Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quit Crying for Session Beers

(Edit: I posted this article the morning of April 30. I was notified by Mr. Chris Lohring with some information I either misconstrued or did not see on his website. The edited portions are in blue)

I get Beer Advocate magazine. A friend of mine got it for me as a gift. It's actually a pretty good magazine that has food recipes, an occasional homebrew recipe, news about craft beer, and reviews of beer. It's decent. In the back of each issue, there's an column written usually by a guest writer called LAST CALL. In this issue (#39), Chris Lohring writes "It's Time for Session Beer".

In case you're unfamiliar with the term, "session" beer is beer that is usually lower than 4.5% alcohol by volume (ABV%). The idea being with less alcohol, you can drink more of that kind of beer, thus having a "session" with the beer. I guess.

It's a decent article - stating that craft beer would be more appealing to people if the alcohol by volume (ABV%) were less, then people could stick around longer without having to stagger out of the bar and keep their wits. Mr. Lohring eventually goes on to discuss his new brew, Notch Session Ale.

There are always these "back and forth" discussions in Beer Advocate. One month, the two brothers that run it were saying that we should all support our local beer cultures by drinking in our local brewpubs and buying from local brewers; stop buying imports. A few months later, in the same Beer Smack column, they're saying we should support overseas markets by buying imports. I'm sure this allows for people on either side of the table to raise a glass to the Brothers Alstrom.

When I try to look up "Notch Session Ale" on ratebeer or beer advocate, I don't find it. I went to the website. Yeah. There doesn't seem to be any description of the beer here, either, but there is a shitload of "marketing" on the Notch website. Reminds me of the Edison Light campaign. That ended up being another light lager in a clear (thanks for skunking it!) bottle.

It's unfortunate that this is how Mr. Lohring and Company want to promote their beer. The footnote at the end of the article states, "Chris Lohring is the founder of Notch American Session Ales, and co-founded Boston's Tremont Brewery. He spent his time out of the beer industry in the world of product design and development."

(edit: Mr. Lohring contacted me, and he was in fact, in Engineering, not Marketing. So I misconstrued what this was, thinking it was "marketing")

The other thing that gripes me also sort of lends itself to the marketing front: "It's Time for Sesson Beer". Really? I think that's been going on a while. In fact, when I searched for "Notch Session Ale" on Beer Advocate, I found a whole list of session beers. I would say East End Brewing in Pittsburgh is kicking your ass on this front.

You also might have heard of Stone Brewing Company in southern California? Yeah, they've been making Levitation since 2002. It's wonderful.

I guess it all comes down to this for me: Beer is beer. Some of it has more hops than others, some of it has funny ingredients, some of it's lower in alcohol, some are higher in alcohol. I like certain ones more at different times of the year. But the one thing that always remains is that I like a variety of beers. It doesn't matter to me if you have a fancy marketing campaign or not. If your beer tastes good, I will buy it.

In my opinion, session beer has always been an option. It's not anything new. Making it a "niche" market is totally unnecessary.