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Old 09-30-2008, 06:44 PM   #1
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Default What defines a 'session' beer?

After pondering this for a while and reading many a beer review on BA and other similar sites with members saying IPA's and 5.5-6% ABV beers were 'great session beers' and 'very sessionable', I'm left wondering, what does this really mean? Is it thrown around too much or misused to describe a beer that is good?

My thoughts of 'session' beers are always of low-ABV English bitters, milds, pale ales, and the like. Something full-bodied and full-flavored, but without the alcoholic kick of 'regular' beers. Perhaps 4.5% ABV at the highest? Something that could be had with your mates and enjoyed in quantity, in a 'session' of drinking.

Is that the 'proper' description? I know it's not a big deal, but I was just wondering what is the proper definition/description of a session beer?



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Old 09-30-2008, 06:46 PM   #2
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I honestly don't think it's concrete. To people that always drink higher alcohol beers, a session beer may be 7%. To me session beer is in the 4 to 5% range and is something you can drink a lot of not only because of it's repeatable flavor (in other words it doesn't grow negatively on you after 1 or 2) and doesn't make you start falling off your chair. I think in general that is what most would classify as a session beer, although some may say 3.5 to 4% etc, etc.

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Old 09-30-2008, 06:47 PM   #3
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Session Beers, Defined - BeerAdvocate seems to be a reasonable explanation of what a Session Beer should be.
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Old 09-30-2008, 06:48 PM   #4
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A session beer is a low ABV beer that can be drank in quantities. I think it is only supposed to apply to beers up to 4.5%.

However, I think it is used too much and too frequently because what is a session beer for one person is an ass-kicker for another.
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Old 09-30-2008, 06:49 PM   #5
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For me it's something probably 4.5% or lower. Something that I can drink 10-12 of throughout the course of watching football all day and not get sloshed.
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Old 09-30-2008, 06:52 PM   #6
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I was always under the impression that it was about the ABV (usually below 4%.) The reasoning I heard for this that because it is a "traditional English Ale" it makes it a 'session' beer. I guess it is customary in England for all involved to buy a round of 20 ounce glasses so the ABV needs to be low and the flavor needs to not be very assertive.

Not sure if any of this is true, but it is what "THEY" say. . . .

I once made an English Midlands Mild at a BOP that was considered a Session Beer and it was one of the better brews I have had.
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Old 09-30-2008, 07:11 PM   #7
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Several beer bloggers started the session beer project...Lew Bryson has an entry on his blog with the following explaination:

Originally Posted by lew bryson
What's a session Beer?

Fair question, especially since my definition doesn't necessarily jibe with the standard one of beers under 4.5% ABV (that's Alcohol By Volume; Budweiser is 5.0%, for comparison). For me, session beer has a number of subjective qualities.

1. Alcohol under 5.5%. Once you get above 5.5%, things change, in my long experience with beer. Below that, you can drink at a moderate pace and not get heavily flummoxed. Try knocking back 6% beers at a session pace, and you'll be making an ass of yourself in short order. Believe me: or just ask my brother-in-law about the night at his place with the sixtel of Stegmaier Brewhouse Bock. I always say that session beer is beer you can drink while you're playing cards, without worrying about gambling away your house.

2. Flavor in balance. A session beer can't be insanely hopped, syrupy with residual sugar, or funkier than hell. The whole idea of a session beer is that you can drink them smoothly glass after glass without anything cramping your palate. Plenty of flavor is fine, but nothing overpowering.

3. The beer doesn't overpower the conversation. Session beers shouldn't make you interrupt the conversation and start geeking about how marvelous the beer is. Session beer is more about backup than topic, it's something you drink while you're talking, not something to talk about. Er...this blog is an obvious exception.

4. Reasonably priced. There are some very quaffable beers out there that are, for some reason, wicked expensive. If you can afford to do sessions with them, God bless you. The rest of us? Reasonable is the keyword.

Examples: dry stout (Guinness, O'Reilly's), porter (Geary's London Porter, Boulevard Bully Porter). helles (Augustiner Edelstoff (Damn. Stan tells me Edelstoff is 5.6%!), Victory Lager), Belgian pale ale (De Koninck), hefeweizen (Paulaner, Schneider, Penn), most pilsner (Stoudt's, Pilsner Urquell), brown ale (Newcastle, BridgePort Beertown Brown), cream ale, steam beer (Anchor Steam), dunkel (Sly Fox Dunkel, Victory Dark Lager, Warsteiner Dark), witbier (Allagash White, Blue Moon Belgian White), kölsch (Cap City Kölsch, Gaffel), and bitter, when you can find it here in America... Not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.
Seen Through a Glass: The Session Beer Project: 1st Entry

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