Perhaps if more breweries made an effort to market more “session” like beers that would help, but not if the consumer base doesn’t support the concept. Perhaps a “competition” to create the best session beer would help. I don’t think trying to get more pubs to do cask ale would be successful – too many pubs do not really know how to handle cask beer and the American consumer doesn’t really understand it anyway. And many brewers (myself included) have to really think about how marketable the “session” concept really is.
Having said that, however, I still think it a very worthwhile concept to try and develop. I am planning on discussing this with my brewing team over the next few weeks to see if we can come up with a product with good flavor, high drinkability, and an ABV around 3.5%. Don’t know if we will be able to sell it, but if it works, it will become my way of paying homage to the great English tradition that started me on my career in beer.
I'm not sure that a 3.5% non-cask conditioned beer will be a success -- much of the flavor and beauty of classic session beers comes from that liveliness. Maybe there would be enough market for a two-track approach, with cask for some markets. But I do know that I'm very pleased to see someone give it a fair shot. If I see it, I'm buying it. I urge you to do likewise, and if you like it, buy more...feel free to buy a lot more.
Here in Pittsburgh, we're lucky to have East End Brewing Company for a lot of reasons, one of which is that Scott always has a Session Ale on tap.
These beers are usually between 3.4 and 4.2, and I think they sell pretty well. He has some info on his website:
You can get them in growlers at the brewery, but I'm not really sure how how many bars run them. I'll point him in this direction and see if he can provide some info..
I really appreciate them, though, both for their easy-drinkability, and for the rotating selection. The kvass in particular was great!
"I'm not sure that a 3.5% non-cask conditioned beer will be a success -- much of the flavor and beauty of classic session beers comes from that liveliness"
Spot on. A beer like Young's Bitter gets pretty much all of it's appeal from that ineffable magic conjured up by a fresh, lively pint drawn straight from the cask. Without that, you're left with a fairly ordinary beer that just wants to be stronger.
Lew, I think you are right on with your skepticism of non-cask conditioned low ABV beers. I was trying to think of exceptions, and the only that came to mind locally were the dry stouts put out by Sly Fox and Victory, and they have the nitrogen bit going.
I think your most recent poll is hilarious as it essentially has only one reasonable answer. I am glad your readership largely came to that same conclusion
One of my favorite local brew pubs of course is the Ship Inn in Milford, NJ that has over the years brewed seasonally a "Dark" Mild, a session beer by both ABV and style. They do not make it regularly part of their rotation due to the lack of interest in the beer. And it is a beer with a real nice flavor.. Now I would prefer if they were to put it on cask, but it has generally on the normal taps.
It is my understanding that the "regular" taps at the Ship Inn are at least still served from the lees with considerably less carbonation than usually, almost an attempt to emulate cask conditions.
Bottled low-alcohol brews could work if they were krausened or otherwise bottle-conditioned -- should Tuckerman's in Conway, NH decide to release a 3.5% brew, it would be full-flavored and lively. Their brews are all carbonated in the bottle through adding wort to the fermented beer prior to bottling.
Also, on the rare occasion I find relatively fresh bottles of UK bitters like Bluebird, which comes in around 4%, it's pretty amazing. Bottled "sessionable" beer could easily work... and since the bulk of US drinkers don't have the experience of drinking these from the cask to compare it to, there won't be the "yeah, but it's not as good" comments.
Agreed on the Bluebird: I've had bottles of that one that were excellent. Wonder how long it would take to get the process down tight enough to go to market with it? Bottle-conditioning is one thing; doing it well, consistently, is another.
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