This post comes courtesy of Williams-Sonoma associate and beer enthusiast Dennis Ayles.
Summer is in full swing, and I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed a few barbecues and extended nights out on the deck with friends. Although I love my imperial IPAs, there are occasions when it would be nice to have a great-tasting beer I can drink over a long period of time — without passing out under the stars.
So began my quest for a few “session” beers I could go to for the next time I’m headed over to an all-day hangout.
What is a session beer? Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer. From what I have been able to gather, its origins began in Europe during World War I, when the government imposed times the workers could enjoy their beverage. Since workers needed to be alert and ready to work in the factories, the government required the beers to be around 3 to 4% alcohol by volume (ABV). The low ABV would allow workers to consume several glasses at a sitting and still be very coherent and ready to work their shifts.
The modern definition is a beer that has great character and taste without exceeding 4.5% ABV. Although everyone agrees the beer must taste good, I’m not sure everyone has settled on the ABV percentage. Of course, if I open it up to beers with ABV percentages of 5% or lower, I’d have a lot more to choose from.
I think summer is the optimal time for brewers to showcase this style of beer, since it would work great for barbecues. Well, I must say, trying to find some great “session” beer at my local stores was challenging. But do not tire: there are some excellent ones out there.
Here are a few I found that you may enjoy:
|Stone Levitation Ale — 4.4% ABV If you love your hops but want that all-day beer, this one is great. It’s definitely one of the more bitter ales, but coming from Stone, I wouldn’t expect anything less.|
|Deschutes Cascade Ale — 4.5% I’ve enjoyed several of Deschutes beers, but I have yet to try the Cascade Ale. If it’s anything like the ones I have had, you will be pleased. I’ve read some great reviews on this beer and look forward to trying it.|
|Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Bam Biere — 4.5% and Bam Noire — 4.3% These guys are doing some great things and brewing one heck of a beer. I know the myth is that a lower-alcohol beer does not have flavor, but you’ll be convinced otherwise once you try these.|
|Surly Bitter Brewer — 4.1%I have been searching for this beer for quite some time, but the company is based in Minnesota, and their beers are only available in the surrounding area. Thus, I have not had the pleasure to try it. They offer this one in a can, which is another great reason to grab it the next time you are at the store. I do hope to get up there soon, but until then I will have to take everyone’s word on how good the beer is!|
|Pilsner Urquell — 4.4% Pilsner Urquell is one of my earliest memories of a great summer beer. Since the pour is golden, you would think this would be a really light-tasting beer. Prepare yourself for an amazing crispness with complexities you’d imagine finding only in a much fuller beer.|
About the author: Dennis Ayles, from Inventory Management, is our resident beer expert here at Williams-Sonoma. He keeps everyone up to speed on the latest trends, his favorite brews and what we should be drinking.