Since today was a day off work for me I spent the first bit of it doing some reading of my favorite beer blogs and forums. RateBeer is always one of my first stops and stumbled across a post that had me thinking the rest of the day. It’s not that it was the most thought provoking topic (merely asking what makes a session beer a session beer), but it did make me realize that my tastes- well they are a changing. Out of my first two ‘good beers’ I ever had one was Stone’s Arrogant Bastard coming in at 7.2% abv. (the other, and actually first, was Bell’s Porter at 5.2%). I think that Bastard gave me a chip on my shoulder, thinking that if a beer like that got me into the scene than I was destined to be a big beer fanatic and that small beers weren’t up to par. The deeper I got the more I searched out strong stouts, barley wines, Imperial IPAs and the like. Anything over 8% was fine with me and If I came across a double digit abv then I was in heaven. To an extent I still do search out the big boys. I do believe they have more intense flavors, which is the main reason I love beer. But, finding a beer that is both tasty and easy drinking is more rewarding to me nowadays. I don’t stick to the definition that a session has to be less than 4% alcohol, I’ll go all the way to five or even five and a half. A good session beer is a thing of glory. Being able to sit at a pub with some pals downing pint after pint without getting too sloshed is a good feeling (so is waking up without a hangover). Originally I figured small beers had less flavor but I have been corrected time and time again. Not technically a session if we go by the 4% rule but easy and delicious anyhow is Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout. A stout as a session? You bet. Not only is it chock full of flavor (roasted malts, chocolate, oats, milk, vanilla, sweet malts, etc.) but it has a bit thinner body than many stouts and goes down real easy. At only 5% you can have a few in an evening and still make coherent sentences. The British seem to own the style, which from my understanding is because people tend to do most of their drinking and socializing at the pubs (whereas Americans socialize at home with a 12 pack and a couple buddies). Most of the milds and bitters that I’ve run across have a lower abv which makes them perfect session beers. I love porters (and stouts) and originally figured it would be hard to find a good session; wrong again. In line with the Sam Smiths there are plenty of other dark brews that are lower in abv.
Some of my favorites that are under 5.5%:
Fuller’s London Porter
Minoh Stout
Baird Black Velvet Dark Lager
Baird Cream Ale
Iveralmond Lia Fail
Paddock Wood Brambling Bitter
On the Web: Stonch’s Beer Blog: Session Beers (Looks like I’m just another one who has seen the light. Check out the rest of the blog, it’s one of my favorites)


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