Class in Session

Low-alcohol craft beers don’t need to pull punches in flavor.

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The term “session beer” comes to us from the storied English tradition of consuming lower alcohol ales numerously, shall we say, in a short period of time, i.e., during a “session”. By easing back on the alcohol (though not flavor), brewers have been producing a class of well-balanced beers that weigh in around 3 to 5% alcohol by volume, deftly balancing the sweetness of barley malt with the spice and aroma of hops and fruity, aromatic esters.

Just one eminently sessionable style of beer is the APA, or American Pale Ale, a crisp Yankee take on the classic English Pale Ale that tends to amp up hop character and accentuate dryness to a lip-smacking degree. (Note: not all session beers are APAs, and there are certainly APAs over 5 and 6%abv). The style variation was born in the American West, and flavors range from citrusy to grassy, floral, and spicy, thanks to the hop-forward profiles. Expect a lot of tangy, grapefruit-y, aromatic “C hops”: Cascade, Centennial, Crystal, and Columbus.

What’s your favorite session ale? Tell us below.

And see below for five excellent recent examples of session-able brews ripe for spring sipping.

1500 (5.5% abv)
Drake's Brewing Co., San Leandro, CA

All Day IPA (4.7% abv)
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

River Ale (4.0% abv)
Deschutes Brewing Co., Bend, OR

HopHands (4.8% abv)
Tired Hands Brewing Co., Ardmore, PA

Freeride APA (5.3%abv)
Alaskan Brewery, Juneau, AK

 

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