If you prefer pinot grigio over pilsner, you may not be familiar with the expression “session beer.” But we’re willing to bet the craft beer enthusiast in your life certainly is. In fact, they’re probably a fan—and for good reason.
Highly drinkable but with less risk of a hangover, session beers are an ideal gift for beer lovers and the ultimate drink to top off your weekend. Here’s why.
They have a lower alcohol content
Session craft beers are defined by their low ABV (alcohol by volume). While full-bodied beers can have ABVs of anywhere from five to eight per cent, proper session beers have ABVs of less than five per cent.
They’re easy to drink over an extended period of time
The term “session” is believed to have its origins in World War I-era British legislation which restricted factory workers to one pub session in the afternoon and another in the evening. Because the workers needed to be able to return to work sober (or close enough to get the job done), lower alcohol beer was the libation of choice.
What does this mean today? In short: session craft beer won’t get you drunk. At least not quickly. The low ABV percentages make it possible to kick back multiple brews over the course of the day, without ever feeling completely intoxicated.
Perfect for a cozy cottage trip or weekend getaway
Whether you’re on a ski trip with friends or spending the weekend exploring a new city, some of the best times are spent lost in prolonged conversation over a few pints of beer. Session beers make these lounge-y days last by keeping the tipsiness (and ensuing afternoon nap) at bay. If you’re celebrating a friend’s birthday at the cottage, bring them a session brew—something they can enjoy over time without the fear that their drink might sabotage their birthday.
They come in a variety of styles
There isn’t just one kind of session craft beer. Because a session beer is defined by its low alcohol content, any beer, in theory, can be brewed as a session-style version. Easy drinkers have grown in popularity in recent years; you don’t have to look far to find session ales, session lagers, session stouts, and even session IPAs. If your gift recipient is a craft-beer lover, try making them a session beer flight kit of sours, pilsners, IPAs, and radlers, arranged by flavour profile (bonus points if you add a short note to each tying the flavour to an inside joke or memory you share).
They don’t sacrifice flavour
Low in alcohol, low in flavour—less boozy beers used to have a reputation of being watered-down versions of bestselling brews. But session beers don’t have to taste bland—as the craft brewing industry has become increasingly more inventive, so too have the products. Fans of sour beers can now enjoy a funky pint and hop-heads can still satisfy their thirst for bitter brews—all at a lower APV.
They’re easy to find
Nearly every craft brewer, along with the major producers, are turning out their own takes on low-alcohol beers. Whether you’re imbibing at home on the couch or taking it easy at your local watering hole, you won’t have trouble finding a session beer that suits your tastes.
They’re fun to make
For the homebrewing aficionado, retaining full-bodied flavour in a low-alcohol beer can present an exciting challenge. Using flavourful malts, adding gums, upping the fermentation temperature, and cutting down on simple sugars are all tricks to perfect that bold-but-less-boozy brew. If your gift recipient loves to experiment, challenge them to block off a solo weekend to develop their own session recipe—then offer to host them for a tasting to test drive the results. (Hey, some of the best craft breweries began with a beer made at a cottage or in a garage—you never know what could come out of a relaxing weekend exploring new brews!).
They can help you unwind
We often think of wine as the ideal companion to a relaxing read or bath at home, but a lighter, brighter session ale can provide that same dose of stress-melting signals without the brain fog. According to a study in The Atlantic, “our brains start to release euphoric signals in response to the taste of beer, even before alcohol gets into our blood”—so no need to overdo it with a high percentage if the goal is less party time and more relaxation at home.
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