Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meanwhile, over in BudMillerCoorsville...

You know how I know session beer is the smart new trend for craft brewers?

Because the big brewers are making higher ABV beers.

Check out this story in Ad Age. ABInBev and Miller Coors are betting big on boozier beers.
That appears to be part of the playbook for MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which have turned to pricier, higher-alcohol line extensions to recapture share from growing liquor brands. The latest entry: Miller Fortune, which will debut next year at 6.9% alcohol by volume with a marketing strategy aimed at luring millennial males during nighttime drinking occasions.

The brew, in the works for months, follows A-B InBev's recent launches of Bud Light Platinum and Budweiser Black Crown, which both check in at 6% ABV, compared with 4.2% for most light beers. The goal for brewers is to reach variety-seeking drinkers whose habits lead them to the liquor shelf and away from beers their fathers drank. 
(Can anyone tell me what the latest sales curves are like on Platinum? Thought I heard they sucked. Oh, here it is: "Not Even Justin Timberlake Can Save Bud Light Platinum")

Guys, guys, guys...People don't want beer with more alcohol. They want beer with more flavor. And Bud Light Platinum doesn't have beer flavor, it has added flavor, artificial flavor. Session beers have real flavor, and that's what people want. Good luck with the big beers; you're only about eight years behind the curve.

And the Beat Goes On...

Heard from a regular SBP reader recently (and not just any reader: Steven Herberger, the guy who designed our logo!) about something he heard at an industry celebration. I'll let him tell it.
Russ Klisch is a bit excited about this.
Was at a 25th Anniversary tasting for the Milwaukee micro Lakefront recently, and a question was asked of founder/owner Russ Klisch: What do you see as the next big thing in craft brewing?
"I think more sessionable, lower alcohol, but highly flavorful beers are what you'll see next.  We're planning a highly hopped beer with a low ABV." (Not verbatim, but the gist of his answer.)

To which I replied, "That's great to hear."

Yeah, I know: he said "sessionable," and that's verbo non grata around here, but it's the gist of what he said -- as Steven put it -- that's important! That's another solid craft brewing figure who's of the opinion that session beer is the hot trend. Of course, Lakefront's summer seasonal, Wisconsite, is already at 4.4%, so he's putting his malt where his mouth is.

And let me just tell you...there's a LOT more people going to drink (and buy, session beers than there are ever going to be drinking sour beers, the beer that most alpha beer geeks would note as the hot trend.  Sours have their place, and they're trending, and I love 'em (especially now as the weather's heating up again), but it's a niche. Session beer could blow things wide open.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Return of the Mighty Mites Session Festival!

The West Coast is most definitely getting session beer, despite what you might think, given their predilection for big fat IPAs and DIPAs and such. Last year there was a big session fest in Portland called Mighty Mites, for instance...and this year, they're doing it again.

A week from tomorrow, August 18, it's the return of the Mighty Mites. You can get all the details here, at BrewBound, but here's a teaser:

PORTLAND, Ore. — In a world full of Double IPA’s and Imperial Stouts a hero will rise to stand up for the small, lighter, sessionable beers of equal flavor and tastiness.
Faster and tastier than a can of Silver Bullet, The Mighty Mites session beer fest is back for a sequel on Sunday August 18th as part of the Hawthorne Street Fair in front of famed bier bar Bazi Bierbrasserie.

Featuring beers that fall under the “Session” style category as defined by being 5% abv or below [I'll take what I can get...and check the ABVs below; most of the brewers get it.] The Mighty Mites presents a selection as varied as they are flavorful from single hopped IPA’s to tart refreshing Berliner-Weisse’s and Lagers and even a session Cider; our taplist has multiple Great American Beer Fest medal winning beers. These types of beers are perfect for quaffing multiple pints without filling yourself up or over indulging in alcohol and the Mighty Mites street party will make for a perfect summer respite as part of the Hawthorne Street Fair. As part of the annual fair The Mighty Mites will be the only beer garden on the street and the only full street closure on 32nd place just off Hawthorne marking the west side of where the street fair begins.

Partial Beer List:
Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider: “Session-Style Ciderkin”  Under 4% ABV.
Burnside Brewing: lowercase IPA - At 4.8% ABV and 50 IBU.
Green Flash: Citra Session IPA 4.5% ABV, 45 IBU
Eel River: Cali Pale Aromatic dry hopping with Simcoe and Citra hops, 4.8% and 38 IBUs.
Lompoc: Lompeizer  Brewed with Pilsner malt and 30% flaked rice.  4.5% ABV
10 Barrel: Swill  [Been hearing a LOT about this beer.] Grapefruit infused Berliner-Weisse with soda added. More beer and less soda than the traditional radler makes for a great summer beer. 4.5%.
10 Barrel: German Sparkle Party [Straight Berliner, an increasingly popular session style] 4%
Fort George: Devil’s Advocate  Made with 50 lbs of beets, 4 lbs of Blood orange puree, and just enough Citra hops to make this beer pleasantly layered; pours a deep rose color almost magenta with a bright pink head. 4.35%
Widmer: Portlander Weisse  3.4% ABV. Peach ginger and blackberry coriander syrups available.
Hop Valley: 541 Lager A crisp and refreshing American lager. 4.8%
Breakside: Session Brown A rich and full bodied English-style brown ale. SILVER MEDAL, 2012 GABF, ENGLISH-STYLE MILD, 4.0% ABV  14 IBU

Monday, August 5, 2013

Annnnnd....More good Session Beer Press, this time from Houston

Nice piece about session beer from Houston Press Food Blog, all about drinking session beers in the summer heat. There's a plug for the Session Beer Project, too, and while the writer (Nicholas L. Hall) says he tends to "edge toward lenience, keeping things under 5 percent," he then interrupts his hymn of praise to Founders All Day IPA -- at 4.7%, as noted below -- to drop this in: "If they could sneak the alcohol down a half percent or so, this beer would be nothing short of miraculous." So I think he's really with us in spirit!

More press, more beers...I'm starting to think that my work here is done.

More Good News About Notch

The deal means more of this stuff, too!
The first American beer company dedicated to brewing only session beers (to my knowledge, anyway), Notch Brewing, has signed a contract with Two Roads Brewing (a new brewery built to offer capacity to the new generation of contract/gypsy/whatever brewers) to ensure expanded, steady brewing capacity and canning capability. The story is here, on BrewBound.

Notch, which embraces the SBP's 4.5%-and-under definition of "session beer," has survived as a one-person contract brewer, and grown to 1200 bbls. in sales in its second year; owner Chris Lohring projects 2,000 barrels in 2013. He's hired his first full-time employee, former Narragansett marketing manager Zac Antczak. Zac did a fantastic job at Narragansett, and is already spreading Notch sales outside of the "beer geek" zone.

Well, you know? What can I say? This is fantastic news. Small, but fantastic. Add it to the news from Boulevard, Odell, Deschutes, Stone, and all the other brewers adding session beers, and we're looking definitely trending.

Drink small, drink good, drink session.