Session Beer: I still don’t care, but if I did…

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?!

I'll see your Keanu meme and raise you Alex Winter.

I’ll see your Keanu “Whoa” meme and raise you an Alex Winter.

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”.

18 thoughts on “Session Beer: I still don’t care, but if I did…

  1. I smell the cue you are cooking on this topic. I don’t care what the upper limit of ABV is in terms of Session Beers and it’s definition. For me, any beer I can drink 4 of without feeling like I need a nap after is a Session Beer. With that said, I like the phrase Session Beer in that it lets you know you’re drinking a beer that’s not going to flat line you. We can move to call them beers that won’t f@#$ you up in higher doses, but sometimes I’m lazy and that’s too many words to say. So, if not “Session” we still need one word to describe the idea of low ABV beer.

  2. I can’t stand the use of the word “session” or it’s variations (All Day) in the actual name of the beer. It’s just a gimmick these days to induce sales. They should let the beer and the ABV speak for itself.

  3. I think the term is pretty useless to anyone except those who fanatically stick to its ridged constraints. I guess by the session definition, I’m required to get blotto if I drink anything other than a true “session” beer as defined by the strict rule of the Queen’s Imperial Beer Laws, to which we are all subject. If I want to get drunk drinking 4% beer, I sure can. If I want to session Belgian Quads all night and not get smashed, I’ll do that. I drink what I want to drink how I want to drink it for the purposes of that evening’s drinking.

    • Preach, brother. My feelings exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself…literally, which is why I employ the less mature sarcasm, absurdity, and Ding-baiting.

  4. I’m at the point where I almost don’t care about the ABV at all, never mind what a certain beer may be called based on its respective ABV. Seems like superfluous beer gerrymandering to me, trying to force beers to be categorized when they don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) be.

    I don’t go to buy my beer and say, “This IPA is 6.1% and this one is 6.3%, HOW WILL I EVER DECIDE!?” I also never go into the store with the direct intention of buying beer based on how much alcohol is in it. Unless we’re talking 10%+ barely wines that will turn me into a drooling Oliver-lump after one or two, or a concentration that really, really affects the taste, who cares how much alcohol is floating around in there?

  5. I think it’s funny that the US picked ABW to measure since it made the booze amounts seem even lower. ABW is a dumb way to measure booze. But hey everyone was “sober” through the 20s so jumping back in with a strong beer probably seemed like a bad idea. Anyway, coming up with a strict by-the-book term in beer is an insane quest. People struggle with using well defined terms like ale vs. lager. I think Ding has a good point in saying that there are too few lower ABV beers that are any good. But I think I am going to start a campaign for 4.2% as the new mark. Since that’s the meaning of the universe and all.

  6. Very interesting. You can’t argue with the mathematics. I don’t care much one way or the other, either. I’m more into flavor per pint and less into number of pints, so ABV isn’t typically something I care much about.

    I wonder if Lew Bryson has seen this post. He’s very into the whole session beer thing (check out one of his blogs at I’ll send him a Tweet to give him a heads-up. Prost!

    • I’m pretty sure Lew Bryson has managed to steer clear of my blog. 🙂 I’m a big fan of a high flavor/ pint ratio as well. I rarely take it into account unless it’s over 6, or so…and even then, I don’t sweat it too much.

  7. yeah, if I gave a damn… my session beer would be a liter of 10%… that would give me a good 0.1 party concentration, enough to let loose and forget for an evening that I’m German, and not so much as to forget who I am

  8. When I first got into this whole beer craze and heard the term “Session Beer” for the first time I thought it applied to any beer that you enjoyed enough that you were able to down three or four in a single sitting. I eventually learned that if applied more to a brew’s ABV. Sometimes I wish I never actually figured out what it meant. Beer is starting to become close to politics. So divisive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s