Wednesday, 11 April 2012

That tricky word beginning with S...

In my last post I touched on how long a session might be.  Ignoring (on purpose) the tricky question of what is the ideal ABV for a session beer.  Forgetting briefly (and conveniently) that I haven't yet defined for you what I take to be the meaning of the word, I'll carry on typing.

Given the recent 'Session Beer Day' in America (which Chad from Chad'z beer reviews tipped me off about), I thought I'd tackle the subject here and pass on my lack of received wisdom.

I'm going to be controversial and say, there is no ideal ABV for a session beer.  I'm going to continue down the road of controversy briefly stopping at the realms of surprising town and say that the ideal ABV for a session beer for me is absolutely not any lower than 4% and I would consider something up to 10% to be 'sessionable'.  Does this make me mental?  Maybe.

I am not an enormous fatster, coming in under the 9 stone mark (and never have been over).  I don't have the capacity these days to continue for half a day, so a session for me is locked around the the 4-ish hour mark.

Does this mean I drink a 10% beer at the same rate as I do a 4% beer?  No, that would make me a complete moron and probably dead (if for no other reason than my wife would give me a good hiding for drinking like that).  However, I might sup 2 10% beers for 4 hours when I might have 5 4% beers in the same time period the next day.

As well as the ABV consideration, I have to take into account the body of the beer, I simply couldn't stomach  drinking beer that was heavily carbonated for too long without ending up like that scene in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory where Charlie and Grandpa Joe fly up to the ceiling and have to burp to make their way back down.  Similarly a big heavy stout (which would end up the next day with a scene similar to the demise of Augustus Gloop  - actually I'll stop the Wonka comparisons now, it's getting disgustingly clinical), would sit too much on my stomach and stop me having fun.

So - as well as the complex equation I drew your attention to last time, there are more factors to introduce.  namely, abv, body and carbonation.  Or if you like A, B, C.  It's as easy as that.

So, what have I learned from writing these companion pieces?

1.  A 'session' is a period of time when you can have a drink, no more, no less.
2.  I definitely don't think that ABV should be considered the defining quality of a 'session beer'
3.  The term 'session beer' should only apply to those beers that you think you could have more than one of (dependent on ABV) in a given amount of time

Let me know what you think



  1. hmm well that didn't clarify all that much.

    Once again I've heard a lot of people say they can "session" a 10% beer over a few hours but again I've never actually seen anyone do it. I drink pretty fast. I can't imagine sitting with a glass at a beer at a bar, even at 10%+ and not wanting to drink it. I might kill a 22oz bottle of something like Southern Tier Choklat over an episode of "The Walking Dead" followed by "Comic Book Men" but that's three servings of ~8oz each and I can throw the bottle back in the fridge. At a bar? The beer would go flat.

    I wish brewers would make more low ABV beers. Everyone keeps saying it's the future of craft beer but I havent really seen any breweries taking that step yet.

  2. I dislike the term session because it implies that the beer in question is brewed to be drank in large quantities and for people to get drunk on rather than appreciate the flavour. I was in a bar for several hours last night so it could definitely be called a session but I was drinking high ABV beers because they are generally the ones that I prefer.

    That being said there are a lot of excellent low ABV beers available like Magic Rock Curious, Thornbridge Brother Rabbit, Fyne Ales Jarl just to name a few and they are labelled with the session tag because I think it helps people identify these beers as ones that might appeal to their tastes. Its a bit like the black IPA tag really because a beer can't be black and pale at the same time but calling it Black IPA is a brilliant way to describe the flavour to the drinker and I guess the word 'session' makes a beer sound more appealing than 'low strength ale'.

    Just some thoughts anyways!