Don't get us wrong, we love big, bold, "extreme" beers as much as the next beer geek. That being said, sometimes you just want to have a few beers with friends on a sunny afternoon without losing the ability to walk or speak English. For the last couple years, the pendulum has been swinging back in the direction of so-called "session beers" -- lower ABV options that ideally save your sobriety without sacrificing flavor.
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The Bay Area does its share to contribute to session beer culture. Anchor Brewing kicked off its new Zymaster Series with a 4.9 percent brew described as a "sessionable lager." Increased demand led 21st Amendment Brewery to promote its 4.4 percent Bitter American pale ale into a year round offering, and Shmaltz Brewing retooled its staple Genesis brew, now described as a "dry-hopped session ale." Upstart Dying Vines, which operates out of the Linden Street facility, produces a full lineup of beers that fall almost exclusively in 3.5-to-4.5 percent territory without sacrificing flavor. Half Moon Bay Brewing, along with help from "Wicked" Pete Slosberg, has re-tooled their Mavericks line of brews, now exclusively 3.75% ABV canned beers that couldn't be more perfect for the summer months.
Our local session beers also continue to receive national accolades. Santa Rosa's Moonlight Brewing makes Reality Czeck, the most highly rated domestic Czech-style pilsner on both Ratebeer and Beeradvocate. At the Great American Beer Festival, Fairfax's Iron Springs Brewery has taken home a bronze for its 4 percent ABV Kent Lake Kolsch, and Magnolia Pub has been awarded both silver and bronze in the "ordinary or special bitter" category. The winning bitters, New Speedway and Bonnie Lee's Best, clock in at 3.6 percent and 4.1 percent ABV, respectively.
For the first time, the Bay Area has deemed May to be "Session Beer Month." Many local watering holes are pouring sessionable brews, ideally in the 4.5% ABV and under range. Leading the charge, Drake's Brewing will host the 1st Annual NorCal Session Fest toward the end of the month. The brewery's Alpha Session and Omega Session beers are proof positive that low-alcohol brews can burst with hoppy aroma and flavor.
Request session beers at your local bar, and spread the word that less can be more! Details for the session beer celebration, below:
1st Annual NorCal Session Fest
Where: Drake's Brewing Co., 1933 Davis St. Bldg 177, San Leandro
When: May 25, 12-4:30pm
Cost: $30 advance tickets here or $35 at the door
What: A celebration of beers under 5%abv. Expect brews from over 20 breweries, including favorites such as Ballast Point, Firestone Walker, Green Flash, and Heretic. Food from Fiveten Burger and Fists of Flour Pizza will be available and there will be live music throughout the fest.