At the risk of sounding like I actually care about what constitutes session beer, I feel the need to address my new theory on the subject. Please note, however, I stand behind my previous post and thesis: What is Session Beer? Who the f$&k cares!?
Everybody’s favorite English beer Loyalist, Ding, was falling all over himself in a recent post about Session Beer Day. He discovered that in the death throes of Prohibition, the Cullen-Harrison Act had legalized the sale of 3.2% ABW (4.0% ABV) beer, as it was thought to be a level too low for intoxicating the masses. This lines right up with Ding’s notion of the 4% session beer Maginot Line, which has heretofore been based on a historical analysis of major British breweries’ lowest ABV offerings.
Of course, I can only assume that the 73rd Congress soberly arrived at this ABV level after much deliberation, many hearings, and thoughtful consideration of scientific data – free from any considerations not in the best interests of the US populace. That’s a safe assumption, right? Then it must be THE watershed moment for US session beer. And therefore, for purposes of this post, I will concede this point and use it as a US session beer baseline.
Since the 1930s, however, the average American has increased in size, and likewise in the ability to process alcohol. This point can’t be argued. Our size increase has been well-documented and derided. And as best I can determine, the average US male has gone from 5’8″ 156 lbs in 1930 to a current 5’9″ and 194.7 lbs. How does this translate in terms of processing alcohol?
We’ll take Arthur, the average 1930s male: After 4 pints of 4% beer over 3 hours, Arthur’s BAC would be 0.057. This is clearly low enough for Arthur to safely maneuver his Deusenburg to go catch a “talkie”. Comparatively, we’ll take Steve, our average contemporary male: After 4 pints of 5% beer over the same time period, Steve’s BAC would be 0.057. What?!
So there you have it. For us husky Americans, session beer = 5% or less. What are the implications of my discovery? Absolutely nothing. Just choose whatever beer is appropriate to your circumstances – whatever the eff it’s called – and drink it. That is all.
*Paradoxically, Ding and I are so far apart on this topic, that we have reached a similar conclusion: US brewers should stop using the term “Session Beer”.