Showing posts with label session beer project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label session beer project. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More Than Less

I will just come out and say it, I like a drink.

That fact is probably the main reason I seek out session beers whenever possible. Unless I am in the company of good friends, I am the guy that will sit at a table and be very much on the periphery of the conversation. It's just as well I am something of an amateur anthropologist, I love watching people and how they interact, though it does mean I tend to drink quicker than a lot of people I know, and that's where session beers come in. I simply wouldn't want to drink 5 or 6 imperial pints of standard strength craft beer (between 6.5% and 7% in this part of Virginia) and then drive myself home, regional public transport being something akin to unicorn shit and the Brexit dividend.

For a while a couple of years ago it seemed as though everyone and his mate was jumping on the session beer bandwagon, though this being the US they wanted to say 5.5% abv beer was sessionable. Given that my definition of a session begins at the fourth imperial pint, these beers felt like some cruel joke. For those unaware of Lew Bryson's vital work at The Session Beer Project, let's remind ourselves of his suggested guidelines for an American session beer:
  • 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced
Forgive me for being cynical, but there are times when I wonder if anyone is paying much attention to anything but the first point in the definition, maybe the second, though again being grumpy I would say that most session IPAs are too flavourful.

The other three points though appear to be willfully ignored. A sweet and sour fruit infused faux gose is not balanced enough to have multiple pints, remember a session begins at the fourth imperial pint - 4 imperial pints of a watermelon gose? Not fucking likely, most samples of the gack are difficult enough to get through, let alone a US customary pint.

Even though I tend to be the quiet guy on the edges, it is session beer that eventually gets me in to a place where I am happier to jump into conversation. God that makes me sound like some right uptight git, I am just not much of a talker when there are more people in a group that I don't know than I do. After a few pints though, I'll loosen up and dip my toe into the waters of the conversation, and we'll see where it goes, the beer though conducts me into the conversation.

Much like the pricing restrictions of Reinheitsgebot, the idea of reasonably priced beer is conveniently forgotten by all and sundry. For example, during American Mild Month I routinely saw dark milds between 3% and 4% being sold for between $5 and $7 for an imperial pint, the same price as some 7%-9% abv beers on the same beer list. Now, pardon my french, but that is taking the fucking piss. Charging the same price for a 3.5% mild as an 8% double IPA simply smacks of gouging the customer and reaping a much bigger profit margin on the beer.

There is more to creating a session beer than simply being technical with the ABV. To truly have session beer there needs to be an environment where the best bitters, dark milds, and pale lagers are as an attractive proposition as some extreme hop bomb or malt based fruity alcopop. Session beer thrives when the beer culture is one of drinking pints with your mates rather than cruising breweries doing flights. I fear we are starting to lose that culture.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Session Fizz

When I was home in the summer I drank almost exclusively cask conditioned ales, as well as a fair few bottled conditioned ales. If I recall correctly, I may have had fewer non-real ales than I have digits on my hands. I am utterly biased I admit, but cask conditioned ale is, for me, one of the heights of the brewer's, and cellarman's, craft.


When we landed back in Philadelphia after our holiday, we grabbed a couple of seats at a bar and ordered food and beer. My beer was Yard's Philadelphia Pale Ale, a beer that I actually quite enjoy, but after 3 weeks of Happy Chappy, Skye Black, and Kelburn Dark Moor, it was just too fizzy for me.


On Sunday afternoon some friends of mine came into the bar at Starr Hill, having just returned from a few weeks touring round the south of England. Taking in the delights of London, the New Forest, and the Cotswolds, and reveling in the pleasures of....cask conditioned ales in the pub. As we chatted, my friend commented on how much more beer she drank while in the UK than she would normally, and while part of that is likely to have been a result of the lower gravity of many of the beers, she also said that the lack of excessive fizz meant she didn't feel bloated after a few pints, which got me wondering about session beer.


I love session beers, as pretty much anyone that knows me will tell you. I can think of no better way to while away several hours than being sat in the pub, drinking low alcohol, flavoursome beers. For me though, a session starts after the fourth pint, which can be tricky when the beer is north of 6% and much fizzier than something properly cask conditioned, and no, putting still fermenting beer in a firkin with a slew of weird shit doesn't count, you could call it 'casky' in juxtaposition to the real thing.


My thought then is this, are cask conditioned ales more conducive a session, because they don't fill you up with excessive CO2 to burp and fart out along the way? Perhaps an extra, admittedly optional, criteria is required for the definition of session beer? Less fizzy than standard beers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Your Session On!

I love session beers.


Sure, I have written about it before, but I don't think the situation can be over stated. Session beers are, in my consistently unhumble opinion, the best kind of beers to drink. When everything is said and done, I guess I am really just a guy who likes going to the pub and drinking flavourful, low-alcohol beer whilst chatting with my mates, shooting some pool and generally having a laugh. I have even stopped taking a camera and paper notebook with me and my social life has improved immensely as a result.


I really don't care that much whether the upper limit for a session beer should be 4% or 4.5% , mainly because in the US drinking only sub 4% beers would essentially make you the designated driver because there is bugger all to drink at the level. Admittedly one of my beers of choice lately is only 3.9%, the magnificent Scottish Session from Williams Brothers in Alloa, but I have only seen it in bottles so far.

As you can imagine then, I think Session Beer Day on April 7th is a fantastic idea and hopefully the pubs of Charlottesville will have something in the sub 4.5% range available to drink (assuming of course I am not working in the Starr Hill tasting room that day, in which case I will fill a growler with their 4.2% Dark Starr Stout, and perhaps re-run my glassware experiment).

The pubs I usually go to these days are Beer Run and , an "Irish" pub with a decent enough beer selection, a pool table and a proper pub atmosphere. Hopefully we'll see some session beers on at both places in time for Session Beer Day, and going forward I would love to see at least 1 tap at each place permanently given over to beers people can drink plenty of.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fuggled Review of the Year - Blogs

So to the final installment of the Fuggled Review of the Year, the blogs that I have enjoyed reading throughout 2010. Again making that final list of three is fraught with difficulty, thus requiring a list of honourable mentions again. I think today though, the honourable mention list will come first:


I have a tie for the best beer related blog from Virginia simply between Eric and James, of Relentless Thirst and A Homebrew Log respectively, cater to different aspects of my love of beer. Relentless Thirst has wide ranging posts of various aspects on the beer world which I find well thought out and thought provoking, whereas A Homebrew Log does exactly what it says on the tin - it is about homebrewing, but it is well written and always informative. I have had the pleasure of sharing beers, both commercial and homebrew, with both Eric and James, and they are top blokes, with a passion for beer and brewing. Keep your eyes open for an upcoming project the three of us are working on.


If you know anything about me, you know I love session beer, and what to see more of it produced over here in the States. Lew's The Session Beer Project then is an invaluable resource for keeping abreast of developments in session beer across the US.


What can you say about Ron that hasn't already been said? Challenging, backed up with facts rather than fables and recipes to brew historical beers! Not only is Ron's blog required reading as far as I am concerned, but the fact that it was one of Ron's books that inspired Devils Backbone to brew a 1904 London Stout recipe, which was one of my favourite beers of the year, has to be a good thing.

But as ever, the final few must become just the one, and so the 2010 Fuggled Blog of the Year is:
  • Shut Up About Barclay Perkins
Excellent reading all round and here's to another year of banging the drum about IPAs real nature!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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