As I’ve said a few times already, at the end of January I became a father of two. Being the parent of a newborn, I’ve found, has an impact on my beer consumption. To be more precise, it kills it dead.
One of the great things about a big beer is that it’s perfect for curling up on the couch at night, when all your responsibilities for the day are done, and sipping it while catching up on Community (which, sadly, was canceled after its third season, like how George Lucas and Metallica both died untimely deaths around 1990 and never put out any new material).
Alcohol is a depressant, and while its sleepytime effects are generally subtle, when you’re faced with the prospect of having to wake up at midnight, 2 am, 4 am, 6 am and then being woken up for good by your 3 year old at 7, well, having to do so while the barleywine you drank is saying Sleep, sleep my precious, sleeeeep is pretty much the worst thing in the world.
After my son was born I think I avoided beer (and whiskey, and other alcohol although I don’t know why I’d ever drink anything else) for about two months. I couldn’t do that this time, nor did I really want to, so I thought of a solution:
One 4% abv beer with dinner would have absolutely no ill effects, and since I acknowledge I generally have the common affliction of “higher abv is better” when choosing a beer I would probably be trying a lot of new beers as well.
I headed to the store with a plan: five beers, none of them above 4.5% abv.
The nice thing about sessionable beers is that, by definition, you’re probably drinking more than one (I know, this is counterintuitive to my premise). That means you can really drink it: not sip it, not savor it, drink it. Take a big mouthful. Let the liquid hit all the parts of your tongue at once, allowing you to experience it to its fullest (even if the tongue thing is a crock).
Hop Session (Otter Creek): Pale Ale, 4.2%
I asked a few people what a go-to session beer would be and this came up multiple times. My first thought is that it’s down right spicy. It’s light bodied, well but not overly hopped: I won’t call it hoppy, but it’s slightly more hoppy than malty. Almost, but not quite, “crisp.” Very drinkable, the sort I’d like to have more than one of (good thing I have a 32 oz growler). Light bodied and a tad thin but not overly so: “thin,” here, isn’t a pejorative.
Porkslap Pale Ale (Butternuts): Pale Ale, 4.1%
Maybe even a little hoppier than Hop Session. I think I like this genre of low abv, milder pale ales. They’re good drinking beers. Because they aren’t as aggressive and in your face they don’t steal the show when pairing with food. Aggressive is a good thing sometimes! But I also like a beverage for the background. I think, if I had to choose, I like this better than the Hop Session. Further research may be necessary.
Buffalo Lager (Flying Bison): American Lager, 4%
If there’s a local option, you need to choose the local option! I’ll be honest: lagers aren’t my favorite, probably because of the same bias most craft beer drinkers have against them. Lagers have a place, however! It’s a little early in the year for a “lawnmower beer” but I certainly enjoyed it with my cheese pizza.
Grey Lady (Cisco): Belgian Wit, 4.5%
Spiced! Is that ginger? I like ginger. And a light citrus flavor. I like it: it’s like a lighter version of the wits I’m used to. After two pale ales (supplementing the light body with hops) and a lager (not supplementing the light body by choice) it’s a nice alternative.
Boson de Higgs (Hopfenstark): Rauchbier/Berlinerweisse/Saison, 3.8%
There was literally no way I wasn’t going to buy a beer with a Higgs Boson reference.
It’s certainly smokey. A little too smokey for my taste: it overwhelms the flavor at first, and while it fades into the saison yeasty flavor in the finish I don’t get any tartness to make it a Berlinerweisse. That being said, this thing is 3.8%? It seems far, far bigger than that! And it may be too smokey but it’s certainly interesting, and I’m glad I’m drinking it. Despite the low alcohol, the complexity of the flavor makes it perhaps not actually sessionable. It’s by far the most expensive of the bunch, at I think $15 for the 22oz bottle, but I would advise trying it once, if not necessarily more than that.
I’m really glad I did this. I had tried two of the beers before (Porkslap and Buffalo Lager), but would I have tried the others? Possibly the Hop Session, because there’s been a bit of a buzz about it recently, but the only reason the others stood out to me was because I was checking labels for alcohol content. (And thank you to the fine gentleman at Premiere Gourmet whose name I completely forgot, so if you’re reading this I’m sorry!)
The other thing I learned? Session beers are really hard to find! Not impossible: I found five, with a few others I could have chosen, but on the whole it was tough to find beers that fit the criteria. Admittedly, none of CBW’s beers fit my criteria, with Frank just missing the cut at 4.6%. A friend of mine commented that he couldn’t remember the last time he had a beer as low in alcohol as the Hop Session. I think there is definitely a place for low alcohol beers, and that’s easy to lose sight of. (Another important thing: like what you like! Ratebeer trashed Porkslap, which I quite enjoyed!)
Next week: Risk Legacy!