Tag: session beer

Bull Session

My Wall Street Journal story on session beers got a bit of flack from people arguing that “true” session beers must be less than 5.0% ABV. As evidence, they cited their own blog manifestos. The 5.0 argument is, at best, supported by a dubious CDC definition of a “standard beer” as 5.0% ABV, and at worst, totally arbitrary. There’s nothing standard about craft beer. The average ABV rating of all 30,000 beers on Beer Advocate is almost 6.0%. No brewer I’ve ever talked to designs so-called session beers with any such guidelines. If the brewers don’t care, why should you? Arguing that a delicious 5.1% beer can’t be called a session beer, but a 5.0% one can, is a waste of precious drinking time. And session beers, if they’re about anything, are about drinking.

SF Beer Week: Opening Gala

The Yerba Buena center was packed. The line to taste Russian River‘s very rare and very hoppy Pliny the Younger started at one wall and disappeared into the crowd, out of sight. It was almost as long as the line to the men’s room, where a guy wearing sunglasses declared, “Pliny is bullshit.” There was no line for the women’s room.

We had a good rye saison from Devil’s Canyon—the peppery saison yeast worked well with the rye’s natural spice—and a weird mugwort beer from Moonlight. It tasted a little like thyme, with a hint o’ mint at the end.

California is supposed to be laid back, but there was a lot of posturing going on, beers trying to out-sour, or out-hop each other. Lagunitas talked up their special release, Fusion: 280 IBUs, dry-hopped with four pounds of citras per barrel. It was OK; their stout was better. In the midst of the fray, I met a guy wearing a Great Lakes Brewing Company t-shirt and talked to him a little bit about Cleveland. He said Great Lakes’ beer is great, but he loves them even more because their food is just as good. That made me feel better. He reminded me of Magnolia Brewpub, home to an excellent pork sandwich and straight-forward, British beer, so we went there. They were pouring Pride of Branthill, a so-called “double ESB,” which sounds like big talk, but it tasted mild, full, and bready. As strong as the beer was, it was a nice respite from the more overdone offerings on tap.

A few tables poured “session beers,” lighter and easier to drink than their soured or dry-hopped cousins. There were no lines to try session beers. Anderson Valley‘s Wee Geech was delicious.

True relief came from North Coast, who were passing out Underbergs with each sip of bourbon-barrel-aged Old Rasputin. I predict a hangover-free morning.