A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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TC -

Hear, hear.

Personally, I like a session beer that will let me sit in the bar for 3 or 4 hours without needing a nap. Uncle Teddy's Bitter is outstanding for that. Especially when it's available on cask. Victory's Donnybrook Stout is good for the purpose, too. It's a bit of a sipper because it's got the big creamy body, but it's got the very low ABV, and it's really, just dynamite stuff.

East End Brewing in Pittsburgh has a series of one off session beers, with ABVs of about 3.5-4%. Obviously, they don't quite qualify, since one-offs can't be "go to" beers, but each of the brews that I've had would well be worth keeping in the fridge at all times.

Og Tau -

I don't agree with your exclusion of summer seasonals. Does a session beer have to be a "go to" beer? What if I don't have a go to beer? I think that's a different issue. It's enough to have a choice of good low ABV beers without me having to pick a regular.

I do agree with the rest of the post, but sessions beers won't win in the tasting/rating world, where people often don't even drink a full bottle, let alone multiples.

Alan -

Well, I would think a good session ale would make you want it to be your regular. I do agree with your assessment of the "tasting/rating world"...though I think of it more as an island and a distant one at that. Something of a badge of honour to miss out that sort of attention as it would mean all that they are too focused on booziness.

VH -

It seems to me that this is one of those concepts that tends to get over-intellectualized by aficionados, whilst the rest of the world could care less. In the end a session beer is whatever you want it to be. For instance, regardless of what I am drinking I never exceed three pints. More often one or two. So a session for me could easily be one Dogfish 90. Or two from the wonderful taplist at The Dirty Truth.

A session beer is a loose enough concept that it does not need a definition. The first time I heard the term I knew exactly what it meant to me, and that was really all I needed to know. It's not quite the same as "What exactly is a Wit?"... ducking and running.

Alan -

Well, I don't think anyone is following you even if you think this is an example of over intellectualizing so there really isn't any duck and run. Strength of alcohol is about the single easiest characteristic of a beer to identify and understand.

Paul Garrard -

For me a session beer is something that I can drink 3 or 4 pints of during an evening and not fall over. In my humble opinion 3.8% is great for a session ale.

Andy -

I agree that a session beer should be at most 4.5% and ideally below 4% and should indeed be a core product from the brewer. Session beers don't need to show off - they are happy sitting in the background, with a quiet self confidence. For me a session beer is all about trying to beat the laws of diminishing marginal returns....my 4th pint should taste nearly as good as my 1st pint

Paul of Kingston -

In theory my session beer is a 3.5 to 4.0 ABV. In practice it tends to be whatever is in my fridge when I get a hankering for a session of beer.

Alan -

That is the difference an "o" can make: session beer, session o'beer.

Joe -

I kind of agree with VH on the subjectivity of the session beer. Sorry to be a relativist (how's that for over-intellectualizing?), but one's drinking culture plays a big role here. So does one's alcohol tolerance.

I can only speak to the U.S. and Belgium, which are both awash in strong craft ales these days. I'm always relieved to find something below 6 percent if it's tasty and am not above having several in a row.

Beers below 4% are still pretty rare outside the U.K., are they not?

Bad Ben -

Session beers are all about subtlety and nuance. They "nudge" the taste buds and titilate the senses. A good homebrewer should always have a couple of session beers on tap.

Allen Garvin -

Low alcohol session beers are certainly an area that American craft brewers have not delved into extensively. Also, they make a tough sell in bottle form, because the economics of selling by bottle are not going to allow them to be much cheaper than stronger beers with bold flavors. It's certainly not unusual to find craft brewers with a range of 8-12 beers where not a single beer is under 5%.

I'm a huge fan of low-alcohol session beers. I'm not actively homebrewing now, but when I did, a large portion of my beers were in the 3-5% range. I love a beer that you can drink a gallon of over a few hours, and still sit around talking with your friends without wanting to fall into a coma. I liked to break out of the style guidelines, adding smoked malt, assorted belgian yeasts (and brett occasionally!), lots of hops, or lots of coriander, etc, to recipes that would otherwise generate a generic English mild.

Quaffing is the name of the game with session beers! You can't quaff a DFH 90-minute (which another commenter mentioned). That's a savoring beer. A session beer you can serve by the liter, and finish in a few swallows without feeling overwhelmed by effects.

Alan -

Have you had Bam or Bam Noir? 4.5% and 4.3% respectively with brett. A great concept.

Ethan -

I love squeezing a second-runnings small beer out of a brew.

Best commercial small beer imo is Anchor's. Not widely available, though.