Today is National Beer Day, but it’s also Session Beer Day. The annual pseudo-holiday was launched in 2012 by Lew Bryson, a Pennsylvania-based drinks writer who also started The Session Beer Project five years before his easy-drinking holiday.
What is a session beer? Well, it depends on whom you ask. The term’s precise origins and coinage are fuzzy. Beer experts can’t seem to agree on a specific year, for instance, but consistently point to British pub culture as its inspiration. It’s generally agreed upon, however, that any brew bearing the description should be low in alcohol but tasty enough to enjoy for a prolonged period of time, or “session.”
The ABV issue is a bone of contention throughout the sessionsphere. Bryson states a session beer is 4.5 percent ABV and lower. Michigan’s Founders Brewing makes an All Day IPA Session Ale that clocks in at 4.7 percent — while others passionately argue that the bar should be set a bit lower.
In celebration of Session Beer Day, we present a five-beer sampler of session beers we call Craft Beer Crosscut 4.7.17: A Flight of Session.
Throw on a bikini top, drop the beads around your neck and toss back Evil Twin‘s cross between a hop cone and a lemon. The aromatics are a truly beautiful blend of straight-up citrus, primarily lemon and tangerine, backed up by very fresh, green, grassiness. Low in alcohol, spritzy, tart, refreshing, citrusy and chuggable, it’s the perfect way to start our session parade.
4.2% ABV, 13 IBU
Located 30 miles north of New Orleans, Abita Brewing fired up the mash tun in 1986, making it the oldest craft brewery in the southeastern United States. Our session parade continues on the lighter side with Abita’s Purple Haze, an American wheat ale with fresh raspberries added during secondary fermentation. The berries lend the brew a subtle purple tinge along with a fruity aroma and a sweet, tart taste. ‘Scuse us while we kiss the sky!
4.4% ABV, 42 IBU
In 2000, Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan touched down in San Francisco’s historic South Park neighborhood and called it 21st Amendment Brewery (the 21st Amendment, as any dedicated drinker would know, is the one that repealed Prohibition). The brewery produces a line of very tasty brews including Down To Earth, a session IPA that replaced the brewery’s popular Bitter American but continues the story of HAM, the space chimp that was the focal point of its Bitter American cans. Cascade, Mosaic and Warrior hops offers orange marmalade and melon, chased by caramel and biscuity malt on the nose. On the palate, it’s very crisp and dry, with a lightly grainy, toasted malt backbone wrapped in a blanket of oranges. There’s a blast of citrus and juicy melon.
4.5% ABV, 42 IBU
For those who want to gain entry to the craft beer community, India Pale Ales have become the not-so-secret handshake. Can you appreciate its strong, bitter notes and discern the idiosyncratic spin different brewers add? If so, welcome. India Pale Ales, or IPAs, are an acquired taste. History shows they were overly hopped for the long journey from England to India. Founders‘ All Day IPA has the hoppy characteristics of an IPA, but light on the alcohol side for the style. It’s heavy on the citrus and medium on the pine resin, with a very light bready malt character.
4.5% ABV, 47 IBU
Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson traveled to Germany and spent several days in the Hallertau region, the birthplace of hops dating back more than 1,000 years. There, he hung out at small family hop farms and worked with the farmers to secure an ample supply of Mandarina Bavaria and Hull Melon — two backbone hops for Easy Jack. This kickback beer spotlights those spicy, leafy hops; plus a dose of oats smoothes out the sip.