If you’ve had your fair share of craft ales and lagers, you’ll likely be familiar with the word ’session’. It pops up on all kinds of draughts and cans, but it’s not always explained what that means, so let’s clear things up a little.
There’s no official definition of session beer, but it’s generally one that’s lower in alcohol than most – usually around the 3-5% ABV mark. Sessions are designed to be consumed in generous quantities (over the course of a drinking session) without getting you obscenely drunk. Some would even consider a pint of the black stuff from a certain Dublin brewery to be ‘session’ due to its 4.6% ABV. Whilst a brewery could technically call a 6% IPA a session, they’d rightly be ridiculed for it – it’d be missing the point, really.
What is a low or no alcohol beer?
So, a session is a lower-alcohol beer without quite being a low-alcohol beer. The difference is in the numbers. Low-alcohol beers are those under 1.2% ABV, and no-alcohol ('alcohol-free') beers are under 0.05%.
The enjoyment of beer should primarily be through taste, not how much it gets you drunk. Intoxication is, of course, an enjoyable side effect – up to a point. When you’re ‘on the sesh’ you should ideally be focusing on having a good time with your friends and family, rather than making yourself ill by overdoing things. That’s why session beer was invented.
The history of Session Beer
The history of session beer is quite murky. The concept of lower-alcohol beer has been around for hundreds of years, when drinking on the job was more acceptable than nowadays, but ’session beer’ doesn’t seem to have taken off until at least the 1980s.
In more modern times, it experienced a resurgence as a sort of backlash to high-alcohol beers. Craft ale brewing nerds were caught in a bit of an arms race back in the mid-2000s, with independent breweries sometimes coasting on the shock value of really strong beers. The customer appetite was clearly there for something more relaxing and less extreme, and sessions gradually became more popular again.
Now we have more health-conscious customers seeking refreshment, and a wider social acceptance for when we just want a lighter night (and less of a hangover).
What do session beers taste like?
So, the session beer has some memorable characteristics. They’re built for easy drinking; low in alcohol, high in refreshment. They don’t have particularly overbearing flavours, with a nice crisp balance of bitter, hops and malt flavours. While the criteria for sessions are a bit more vague than other brews (like porters or lambics), it’s the idea behind them that persists – you can enjoy a good number of them during a social occasion while keeping your wits about you.
Our very own Session Pale is a best-seller, both in the brewhouse and in the cans. It’s a light, refreshing amber pale ale that’s versatile enough for pretty much any occasion. It’s a mere 3.8% ABV and there’s some lovely hints of tropical fruit and strawberry flavours to enjoy.