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Monday, January 17, 2011

You Say "Rocket Fuel," I Say "Session"

Last week, after I composed my ode to barely-alcoholic Oakshire Willamette Dammit, I got a comment from the Irish blogger The Beer Nut.
Anyway, a session beer at 4.9% ABV?! There's no way you could pass off rocket fuel like that as a session beer in a British pub.
It's true, we have vastly different standards. To find a beer with an alcohol percentage beginning with the number four is a trick. I haven't done a study, but I'd say 90% of the beer brewed on the West Coast is 5% or higher. At a minimum. Personally, I'd love a selection of tasty session ales with ABVs starting with threes and fours. Unfortunately, breweries don't seem to be able to stay in business selling them to me (and, of course, Ted Sobel). So we go with the flow and call our bruisers "sessions."

A second example of this--a more pointed example--comes from Brighton, England via Alan McLeod.
Brighton council bans super strength beer to combat street drinking

Super strength beer will be banned from an off-licence as part of an ongoing campaign against street drinking.
The idea is to curb the knife fights, brawls, and general mayhem caused by these super-strength beers. And not a minute too soon, I say! What are are these diabolical brews, these menaces threatening to rend this Southern English city to pieces? Oh, you know, beers with more than 6% alcohol. Hide the children!


  1. Just returned from a trip to England where my Northwest-inflected palette was frustrated by smooth, low ABV beer. My relatives plumped a 5% IPA down in front of me with a warning that it might be "a tad strong." Are we spoiled, or have we spoiled our appreciation for the finer points of less-alcoholic beers??

  2. I'd be a big fan of seeing more beers around 4% or lower. Caldera did the lawn mower lager, which I drank a bit of this year, but you didn't see much else.

    Last weekend, with all the NFL games I wanted to watch, I bought a couple 4-packs of tetley's so I could drink all weekend, yet maintain enough brain activity to pay attention to the match-ups.

    If Alan brewed a "littler dog", and did cheap growler fills, I'd buy a lot of it for times like those.

  3. The English regions do differ.

    Here in the Midlands, nobody shouts 'hide the children' because everyone knows the kids tend to hide the beer with them!

    It's a Robin Hood thing.

    Or maybe I mean Friar Tuck...

  4. I'd love some good 4% or lower session beers. Right now the only way I can really get them is to make them myself. Which I don't really mind doing. No, not at all.

  5. The only reason why they did weak beer in the first place was when they started getting taxed on strength instead of just barrelage.

    If you're worried about the strength, drink it slower.

  6. I used to drink Anchor's small beer all the time, but I haven't been able to find it in WA in quite some time, it's only 3.3% and I think it is terrific.

  7. I'm all for lower ABV session beers. The best thing about my visit to Brewer's Union Local 180 was the true session beers available. Great beers with tons of flavor that don't turn you into a zombie after a few---especially important if you've got a drive back to Eugene (or Portland) after a few. I really wish more Portland breweries would make more of an effort to brew & offer these kinds of beers.

  8. Where are all those investors when you need them?

  9. I was knocked out by Dapper Dan Stout, which I enjoyed last summer just after OBF at the Double Mountain brewpub in Hood River. For a stout billed at 4%, it had huge flavor...way more interesting than Guinness, for example.

    Though the wonderful Hop Lava, IRA & Vaporizer make regular appearances in Seattle, I'd love to see the likes of sessionable Dapper Dan more often.

  10. You need to check out the beer line-up @ Foggy Noggin Brewing. We brew authentic English Styled Ales, and most are below 5% ABV, and many below 4% ABV. Our flagship beer Bit O'Beaver is a great English Bitter, the ultimate session beer at 3.4% ABV.

  11. Luke, I think both: there are lovely attributes in the low-alcohol beers, and it's a pity to be immune to them.

    Blackhook, Dapper Dan rocks!

    Foggy, any of your beer make it to Portland?

  12. I have two Beers on tap right now that are 3.5% and I sell them for almost half of what I sell the others for.
    Come check out the little dogs and make me Brew more

  13. RE: Brewers Union Local 180 said...
    Where are all those investors when you need them?
    Are you looking for private equity loans? If so, what denomination.
    Are you selling percentage of ownership?

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  15. Although in Brazil the general public usually consumes what the big breweries call "pilsners" (that crap made from 60% malt + 40% anything else that ferments), I can´t see a beer under 5% ABV.

    Even a "session beer" must have at least 4,5%, or else it will be less than a real beer.

    A beer lower than 4% is beer juice... Not that small beers would´nt taste good, but 3% is a little bit to low, almost a non alcohol beer....

  16. Alan beat me to it: HotD has the little dogs - real small beers from the second runnings (I believe I am right about this, Alan?) and priced like it.

    But I will say that the 'session' beers that have become popular in the NW like Full Sail's Session are lagers. Smaller English ales are scarce save for Ted at Brewer's Union.

  17. Alan, I love the little dogs, but I thought I remembered seeing the menu state that the ABV was up in the mid/high fours (so far I've had little doggie claws and little matt). Which ones come in at 3.5?

    Also, I could make you brew more if I could get some to-go. Any option for growler fills on the lower ABV stuff?

  18. I do growlers for 10 of Little Dog, 15 for Blue Dot and Fred. They are "real" small Beers made from second runnings, normally 1.032-1.034 O.G. Right now I have lil Matt and lil Fred on tap, lil Adam is on deck.