For those of you that dont know, I’ll be writing the next Brewer’s Association book. It will be entirely on Session beers. Anyone that knows me, know I love suicidally drinkable session beers and not just because I’m a pisshead. Seriously, two of our first three beers at Pour Decisions will be session beers…maybe even 3 of the first 4! I think its imperative that we, as brewers, bring ‘proper’ session beers to the light.
If given my way, and my ability for loquacity, this will be a pretty heavy book. I have my outline of the book and everything I want to talk about. Ive been all over the world, drinking different types of session beers but I can be jaded when it comes to what I know and what people don’t know and would want to know. So the idea is to gather as much info as possible for the book that would help the most people. So to you guys, I have a few questions if you wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to answer. Be as thorough as you’d like. Here goes…
The word ‘session’. What does it mean to you to have a session? Does it mean behavior? If you drink a crap ton of something, that’s still a session no? How does ‘sessionable’ vs ‘session’ differ? Does this change over national/cultural boundaries?
Session beer. What I think one of the biggest problems are peoples idea of what a ‘session beer’ is. How does digestability, drinkability, alcohol, etc come into play? Is it a relative comment on the difference between beers? What do you think makes a session beer a session beer?
Bastardization of ‘session’. Imperial, American, San Diego, etc. Are we just inventing ‘new styles’ for their own sake? Do we need to stick a ‘style’ label on every beer we make even if we have to invent one? How does the bastardization of ‘session’ beers change the way session beers are viewed? When one hears ‘session’ should they not think a single thing? Is this a double negative?
Alcohol and ‘worth’. A lot of the American public think that a beer that is lower in alcohol is lower in worth. Seeing that America is the single most consumer of ‘session beer’, yes, miller light is a session beer, why or how does their perception change when it comes to the craft beer equivalent (lets not get lost in the definition of craft beer and just take it as is)?
History of session beers. I don’t want to know what you can google. I want to know, right now, as you sit, what do you know about the sessionization of beers? Session beers at different periods of time. Moreover, why were there session beers at all? Many reasons to be sure. Tell me what you know, or have been taught.
Historical session beers. Going further on the history topic, what do you want to know about the history of the actual beers that’s were brewed. Would it be better to see a lot of single original examples of different types of session beers or would you rather follow a single beer/style over time to see how it changes? Or both?
Difficulty in brewing. I’ve brewed hundreds of session beers and won many medals with them. They are, IMO and many others, the hardest beers to make on earth. Once you get below 4%, the world changes. There is nothing to hide behind. What do you think it is that makes these beers so hard to do? Do you think that this difficultly plays a role in the low number of session beers you see brewed in America?
Quality of session beers. The vast majority of session beers I’ve had in the US are either just bad recipes or are lacking in flavor and depth. Do you think this comes from lack of knowledge or classic examples to taste? Do you think it comes from using inferior ingredients? Do you think it comes from a lack of understanding of processes in manipulating the finished product (eg short mash, etc)? How much of it do you think comes from the freshness of the product?
Americanization. So we all know that American brewer’s have a propensity to Americanize everything. What does that mean? How do you think it relates to session beers? Would it be taking an American style, something like an American brown ale, and just reduce the OG and, hence, the alcohol? Is it using American ingredients? How do you think this differs from European brewer’s use of American ingredients in their beers? Meaning how can they keep mostly traditional flavors and incorporate US ingredients?
Recipes. The first thing that you need to know is that people that buy home brew books don’t like to do a lot of work. Its not knock, it’s a fact. You can see by ratings on Amazon. The ‘clone’ books are always higher ranked, on a whole, that ‘how to’ books. Most people want full-on recipes to plug and play with, no matter how much they change them at home. I’d much prefer to include recipes by percent and allow people to tailor them to their systems. What is your preference?
Recipes – Extract. To you extract brewers, would a simple appendix suffice on how to ‘translate’ the ingredients used to an extract model? Substitution list, conversions, etc? This way there would be no confusion or questions about, ‘can I use X or Y in the place of’.
Ingredients. There are an awful lot to making session beers that involve ingredients. For instance, a lot of session beers include a single malt and hop which enforce the fact that these need to be of the highest quality. I don’t want to have a standard ‘ingredient’ chapter but maybe a ingredient reference in the appendix. Something like traditional ingredients, substitutions that work well, etc. Something easy to flip to for a quick question rather than having to dig through verbiage.
Techniques. This is almost more important than ingredients IMO. There are many things that can be done via technique that will make a great session beer. How to ensure complexity, body, finish, etc are all very important. Decoction, cask cellarmanship, gyle, etc. Would it make more sense to have a single chapter demonstrating these or an individual appendix that was referenced to for a certain style?
Non-beer session ‘beers’. What are your thoughts into non-beer sessiony stuff? Brewers really like fermenting fun stuff they can drink. Whether its meat or mushrooms, they like making stuff. I think a little chapter on Kombucha, Kvass, Ginger beer, etc.
What did I miss? What would you want to know more about? As I said, I’ve got a good game plan but would really like to tailor this to exact needs and wants.
Feel free to share this with all your friends and such, post to lists, etc. The questions above are just a guide meant to prod your mind into action. Feel free to chat with your friends, make this a conversation. Feel free to answer in freestyle, but please for the love of everything holy don’t answer inline and trim your posts lest we kill a million trees when someone prints this out.
You can also email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for all the help. This is going to be fun.
BJCP Education Director
BJCP Grand Master II Judge