July 3, 2009

Session beers - another mystery solved

I've been hearing a lot of talk about "session beers". I had an ill-defined idea of what this meant, so today I sat down for a session to figure it out.

In a nutshell, a session beer is one that is less than 5% ABV (alcohol by volume). The reason for this is simple - a session beer meant to be drunk over a period of time without the drinker becoming drunk, or having "their legs taken out from under them". Ostensibly, the lower the ABV, the more you can drink. Of course some of why alcohol affects people differently depends on factors outside of the alcohol content of the beer, but it's a good gauge and it seems that around 5% is a pretty good number for the majority of people.

Another feature of a session beer is a balance between the hops and malts. In addition to not getting the drinker drunk, a session beer is not meant to overwhelm the palate, which is where the balance of flavors comes in.

While session beers are a different breed than some of the more extreme beers available today (and you know I like plenty of them!), I'd like to point out that these beers - of which there are literally thousands - are quite tasty in their own right. They may not have you exclaiming about how wonderful they are while you're drinking it, but that's another point about them - you're supposed to be able to drink a session beer without feeling like you want to talk about it.

Finally, session beers are typically more reasonably priced than a lot of the big beers.

For my money, anything that I can drink for a while, without worrying about getting drunk, and at a decent price is something that I can stand behind.


  1. Hmmm . . . from what I've read here, I'm torn. I like the not getting drunk aspect and being able to enjoy a good number of them at one time. Are session beers usually lighter, too, so you don't feel as full (bloated) as some other beers can make you? However, if I want to really enjoy a beer and drink more than one, I think I'd really like to enjoy the flavor. At least enough to say "Hey! This tastes good!" Are we talking bland flavors? Can you think of a session beer I might be familiar with so I can get an idea of what you're writing about? Thanks!

  2. Yes, they're typically lighter and therefore make you feel less full. A session beer is one that you can drink for a while (a session has been defined as a period that lasts for approximately 4 hours - couldn't drink one beer for 4 hours if it left you feeling full). But again - they can be - and are - quite flavorful. For instance, I was drinking Weyerbacher Zotten on Friday, and believe me when I tell you - it was delicious! I definitely made a comment about how good it was. There are so many other examples - I'll let you know as I try more.