; Dogfish Head, Festina Pêche; Wolaver’s, Wildflower Wheat; Yards Brewing Company, Brawler; Stone Brewing Co., Levitation; Sam Adams, Escape Route; and Deschutes Brewery, Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

Any of these beers are going to give a lot of flavor and the enjoyment that you want from your beer, while still allowing you to do some of the work around your house that you have been putting off during the cold winter months.