I read a very interesting article in Advertising Age the other day about craft beer and, specifically, a new wave of session-style beers in that market. What are session beers? They are beers that are generally defined as being in the 4.1% to 5.0% alcohol range. They garnered the name “session” because you theoretically could drink several of them — during a session of drinking or social event — and not become highly intoxicated.
We here in Oklahoma are no stranger to session beers. Mustang Brewing features the 4.5% ABV Amber Lager, and while the rest of their beers exceed the 5.0 % target, Mustang President Tim Schoelen once told me sessionability factors into their decision-making process on new brews.
While Choc Beer Co. has gained attention in the past couple years for its bigger brews (Read: Dubbel and GABF Gold), several of Choc’s flagship story beers fall into the session range. Same with a few offerings from Tulsa’s Marshall Brewing Co. On the other side of the equation, both Choc and Marshall have beers near or over 10% ABV, and COOP Ale Works’ lineup ranges from the 5.3% ABV Horny Toad Cerveza to the 10% DNR.
The main question I came away with after reading the article, which you can see right here, is this: Is session-style beer good for craft brewing? After all, most of us probably got addicted to craft because the beers were bigger, bolder and more flavorful than anything we’d had before in Oklahoma.
But there are two sides to the story, of course. You can spend $8 per glass on two 9% beers, and you’ll be out $16 — probably more than you paid for your dinner – and likely already pushing the limits of intoxication after only two beers. But the beers will be really good, of course, and savoring a really good beer is an experience to behold on its own. Or you can spend $4 per glass on a 5% beer, get twice as much beer — probably enough to last throughout your dinner — and most likely not need to call a cab to get you home. Although, while the 5% beer may be pretty flavorful, it’s likely not going to take on the complexity and the wow-factor of a bigger beer.
In the end, you probably could go either way, depending on where you are, what you’re eating and how you’re feeling that night. The Ad Age article delves into the issue a little more deeply in terms of the marketing and sales side of it. What’s your stance on session beer? Cast your vote in the poll below, or sound off in the comments.