Crafting a fresh take on session beers

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

The session beer, a beer with an alcohol content of 5 percent or lower, is a style that’s just now generating some sort of buzz in the American drinking scene.

But is it out of place?

American culture has a “more is better” mentality. In the beer scene, that refers to alcohol by volume.

Compared to our European beer drinking counterparts, the session beer is tradition. In the U.K., porters were the go-to drink of the working class because of its low alcohol content. They were able to slam a couple beers during their lunch break and go back to work without skipping a beat. These porters hovered around 4.5 percent ABV.

In Germany and the Czech Republic, lagers are tradition and tradition is sacred. Lagers are typically brewed to hover at or just under 5 percent ABV.

Here in the U.S., we’re fans of Double IPAs, American strong ales, anything barrel-aged and anything with “imperial” in its name – which is only used to describe a high ABV beer.

So, are session beers out of place in American drinking culture?

It would seem so after a night out in Wrigleyville, but session beers are catching on.

Founder’s All Day Session IPA can be found in every liquor store and major supermarket. Chicago’s very own Pipeworks recently released their Mango Guppy Session IPA which is one of the most flavorful IPA’s I’ve tried so far this year and has become a fridge staple.

Sour ales, which have a fruity tartness to them, are a style that’s rapidly gaining popularity. These beers tend to be low in ABV, the only criteria for a session beer.

People have started getting over the thought that craft beer is for pretentious, pinky-out hipsters, and are realizing that beer is so much more than what the macro-breweries are putting out.

A few years back Budweiser launched an ad that took shots at the craft beer scene. The ad said that they brew beer that isn’t meant to be “fussed over” while showing a mustached man sipping beer out of a glass that is shaped like a tulip but rather it’s brewed for drinking.

Much to the dismay of macro-breweries, the craft beer scene has grown since the commercial was aired. According to the US reached a record high 5,000 breweries in 2016, and that number is still growing. A testament to the demand for more craft beer to be “fussed over.”

Hopefully, the same fate awaits session beers. I do see the trend catching on especially since sour ales – a low ABV, fruity and tart beer –  are making a rapid comeback. The main reason I see this trend catching is because any style can be a session beer and more people are getting into craft beer.

Craft breweries are also starting to make lagers, instead of just IPAs and stouts, in order to get macro-beer drinkers to hop on the craft beer bandwagon. And true to European tradition, these beers typically are low in ABV.

There isn’t anything wimpy about the session beer, there is only beer.