Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer of the Session

 It's an art form to brew a high ABV beer that isn't hot and boozy on the palate; a beer balanced by bittering hops that complement the sweet maltiness of the grain. But in the same right, and perhaps even more challenging, I've learned it's just as skillful to brew a session beer on the other end of the beer spectrum, without compromising well-balanced flavor.

What makes a good session beer?

  By definition, session beers have less than 5% alcohol by volume (ABV). A good session beer is the ideal beer for summer; it's lawnmower beer, boat beer, deck beer, beach beer, social beer. Its a beer that you can drink easily and even repetitively whether it's lunch and you're going back to the office or you're already stuffed full of barbecue. But just because it's "light and easy," so to speak, doesn't mean that the flavor profile has to be compromised.

 It's the imperial beers, the bigger, bolder, American beers that have been exploiting the craft beer world over the last fifteen years. But session brews have been around for centuries. And yes, session beers may be nothing but the latest trend in our smug world of beer geekery, but they're rising up once again to remind us what beer is all about. Enjoying a beer is more than just chasing a buzz, it's drinkable congeniality and companionship. A good beer is about camaraderie, enjoyment, relaxation, and community.  It's about friendship, meeting new people, and good times.

Last summer we saw a surge in breweries producing their own take on a session, but this summer, even more so, is the summer of the session. These are my top five picks ( in no particular order) of session beers you can find in the cooler at Harry's this summer. Just in time for some boat beer on the Fourth. Cheers.

1. Introvert Session IPA,  4.8% ABV

Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, CO. 
 Packed with quintessential American hops - cascade, chinook, sterling, and comet , the nose breathes tropical fruit aromas, but finishes cleaner and more earthy on the palate. It has a medium to fuller body for a low ABV beer.

2. Simmer Down, 4.9% ABV

Sebago Brewing Company, Gorham, ME. 
 El Dorado, mosaic, and ahtanum hops. Floral and grassy backed up by some pale, bready maltiness. Bright and clean.

3. Effortless IPA, 4.5% ABV

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford, NY. 
 Dry-hopped with mosaic and palisade hops, the nose on this is aggressive and bold. A little bit of pine and grapefruit to follow but subtle and pleasant. The key to this one is the dry hopping process which emphasizes the aromatics.

4. Evil Twin Mission Gose, 4% ABV

Brewed at Westbrook Brewing Company, Mt Pleasant, SC. 
 Traditionally brewed with salt and coriander, Gose style beers are rooted in German tradition and their bright acidity was made for the summer. This beer is tart and refreshing with slightly herbal notes from the eucalyptus that it's brewed with. My only complaint is that it doesn't come in a six pack of cans.

5. Sierra Nevada Nooner Pilsner, 5% ABV

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA. 
 A classic German pilsner. Brewed with spicy and floral German hops, the Nooner is a crisp and dry lager, but true to Sierra Nevada character, it's also hop forward.

- Amy Ettinger

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