Gone are the days when high alcohol hop-bombs ruled the beer market. Today’s beer scene is buzzing about “sessionability”, beer that is low in alcohol, yet packed with flavor. Although these types of beers have been made all over the world for centuries, the term “session beer” in its current usage has only been around since influential beer writer Michael Jackson used it in the early ‘80s.
But what exactly is a session beer? Author, Cicerone and Great American Beer Festival judge Jennifer Talley explains all that and more in her book Session Beers: Brewing for Flavor and Balance, as she gives readers a 360 degree look into the world of session beer. Her interesting history as a brewer in Utah (where state law requires that any beer served on draught be no higher than 4% ABV) laid the foundation for her expertise in making high-quality, great tasting, sessionable beer.
The first half of the book follows the history of session beer from Europe to America. She discusses modern interpretations of session beers and how America’s oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling & Son, has worked to create a diverse portfolio of easy-drinking ales and lagers. “Yuengling continues to demonstrate a passion for producing diverse styles of craft beer, many of which are under 5% ABV and extremely sessionable,” says Talley.
The second half of Talley’s book is all about brewing, providing recipes for several stand-out session beers, along with information and anecdotes on the brewers who make them. Among the recipes featured are Firestone Walker Easy Jack, Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, Stone Go To IPA and, one of Talley’s favorites, Allagash White. “Allagash beers have collected many awards over the years, with their flagship alone, Allagash White, winning nine awards combined at the GABF and WBC. Refreshing and light, this Belgian-style witbier offers a slight fruitiness with hints of spice and citrus. Slightly cloudy in appearance and extremely delicious, Allagash White is one beer you can certainly drink all day long.” And that is exactly what session beer should be.