Thursday, January 20, 2011

The rare session beer

An interesting discussion over at the Beervana blog laments the lack of session beers when compared to the ever-increasing roster of hop bombs and boozy beers with alcohol contents like wine.

There's no definitive ruling on what constitutes a "session" beer, but they're generally agreed to be below 5 percent ABV or so. They're meant to be beers you can drink a few of and not be worse for the wear.

In Durango, almost every year-round release exceeds 5 percent ABV. The one exception: Steamworks Colorado Kolsch, an award-winning light ale that follows the refreshing German Kolsch style.

The Kolsch comes in at 4.85 percent ABV. Fortunately, Steamworks recently began canning it, and it's widely available in Southwest Colorado.

There's also a summer seasonal session worth mentioning that's brewed here and distributed throughout Colorado: Ska Brewing Co.'s Mexican Logger.

Mexican Logger brings a lot of flavor for its 4.2 percent ABV. It's brewed with a lager yeast strain from Mexico, and tastes like a much more flavorful version of Corona. Ska is working on canning Mexican Logger and distributing it more widely.

Most of the other year-round beers from Ska, Steamworks and Durango Brewing Co. come in at 5-6 percent ABV. Several of Ska's old-school standbys (Pinstripe Red Ale, True Blonde, Bustern Nut Brown) come in at the low 5s, making them close enough.

So while session beers aren't numerous here, at least two good ones are becoming more available.

Update: Carver Brewing Co.'s Erik Maxson says the brewpub's Lightner Creek Lager comes in at just over 4 percent ABV, putting it in contention with Mexican Logger as Durango's lowest-booze beer.

Maxson adds that Old Oak Amber, Jack Rabbit Pale Ale and Colorado Trail Nut Brown come in right around 5 percent ABV.

"I think that the lower ABV 'session' beers are often ignored, or should I say eclipsed by the biggest, baddest, most nextest thing beery," he said in an e-mail.

"It is at its roots a social beverage.  I'd rather have the opportunity to enjoy more than one well-crafted beverage than to drink myself into the corner of 'extreme.'

"All that being said in praise of the ever-so-humble session beer, I also believe that there is a time and place for the other end of the spectrum. What's that saying, 'all things in moderation ... including moderation.'"

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