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Great Session Beers

I consider session beers to be those that are below 5.5% abv and which can be enjoyed hour after hour. Here are a few which I consider "Great" (what are yours?):

Bluebird Bitter
Young's Dirty Dick's Mild
Stiegl Pils
Staropramen
Flying Fish ESB
Pilsner Urquell
Fuller's London Pride

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  1. Why would any one want to drink anything that could be enjoyed "hour after hour" as an adult bevo???

    1 Reply
    1. "Young's Dirty Dick's Mild" - Was this beer really marketed/labeled as a "mild"? (I recall you calling it one in another thread a few months back.)

      In the US, it was always labeled just "ale" and the beer sites usually list it as a bottled bitter or a pale ale. It certainly didn't fit the profile of a classic dark mild (granted, there are some lighter colored milds in the UK)- like to two that one usually finds (found) in the US- Gales and Sarah Hughes (OTOH, those two were at the high ABV end of the scale typical of milds).

      Anyway, you calling the Dirty Dick's a "mild" got me interested in the beer just as Young's was closing, so most of the stores I frequent are out of the DD and the Oatmeal Stout, two beers that *appear* to have been dropped by Young's in the merger with Wells. I'm just now seeing (in NJ) the first of the Young's beers labeled as coming from "Wells & Young's" (and all the stuff still on the shelf from the Ram Brewery is getting sorta old...).

      I've always wondered if the lack of milds in the US is because of the name (kinda the mirror image of why the term "bitter" is so seldom used in the US, as well) - even tho' the largest selling beers in the US are "light/lites" - tho' the market segments being served are different, and the average "import" drinker is often looking for "MORE"- taste, alcohol, etc. (I partially blame that attitude on the demise of Berliner Kindl Weisse in the US- a 2.5% ABV at close to twice the cost [in an 11.1 oz bottle, no less] of other big name German beers- why didn't that stuff fly off the shelves instead of Becks?)

      I'd add Jever to your list of session beers (even tho' I stick to the UK definition of the word and think that there are very few TRUE session beers in the US.)

      5 Replies
      1. re: JessKidden

        I was incorrect. Dirty Dick's is not a mild but a bitter (and a retired one at that I've found out). I bought a case about three years ago and drank it through the summer months. I never got back to it but I never forgot it either.
        To your other point I have said for years that I think carefully marketed mild and bitter could be huge. Everyone and their brother is now drinking Hefe Weizen due to I believe:
        1) Wide availability
        2) Large festive serving glass adorned with lemon
        3) Interesting and approachable (mild) flavor

        Something similar done for mild/bitter would yield the same result I'm convinced.

        An article that I read on this session issue stated that if bars went this route they could sell more beer yet have less inebriated patrons (versus say having a lineup featuring say: IPA, DIPA, Abbey Dubbel, Triple, -tor).

        1. re: JessKidden

          FYI, apparently Moorhouse's Black Cat mild is brought in around the Halloween season each year (at least in GA). Had some a while back and it was surprisingly complex for having such a low ABV.

          The universally-available session beer to me is Guinness.

          And regardless of cost, the Kindl Weiss probably didn't do well b/c it's sour. Think of the education required to get servers to serve it w/ syrup like the Germans drink it.

          1. re: ted

            "And regardless of cost, the Kindl Weiss probably didn't do well b/c it's sour. Think of the education required to get servers to serve it w/ syrup like the Germans drink it."

            Well, I was being somewhat facetious with the "price per ounce of alcohol" comparision, and I don't think that a Berliner Weisse will ever do Beck level "well" in the US, but it *should* do at least "Belgian specialty style" well, in that, as a world classic style (tho' much in decline, even in it's home market) it SHOULD be available in the US.

            As for "server" education- seems that they had no problem "learning" to put a lime in Corona or lemon slices (or orange) in German and US wheat beers (well, maybe the "lime" thing they learned too well- seems to me some Mexican restaurants put a lime in EVER beer...).

            But, screw "server education"- I don't expect Berliner Kindl Weisse to be available in every chain restaurant or bar- I'd just be happy to have it available to me as a off-premise beer (far and away how most beer in the US is consumed anyway)- and I drink it, non-traditionally, without syrup most of the time.

            In NJ at least, for awhile, 6 packs came with a small, airline-liquor size plastic bottle of the raspberry syrup haphazardly taped to the cardboard. Don't know if that was done by the brewery, importer, distributor or retailer, but it was a pretty good idea. The German "pre-mixed" stuff I'd expect would fit in better with the world of "malternatives" but, good beer geek that I am, I'd probably b*tch about it .

            1. re: JessKidden

              That's interesting to me that syrup would be added to that beer. I think Berliner weisse tastes great on its own.

              1. re: JessKidden

                It kills me to get a Hoegaarden with a lemon wedge on the rim.

          2. Stone Levitation
            Stoudt's Scarlet Lady ESB
            Full Sail Session Lager
            Avery White Rascal
            Kindl Berliner Weisse

            1. I like Shiner Hefe as a session beer. May not be completely true to the style, but I prefer it to most of the unfiltered wheats.
              Alpha King is a good session beer on Saturdays.

              4 Replies
                1. re: phatchris

                  At a hair below 6% I really wouldn't consider Harpoon IPA a "session" beer (but it is noticeably lower in %abv than your typical AIPA).

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I guess it depends on how many a session does make, 12 IPA's and im a happy camper! I also enjoy Victory Prima pils as a session beer.

              1. Question: If I were to have asked for great or favorite IPAs or DIPAs would the replies have been substantially higher than 12?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Chinon00

                  I just think the beer board isn't particularly active.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I think the term "session beer" is still a foreign [-g-] one for most US beer drinkers, of both the 'micro' and 'macro' varieties. It does come from the UK, after all, where there is a much different "beer culture", one in which the pub takes primary importance, as opposed to the US where most beer is purchased for off-premises consumption (IIRC).

                    Take a look at any "session beer" thread over on Beer Advocates and you'll find a UK reader or two taking exception at the "new" definition that the term is given by US drinkers- mostly by upping the ABV limit from 4% to 5-6% (and more). (I've always thought that adding packaged beer to the list seemed odd, as well, since to me a "session" in a pub- esp. back when the length of a "session" were in part defined by the odd legal hours- meant draught beer, especially real ale.)

                    Ultimately, in the US, the most popular beers (3 of the top 4) are "light/lite" beers, which, not coincidentally, are the lowest ABV US beers, so one could say that *most* US beer is "session-like"- in alcohol, at least. (In "Taste"- eh, not so much...).

                    There were a lot of "non-beer geek" hounds answering the dueling threads "What's Your Favorite Domestic Beer" and "Favorite Beer in America" (both of which IIRC, perplexingly enough included a lot of imported beers, but, hey, what do I care?) and I'd guess that once "session beer" was defined, most of the answers would have been the same.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      I think when that question was asked on Beeradvocate.com, the replies went to about 150 in a couple hours.

                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                        guinness...great session beer...not so much of a summer seesion beer, but a great session beer

                      2. re: Chinon00

                        Yes. :)

                        I for one have had a lot more IPAs and DIPAs than session beers. I don't drink a whole lot of stuff less than 5% ABV. Session beers seem to be the new trend though, so I expect that to change in the next year or so. I recently tried the Harpoon Brown Session Ale, and it was OK but not as good as either Brooklyn Brown or Smuttynose Old Brown Dog (neither of which qualify as a session beer).

                      3. I had gaffer's Kolsch a little while back. Nice to drink on a hot day. I enjoy Kolsch quite a bit when the weather warms up. Speaking of which i am going to start a session early today.

                        1. i've really been enjoying prince charles' beer called duchy originals organic english ale or something to that effect. it's almost always very fresh unlike most of the bluebird that i come across. it's hopped for the american palate (hoppier than most english ales) but very well balanced and has a certain lightness to it. definitely one to have when you're having more than one!

                          would you consider hanssen's oude gueze a session beer? because i can down that stuff too.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: warrenr

                            Strictly speaking at 6% it doesn't qualify by my criteria (but obviously by your's it does). For me session beer is summed up by an experience that I had in Britain with the SO last year. We showed up at The Eagle two hours before they served dinner. So we decided to stay and had about five pints a piece during the two hour wait. When the dinner hour arrived we were buzzed but not drunk because what we had consumed were the wonderfully tasty Eagle IPA (3.7% abv) and Bombardier Bitter (4.3% abv). During that time we talked and read magazines and enjoyed the funky decor. It was a nice time (then we ate dinner).

                          2. I was at my local last week and they had Pilsner Urquell on draft. They’ve had it many times before and I’ve enjoyed it a whole bunch here and many other places as you’d imagine. But this time I drank and was like “WOW”! They must have flown this keg over. It was still Urquell (musk and hops) but with nuts and honey and apples. What does this taste like at “the source”? A trip to Czech Republic is now an absolute must.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Chinon00

                              If you like Czech Pilseners, a trip over there is definitely a must. I lived there for about 6 months and drank Pilsener by the boat load. Over there it was just so fresh, the beer was clean and crisp. The trans-atlantic voyage is not good for lighter beers, so in returning to the states I was generally horrified by what Czech beers tasted like. I rarely order them over here unless the place has a very high turnover rate.

                              So if you do go over, travel all over as each town has their own breweries, noth big and small. Ceske Krumlov, Plzen, Ceske Budjovice are all great cities in their own right and have some damned tasty beers. While in Prague don't miss out on U Fleku which is a brew pub, they have a fantastic dark lager.