Session beers: Desperately seeking moderation

Session Beer
Image borrowed from Red, White and Brew blog

A Session Beer is a beer that is relatively low in alcohol (5% or lower), balanced in character, and ideally suited for enjoying one after another. I’m getting just a little annoyed by extreme beers. Do you know what I mean? I’m talking about those striving to be the “hoppiest” or the “strongest” or the most peculiar. When I see brewers boasting that their new ale has more IBUs than ever recorded in history I simply can’t walk away fast enough.

I often hear newbie craft beer drinkers come into a tavern that offers a generous selection of handles and ask the bartender “What’s your strongest beer?” I’m sorry… I just don’t get it. To me that’s akin to walking into the same tavern and state that, “I’m new to the area and I would love to chat about the game, who’s the loudest guy here?”

In our super-sized, bigger-is-better world, we have trampled all over the great virtues of restrained, reasoned, and modest. For me there is nothing more respectable than a well-made Session Beer. Don’t get me wrong — I love the “big” beers. I frequently dive into Trappist Ales, IPAs, Barley Wines, or Bocks (just to name a few). But let’s face it, some times you simply crave a thirst-quenching drink and you don’t want to have to compromise flavor to get it.

I view a good Session Beer in the same way that I do a wonderful, lightly sparkling Prosecco, or perhaps a well chilled Rosé. It’s all about clean, crisp, and pure flavors that nearly oblige you to take the next sip. That is the essence of a Session Beer.

A few Session Beers I am fond of:

Goose Island, 312 Urban Wheat, 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV)
Goose Island is a great Chicago brewery distributing their beers to more than a dozen states. Their 312 is fresh and lively with just enough hops to add interest.

Stiegl Pils 4.9% ABV
Brewed in Salzburg, Austria. This Pils is crisp while offering subtle malty notes and a brilliant noble hop impression.

Victory Whirlwind Wit, 5% ABV
A great and unique interpretation of the classic Belgian Wit style offering lovely spice notes and soft fruity tones.

Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, 5% ABV
Does Unibroue make a bad beer? Wait… I’ll answer… NO! This is a summer favorite. Vivacious, spicy, and wildly complex while madly quaffable.

Guinness Stout, 4% ABV
Stout as a session beer? Yes! A classic dry Stout is most often low in alcohol, crisp and refreshing, and full of flavor. Don’t fear the dark.

Sean Ludford is a regular contributor to See Sean’s rants and insights at

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