There’s a lot of action these days in the low to no alcohol beer category with new non-alcoholic brews seemingly popping up daily. So where does this leave the session beer?
The term is another of those slightly subjective ones (the beer world is riddled with them) and appears to have different boundaries depending on where you are drinking. Generally speaking though, session beers are lower in abv.
The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has these definitions…
Session-strength <4% ABV
Standard-strength 4-6% ABV
High-strength 6-9% ABV
Very-high-strength >9% ABV
… which makes me realise just how much beer these days is high strength or above, which itself would suggest that the session category is far less populated than it perhaps would have been 10 years ago.
On the other hand, framing beer by ABV actually makes for an interesting and broad categorisation, as the beers are stylistically free in every other sense and can be dark, light, hoppy, sour or - you name it.
In the aforementioned guide, the category includes American light lager, German Leichtbier, Czech pale lager, ordinary bitter and Berliner weisse - which is a bit like the United Nations of beer styles!
Today’s beer is from the Pizza Port brewery in southern California and is a session IPA - which is a bit of a contradiction in terms really, but I presume we’re looking at a good ‘n hoppy lighter ABV beer! Let’s crack it open…
Pours a pale gold with a white head. The nose is crisp and full of bright, clean citrus notes - complexed with earthy and piny hints - this is hoppy but certainly not dank. The palate is light and highly attenuated and there’s certainly an IPA hop vibe to proceedings - with more citrus and apricot flavours and a lovely bitter finish. Does what it says it is going to do on the can!
The current popularity for ‘lighter and lower’ would have us thinking the session beer should be right on trend. That said, massive adjunct riddled and barrel aged stouts are also on the rise, and so the shift we are currently witnessing is one towards an all or nothing approach. This puts the session beer firmly in no man's land.
In some ways beer is a reflection of the world, which is arguably more complicated, polarised and extremist than ever. In times where we are constantly forced to pick sides and align with movements and beliefs - why not choose the session beer - after all, sometimes sitting on the fence is the best place to be…