Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Session beer...what the heck?

Ok, so in recent weeks some buzz has started, or continued, about session beers. The biggest debate concerns the criteria for designating a beer 'session'. Here's some background on the term. Of course it's not 100% infallible, but you'll get the idea:

Session beers, by definition, contain 4% or less Alcohol by Volume (abv). Because of this low level of abv a person may be more able to enjoy more of these beers in one sitting (session) than higher abv beers, without becoming inebriated. Orginally, these beers were English, available at the pubs in the UK and drank during lunch by laborers would couldn't afford to be drunk going back to sometimes dangerous work.  So, the 4% became the line between session and non-session beer.  Fine.

A new definition has come to the debate, this time from Americans, but I'm not sure who came up with it. It seems 'session' in America considers beers with abv of or lower than 5%.  This adds more to the 'session' labels. Yet, some are vehemently opposed to this new definition, and seemingly only because it doesn't fit the previous definition. I have asked around, and there are no other reasons given for this opposition.

Now, I'm not providing support for one or the other. In fact, my personal choice would be to scrap the whole 'session' term anyway, for it serves no purpose whatsoever. People in the UK don't ask their publican for a 'session'. They don't look for a 3.9% abv beer and discard a 4.1% abv beer if offered. The only distinction is the arbitrary line in the sand. Furthermore, 'session' isn't even a style of beer. It doesn't require a unique brewing method, ingredients or storage. The 'session' term is for historicity and the cultural books, it has no practical purpose today...or even yesterday. It's just a term, useless and silly.

Don't get me wrong, low abv beers are great. I'm not knocking them. I think there should be more of them available (aside form the 3.2% grocery store, macro crap).  Stone's Levitation Ale is a great low abv beer at 4.4%.  Is it a session?  I don't give a crap, it's good.