What is a Session Beer? Who the F$%k Cares!?

The Curmudgeon
This topic is of negligible interest to many, but apparently highly contentious for very few. So, it’s perfect for Scott’s crappy blog. This term “session beer” and the phrase “this beer is sessionable” have been popping up, with increasing frequency. I hate it. I am not sure why, and it’s probably not sane…but here goes:

The term “session beer” appears to be of British origin, and seems to mean that the beer is suitable for an extended, uninebriated period of moderate- to high-volume drinking. In the US, I have never heard anyone use the term “session” to describe any period of drinking. So, why would we start using such a fancy-pants derivative thereof?  Maybe the British do, but the word sounds so silly in this context. (It’s OK, British readers (if any). We say silly things, too. I lived in London for a year, and I encountered numerous cross-eyed looks from my American expressions.)

Of course, I have accepted many words of foreign origin relating to beer. But this one is utterly useless. It doesn’t tell me anything about the damn beer that the name, style, and ABV don’t tell me already. And quite frankly, I find it a bit paternalistic.

Even worse, there is no consensus on what it actually means. British beer colonialist, Dingsbeerblog, clings to a hoary notion of the session beer’s Maginot line, which is based in a meticulous analysis of the historical output of British brewers’ lowest strength beers (4% ABV or less). Ding’s logic is nearly the same as that employed by Latin-loving twits who have claimed for years that we shouldn’t split infinitives. Well, I’ll split infinitives if I want to fucking split infinitives. Likewise, if I accepted the term “session”, I would gladly call 21st Amendment’s 4.4 percent ABV Bitter American a session beer.

Beeradvocate tries to draw a somewhat arbitrary distinction, based on what ABV won’t cause the average individual to get loopy (5% or less). Beeradvocate even uses the term in a cutesy sentence that, if actually uttered by a man in a bar, would be deserving of a swift kick to the testicles.

And my favorite is from Aleheads, who essentially conclude that all beer is generally “sessionable”. Although, this begs the question: Why do we even need the damn word, then?

So, no more “session”. Just pick some beer appropriate for your circumstances (lower ABV before a job interview, while operating a front-end loader, or while juggling chainsaws…and higher for any other circumstance). Then, drink your damn beer, and stop fussing about what to call it. Then we can get on with debating more important topics like: Why do men have nipples? Is Khloe a real Kardashian? And are Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez for realzies?


22 thoughts on “What is a Session Beer? Who the F$%k Cares!?

  1. Amen! My drinking buddies and I can hardly keep a straight face every time one of us suggests a beer may be “sessionable”. Our beer club once hosted a session beer tasting. Most beers were closer to 6 or 7% than 4%. It’s a ridiculous label. Like you said, the only time ABV should be considered is when you’re concerned about not being inebriated. And on top of it all, describing a beer as sessionable based on some semi-arbitrary ABV number is just asinine. I’ll refrain from going all nationalistic and leave it at that. Well-put, Beerbecue. Time to move on.

  2. There absolutely IS a consensus amongst those that understand, and if you want to eschew knowledge then that’s your business.

    In answer to the question posed in your posts’ title, ‘I do’. You don’t have to, but your ignorance will never make you ‘right’.

    Session Beer has a specific meaning which is based upon ABV, and is largely irrelevant in the US since you people have virtually no session beer. That fact will not change the definition.

    • I was hoping I would lure out for a comment. You made my day. At least we can agree the term is irrelevant in the US, albeit for different stated reasons. If you think about it, you would be an unintended beneficiary of my campaign to cease the use of the term in the US, as Americans would no longer be misusing the term.

      However, I will agree to use the term, as you have stated it, while in the UK or in any of their former colonies (other than the US) where such use may be appropriate.

      And what do you mean “you people”?

      • The ‘best’ situation would be for the term to be used correctly, but I would gladly swap that for the word being totally erased from the US beer lexicon since as you say, that would have largely the same effect.

        In the USA, not only is the term is being used incorrectly, it’s also being used indiscriminately to point that goes beyond a simple change of meaning. I’m not going to idly stand by and allow something I care about to be rubbished. I cannot ask you to care, you either do or you don’t, but I do and it will remain dear to my heart and an indispensable part of who I am and how I define my ‘beer self’.

  3. It amazes me the things that will get people in an up roar. I’ve never had a problem with the term “session” beer. I don’t use it often, probably as stated we have so few in the US. I guess the one that pops to my mind is Guinness draft. Which I seem to have no problem down 6-7 in a sitting over hours with no ill effect. My personal “bitch” right now is everyone seeming the need to put “Imperial” in front of every beer they make. Imperial Pilsner? Please….

  4. First, if you ever refer to your blog as “crappy” again I am done reading the continuous stream of hilarious “shit” you write here.

    Second, I didn’t now that you allowed people without a sense of humor to comment here.

    Third, American marketing has bastardized the term “session” just like many other things. But like you said..wtfc. Let the minions/lemmings think they are drinking the purest definition of the brew and everyone else who actually tastes what they are consuming can dismiss the verbiage.

    Lastly, I heard that Rick’s will give you a 20% discount on your beer purchase this week just for using the word session while at the check out counter.

    • I can’t control the Curmudgeon! And my funny comments filter was on the fritz yesterday. At first, I felt bad that my incendiary commentary was completely unprovoked, but his blog seems, at times, so angry and anti-US craft beer that I felt he opened the door. And I felt a little better after he commented…somewhat angrily.

      Finally, as a testament to my commitment to the campaign against the term “se–ion”, I will not take advantage of my 20% discount when I go to pick up my 4-pack of Founders Double Trouble tomorrow.

  5. Pingback: 21st Amendment – Bitter American « lyricslibationsandlife

  6. The following terms come from THE definitive book on beer (I forget what it’s called…I left it at the bar the other night).

    Session Beer [sesh-uh’n beer]: noun Any fermented, grain-based beverage which contains one or more of the following ingredients: water.

    Session [sesh-uh’n]: noun The (often brief) period of time between taking your first sip of beer and waking up naked in a public fountain.

  7. Awesome post! Clarifies a lot of what I suspected about sessionability. Mostly I thought it was just another ad-driven campaign to turn a perfectly good noun into a verb and then bludgeon people with it repeatedly.
    I can’t really say I have beer “sessions.” I drink constantly, although I suppose you could say my drinking sessions are interleaved with unconscious sessions and delirium tremens sessions. But it’s pretty much a constant loop and not worth describing as “sessionable.”
    Regardless of what the agreed-upon definition is, I do find it pretentious. It has an in-club feel to it that suggests some people drink for higher purposes than others–i.e., they are not just hooligans getting wasted; they are TASTING the beer. The tie-in with ABV just seems like an adjunct to the habit of craft brewers to create beer with differing alcohol content just to, well, be different.
    I’ve had some really crappy craft beer and some really decent craft beer. My question–if “sessionable” refers just to the ABV, would the drinker describe one of the crappy beers as sessionable? Or does it have to be good beer to be sessionable?
    That’s enough clarifying for now. I only have a couple of brain cells to devote to this. Thanks for a great article.

    • Glad to see I have support from the BC liquor store bear demographic. We have a 30-year-old koala bear living with us. His mange is quite advanced, he requires regular stuffing transfusions, and I think the only thing holding him together is the toddler-sized Notre Dame shirt that we bought him to cover up his embarrassing leprosy-type condition.
      You’re right. This whole session thing is so smuggy-buggy club. And I have found that most of the strict adherents to this session fanaticism has a high douche quotient. Which makes the fact that there appears to be no quality element to the session beer moniker seem all the more insane. Fuck it. Drink on.

  8. Pingback: SLEEMAN HONEY BROWN LAGER—not sessionable, and not for wankers « Liquorstore Bear

  9. Pingback: Brian Strumke Can Come to My House and Drink My Beer…All of It. | beerbecue

  10. Pingback: Session Beer: I still don’t care, but if I did… | beerbecue

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