Friday, June 4, 2010

The Session #40: Session Beers

Welcome to The Session – a collaboration of bloggers writing on a common beer-related topic.  For the month of June, Erik Lars Meyers from Top Fermented chose Session Beers as the collective topic to explore.  A round-up of all the blog posts will be posted in the near future.  You can read more about Beer Blogging Friday (“The Session”) over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Session beer in the American Craft Brewing scene today is in a strange role-reversal position; they are almost a countercultural product.  Historically speaking, session beers were the drink of the masses.  They sat at the center of pub life and were the reason for the success or failure of public drinking establishments.  Their low alcohol strength and lower cost appealed to blue-collar workers slaking their thirst after a long day.  While brewers also made higher-gravity special beers, these were reserved for special occasions or special people (i.e. royalty).  But, the judge of a brewer’s success was the ability to produce quality session beer, as it paid the bills.

Here we find the enigma.  In the present day Craft Beer scene, brewers are judged by what was once only a special occasion beer - higher-gravity products.  Today's Craft Beer fans are typically most interested in bigger beers.  The brewers who recieve the most praise and accolades are those who are constantly pushing the boundaries ahead, looking for the next bigger and better beer.  This can be seen through obvious exapmles such as Brew Dog's  and Schorschbrau's  battle who has the title for the world’s strongest  beer, which at the time of this post is currently held by the 43% version of Schorschbock (43% ABV).   It is also visible on a less obvious scale, such as the massive increase in popularity in imperial and oak-aged beers.

To like full flavored session beers is counter to the current beer culture.  To actively pursue them and enjoy them makes you almost a rebel os sorts.  How is that for a role reversal?

Session beers have a rich history and importance in our collective beer culture.  They are challenging to brew and enjoyable to drink.  I hope that the session beer rebels can help brew masters remember the importance of the session styles and help pull the extreme and imperial beer trend back towards the middle.

Go out and be a rebel.


The Wallace Brothers

PS - Don't forget to join us next month as Lug Wrench Brewing hosts Session #41 where the topic is Craft Beers Inspired by Homebrewing.

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