This article was originally published in September 2013 issue of Time Out Sydney
Australians are among the most experienced session drinkers in the world. And, despite our international reputation for being very confident boozers, I’m not talking about the type of session where you drink until you start being rude to people. Shocking, I know, but we’re not really known for consciously limiting our alcohol intake.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a session beer is an easy drinking beer that you can consume a bunch of over a sustained period of time without losing your keys or forgetting your own name. They’re light on the palate, sit well in your stomach and usually between 4 and 5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume).
I know, I know, most of the mass market beers we’re used to like VB, Carlton and New all fit this description but I’m of the opinion that only a craft beer can be defined as sessionable. Why? If all the mass market beers are more or less the same in terms of parameters and style, then I just don’t think you need to apply a label like “sessionable” to them. In the craft beer world, beers can be as high as 50% ABV, or as low as 1%. They can be black as night or light as day. The range of flavours is so diverse that being able to apply a label like “sessionable” is pretty useful.
On top of this, mass market beers are made to be as inoffensive as possible with low alcohol and very little flavour. However a great session beer shouldn’t just be easy to drink, it should also taste amazing. You’re not going back for pint after pint just to keep the toilets operating, you’re going back for more because the flavour is out of control and you’re having a heck of a time trying to reach that blissful state before total intoxication.
The good news is that craft beer in Australia is on the rise. It’s easier to get a great session beer than ever before with specialist beer venues popping up all over Sydney, restaurants putting effort into their beer menu and breweries popping up in the most unexpected places. You don’t have to look hard, in fact one of the worlds best session beers is brewed by Australia’s very own Stone and Wood. Their Pacific Ale won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup in the English Summer Ale category (a style that is pretty much the embodiment of a session beer), it’s got a big fruity aroma and a very crisp, refreshing finish. I don’t buy anything less than a six pack and rarely is there any left the next day.
Mountain Goat Hightail Ale is another readily available ripper. The nose on it carries toffee and fruit while the flavour is crisp and slightly sweet. You’ll slam six and then be up at six for an early morning bike ride with the new PM, no worries.
Much harder to find is the session IPA, Hop Zone by new brewery Brew Cult. It’s packed with hop aroma and flavour but surprisingly easy on the palate. “Get in the zone, stay in the zone” reads the label and you’ll find yourself never wanting to leave the zone. Two thumbs up.
So if you’re stuck on the big brands of beer you’re quickly running out of excuses. Craft beer is here and session beers are your gateway to eternal beer bliss. Just about every beer fridge carries the ones I’ve listed above and there are many, many more beyond that, you just have to ask. Get yourself in the zone, stay in the zone.