Craft beer is heavy on flavour. That’s why we like it. But that flavour comes from the core ingredients — namely grains and hops — which also tends to make those brews, well, just plain heavy. Or at least it used to.
Now, some of Canada’s best craft brewers are focusing on light beer, or “session beer.” In general, a session beer contains no more than 5 per cent ABV — because you should be able to drink many of them in a single session without…uh…collapsing.
But don’t be fooled: while most experienced drinkers decry lighter brews as being light in (if not entirely absent of) flavour, brewmasters have taken the challenge to infuse as many tasting notes as possible. The result? A full bodied, hop-heavy profile that won’t make you tap out.
We asked Gary Lohin, Central City Brewers’ brewmaster, about session ales and why they seem to be experiencing a swing in popularity.
Beside the alcohol content, what is the major difference between session ale and a regular beer?
Traditional, heavier beers have the malt backbone. Session ales don’t have that malt so it’s a little touger to make them. You have to be careful with you flavours or else the beer won’t be balances and it’ll taste watery.
Is there any difference in brewing?
The alcohol in beer comes from the sugar in barley. The more barley you have the more alcohol you have. When you’re making a session beer, you don’t have as much barley so you have to balance that out with the amount of hopes you’re adding, which should obviously be less as well.
Why are session ales so popular right now?
There’s been a swing in the pendulum from the higher-gravity beers to the craft session ales because people want a change. Before they may have thought their only option was something like Coors light, but session ales now are light in alcohol without having a lighter taste or flavour. Always check the label though. A few beers get away with calling themselves session ales with they’re still five per cent alcohol, if you’re going to do session ale, do it properly.