Since at least 2012, and possibly before, your humble correspondent has been celebrating this little known beer drinker's holiday.
First, I began organizing tap takeovers for beers that fit the session parameters (below), and then we began brewing more of them at the New Albanian Brewing Company (remember Session Head, anyone?)
In 2016, permanently estranged from NABC (but not yet remunerated, I happily reformatted and made my own James Joyce-inspired Session Beer Day walk through downtown Louisville, stopping at six breweries (Falls City, Gordon Biersch, BBC 3rd Street, Against the Grain, Godwood and Akasha) and having a session-strength point at each one, as well as one or two more at Akasha, my final stop.
The estimable Lew Bryson is the impetus for session beer consciousness.
The Session Beer Project is a non-profit, unorganized, unofficial effort to popularize and support the brewing and enjoyment of session beers. You can read more about it here and here.
For our purposes, 'session beer' is defined as a beer that is:
► 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
► flavorful enough to be interesting
► balanced enough for multiple pints
► conducive to conversation
► reasonably priced
If that seems vague...it is. Here's another definition: low-alcohol, but not low-taste. It's subjective. Live with it, and enjoy it. We're here to help make your night out more fun, more tasty, and more safe. Cheers!
In all honesty, I've come to live by the session beer credo. It doesn't mean there aren't occasions for stronger beers. Rather, my default inquiry when entering a brewpub or "good beer" place is to see what's on tap at 4.5% ABV or less. Often I'm disappointed, but the revelations make up for the absences -- the more varied, the better.
We forget that in most of the world's traditional brewing cultures, ascending levels of taxation based on fermentables or alcohol content generally meant that beers of moderate strength were the choice for drinking, day in and day out. The style panoply includes numerous examples, although predictably, we tend to see over-hopped "Session IPA" most often. In January of 2016, Lew issued a challenge to brewers.
SESSION BEER DAY IS ON!
... If you're a brewer interested in participating, it's simple. The "session IPA" has taken over the American session beer category, when it was supposed to be a meta-category, a category that would include many different types of beer at 4.5% and less. Session beer awareness is supposed to be about increasing choices for the beer drinker...and we largely got one extra choice out of it.
Snap out of it! Take this opportunity to show off your skills and make a session-strength beer, 4.5% or less (you can do it; you can go lower!), that doesn't rely on shouting hops for all its character. We get it, brewers know how to make a light, wildly hoppy beer: EVERY brewer's doing it.
Be different! On April 7th, show us some real innovation, or some real skills to make a beautiful example of a classic session-strength beer that stands apart from the herd of 'monkey-see, monkey-do' dialed-down IPAs.
I cannot "like" this sentiment often enough.
With Session Beer Day 2017 less than two months away, it's time for me to decide how I'll be honoring the occasion this year, and here's what I've come up with.
This year, I'd like to make my Session Beer Day stroll in downtown New Albany. You're welcome to join me.
Off the top of my head ... from Brownie's "The Shed" on the west side to Gospel Bird on the east, and from from the Ohio River north to Dragon King's Daughter, there'll be at least 11 establishments that sell good beers on draft. I'm open to considering sites further afield, but these comprise a solid walkable core.
Two of these businesses are breweries (NABC and Floyd County Brewing), and they're a given. If five or six others could be sure to have a session-strength tap flowing on April 7, then it's in the can. As such, Donum Dei and the Louisville breweries might still be represented; obviously, the more local my choices, the better.
As always, I'll publicize the walk, and to repeat, you're welcome to join me. Take a long weekend, won't you? We'll start when the first bar opens, circa 11:00 a.m., and there'll be merriment.
Who's in? Bar managers, I'd be happy to advise in a selection -- and be aware that it would be a good marketing and educational opportunity, as well.