Most first-time craft beer drinkers will likely discover early on that they get drunk a lot faster than when they drink macro-brewed beer. Whenever I take a craft beer noob to the Alibi Room in Vancouver, I always have to give them a bit of a warning: “Listen, these ain’t your average beers, dude.” And usually about three beers in I get a look that says it all: “This is the best. But I’m getting drunk too fast!” Ah yes, craft beer can do that. Funny what happens when you brew real beer.
A lot of craft beer will hover around 5.5% to 7.0% ABV. Just those few little percentage points of alcohol can go a long way. So how does an average Budweiser-drinker (who is used to crushing 12 to 14 cans a night) go about drinking craft beer? The answer is a word used in the craft beer community — a “session” ale.
These beers originated in the UK where locals are known to drink at the pub from after work to the early hours of the morning. These drinking stints (or “sessions”) needed a beer that would not wear on the drinker for the full social time-frame. Here in North America, we have this issue too, but all of our light beer is, well, crap.
The North American session ale is essentially craft beer that can be consumed all evening without riding you to drunk town by 9:00 p.m. This is because their ABV is at or below 5.0%. But surely a beer like that still has to be of a Coors Light standard, right? Nope.
Session ales are still brewed using craft brewing techniques, but with lower alcohol content. This means that they provide the same great flavours of regular craft beer, but with less alcohol. This doesn’t mean you can go ahead and start shotgunning these session ales — I mean, you can, but shotgunning craft beer is a sin. Leave that to your economy lagers. But what this does mean is that for someone who prefers to crush beers all night, he or she can do so with craft beer — without fear of vanishing to bed just as everyone else’s buzz kicks in.
Currently the session ale scene in British Columbia is pretty sparse. Craft brewers continue to make delicious strong beer, as demand for session ales isn’t too high. There are certainly craft lagers that do the trick of keeping the buzz going before going over the edge. Good ones, too: a personal favourite is the Hoyner Pilsner from Victoria’s Hoyne Brewing Co.
But still, a good session ale is hard to come by around here. Phillip’s Brewing recently released a new version of an IPA, which is a beer known for having higher alcohol. Dubbed the “Bottle Rocket ISA” with an ABV of 5.0%, this beer gives IPA fans a beer to drink all night.
So if you’re just discovering your love for craft beer, but are hesitant about how wasted you get off the beers, don’t worry — session ales have you covered.