Session = a chiefly British term used to describe beer that is low in alcohol and is easy to enjoy
“I will make it felony to drink small beer.”- Henry IV, Part 2
I, as I’m sure many of you were too, was raised on the readily available style of lagers from around the world. I also ungrudgingly admit the first beer I ever tasted was a popular import from Denmark. During my youth, all I knew of beer was the low cost, traditional mass-produced single style of beer. It wasn’t until I started my career in this business that I realized there was so, so much more available to the adult beverage industry.
While working as a retailer, I began to branch out towards the ale side of things. This led me into a whole new flavor profile. Bitter vs. sweet. Dark instead of just “lite.” While progressing the tastings I found stronger beers much more appealing. The stronger the better, I felt. More hops equaled better.
Fortunately, I was a protégé to a great mentor who had a mutual interest in my newfound taste. He shared beers with me, some of which he had cellared for nearly ten years. And again my palate was stunned. The depth within the beers I tasted was amazing. I began to seek out ales that were only strong. If it wasn’t at least 7% alcohol by volume I wanted little or nothing to do with it. Double IPAs and Imperial Stouts coming from breweries in Southern California and Colorado befit a strong influence on me. Barley Wine or BUST was a motto I stuck with due to their strength and flavor profile.
Eventually, I’m not sure whether it was age or tiredness that led me to a whole different style. These days I now much prefer to sit down and enjoy a few beers over time with full flavor and balance, instead of just one or two that are packed with alcohol.
Initially I was taken by the elegance of imports, such as the German styles of Kolsch and Pilsner. Then I discovered the Milds and Bitters of Great Britain and Table Beers of Belgium. Fortunately there has recently been a swing of American craft brewers to also return to this fashion. In fact, there is now a National Session Beer Day that occurs April 7th!
In summation here is a quote I came across from All About Beer Magazine:
“And there is no doubt: Festivals featuring Double IPAs, barley wines, sours, and other extreme styles have become hugely profitable events, and they seem to get larger every year as more people tune into the buzz about big, exciting beers—those charismatic beers that draw cult followings and turn brewers into stars. Session beers lack such power, no doubt—but that’s okay, because their job is simply to be quiet and be sipped.”