Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hold on there, Pilgrim...

Joe Stange's got a major piece on session beer coming out in DRAFT magazine this summer; can't wait to see it...especially in light of this new post on his blog, Thirsty Pilgrim. He throws cold water on the whole idea that session beer is trending upward in the U.S., citing ratebeer.com data on new beer introductions over the past ten years.
However...I'd suggest that you don't look at session beer the same way you look at extreme beer. Session sells by volume, extreme sells by margin. As I commented at his post, Yards sells over 50% of their total output at 4.5% or below...but that's only two brands doing all that volume. Perspective. We'll see; in the meantime, good to have a reality check.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Klark Kent: a SUPER mild at Earth Bread + Brewery

Speaking of more session beers...May is Mild Month for CAMRA, so I celebrated last Friday (on my way home from a whiskey trip to Ireland, where much fresh Murphy's was consumed) with a Klark Kent dark mild at Earth Bread + Brewery in Philly, where Tom tries to keep at least one low-alcohol beer (he doesn't like "session beer" so I won't use the term...wait, I just did...never mind) on all the time. It was delish, tasty, malty but not too fat, and tasted exactly like...another 20 oz. glass. Which is what I had. Mighty nice, and when the woman at the table next to me ordered one, I toasted her with my glass and we both grinned big. She clearly got it. 

More press, more session beers

Just saw this piece on the Boston Globe blogsite, and while there are a few things off the cam (like tagging Coors Light as "a lousy 5 percent beer" -- it's 4.2% -- and his claim that he's been "predicting -- and hoping -- that the new trend in craft beer will be session beers" while the blogposts tagged in his read-more pile are all about imperial stouts and "heavy-duty ales"), hey, he's pinning it. I still say 5% is too high, but we're on the right track when he makes much of Narragansett's new Summer Ale (4.2%, and I'm getting a Citra-hopped sample this weekend) and our friends at The Notch.

But wait, there's more! That's right, Advertising Age had a piece on session beers today! Just the title tells you what's going on:
The New Drinking Session: How Craft Brewers Are Drawing in More Consumers -- Lower-Alcohol Varieties Pump Volume by Allowing Beer Fans to Have More Brew

See, brewers: session beers make business sense. Okay, I don't really think their lead example makes sense -- 5.3% Redhook Pilsner vs. 5.8% Redhook ESB -- in fact, it's a walking example of why I think the top limit should be 4.5% rather than 5%. This is more about another great idea, though: craft CAN get big numbers if they make some great interpretations of beers that are quite drinkable and craft-respectable: helles, bitter, dunkel, kölsch, English summer ale, mild, brown ale, just to name a few. You'll notice that there's cross-over with session there, and if you can put out a great-tasting sub-4.5% beer, you'll have a beer that people will have more of, and more people will have. What's more, the Miller Lite guy in this story will learn how badly he muffed it.

Session's getting its due! Which means, of course, the backlash is coming in about six months. Be prepared...