Session Beers: Drinkable, Flavorful and Less Alcohol

Harvest Bottle Shot
Harvest Bottle Shot

In recent years, the craft beer industry has been booming, and with that comes very flavorful, but very high alcohol by volume (ABV) brews.  While most beers range in ABV from 5-7%, there are a number that reach into the teens. These beers may taste great, but have more than one pint at lunch and you are done for the day! However, there’s a trend happening within the industry that aims to change that – session beers. A session is an English term indicating an event that occurs over a long length of time. The term "session beer" came about as a category for a beer you'd want to sip over a session without getting hammered or too full - i.e. a long business lunch, a sporting event, etc.  According to Lew Bryson, noted beer writer and founder of The Session Beer Project, session beers are defined as:

  • 4.5%  ABV or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced

Flavor and balance are as important as the alcohol content. There must be a balanced flavor of both hops and malt.  It’s this balanced profile that makes the beer drinkable or “session-able” over an extended period of time. This may seem like a hard feat – flavorful and low ABV – but in fact, many breweries have been producing some great beers in this category.

  • Samuel Adams Belgian Session – Samuel Adams, a consistent winner at the New York International Beer Competition, and Bronze award winner for 2013 Session Beer, offers drinkers this crisp Belgian style beer. With spicy notes balanced out by sweet toffee flavor, this 4.4% ABV beer is drinkable and refreshing.
  • 16 Mile Responders Ale – As a Silver award winner for Session Beer at the 2013 New York International Beer Competition, this 4% ABV beer from Delaware brewery, 16 Mile, is also another great choice. The sweetness from the malt balances out the mild bitterness in this light-bodied Blonde ale.
  • Nimbus Dirty Guera – For this Arizona brewery, their Blonde ale is all about balance. At 3.5% ABV, with a subtle sweetness and mild taste, it’s any easy beer to drink again and again in one sitting.
  • Responders Bottle Shot
  • Blue Point Summer Ale – No one wants a heavy beer during the summer season. This Blue Point brew is another great session beer choice. Hints of sweetness balanced by a unique tart flavor make this 4.4% ABV beer quite thirst quenching during hot summer months. 

Not sure when to start enjoying these beers? While you probably don’t need an event to grab one, you could always join the session beer celebration on April 7th – Session Beer Day. Started by Bryson, Session Beer Day is a chance for beer enthusiasts, bar owners, and brewers to come together in support of these low ABV, flavorful beers. Bar owners are encouraged to offer discounts on session beers and consumers are encouraged to enjoy them, whether it be at your local pub or at home with friends and family.  As this trend continues within the craft brewing industry, we’re sure to see more celebrations popping up across the nation.