Boiling Wort: Ramblings on Craft Beer and Home-Brewing
Welcome to the Boiling Wort, a new column where we’ll occasionally ramble on about trends and happenings in the craft brewing industry and home-brewing. Our first article takes a look at the growing popularity of Session Beers, with a focus on recent Session IPA offerings.
The Rise of Session Beers in American Craft Brewing
Session beers have been around for a long time, going back hundreds of years ago, when mall pubs in the UK served low ABV flavorful ales to patrons after a hard day’s work. The English Bitter Style is perhaps the classic example of a session beer.
Full Sail has offered their Session Lager (5.1%) for a while, though the beer, categorized as a Premium American Pilsner, is actually higher in ABV than most American Pilsners. Jack’s Abby Jabby Brau (4.5%) is a bit closer to a real Session Lager in the European Style Pale Lager category. Irish Style Stouts are often classified as session beers, with ABV less than 5%. Some craft beer drinkers generally classify any beer under 5% ABV as a session beer.
Session IPAs are making a big appearance in America, as craft brewers look to pack as much flavor as possible into lower ABV IPAs. American IPAs have typically ranged in the 6-7% ABV. The Session IPAs coming from popular craft brewers like Founders All Day IPA, Lagunitas Daytime, and Stone Session IPA (March ’14 release) are all under 5% ABV. Comparisons to the breweries standard IPAs and Pales Ales are shown in this chart:
Craft Brewer Session IPA IPA Pale Ale
There seems to be enough differences in ABV between the standard IPAs and Pale Ales to position the beers in the market. What the Session IPAs will have, that the Pale Ales won’t is a large amount of late-hopping in the kettle, for big hoppy flavors, vs. the IPAs, the session beers will have considerably lower alcohol content. With no site of IPA styles losing popularity, the session versions should continue to do very well, and we should see craft brewers continue to offer this style.
Given the power of marketing and the acceptance of the term ‘Session,’ we anticipate other styles to enter this category, such as Session Reds and Session Saisons.