Tag Archives: Session Beer

There’s no taste like home

Recently I received a wonderful gift in the mail, three new beers from Steamworks Brewing Company. It is like somehow the beer gods knew I was feeling quite homesick and bestowed these three offerings upon me – also pretty sure the new Sales and Marketing coordinator may have had her hand in there as well.
The treasures in my mailbox included two limited releases the White Angel IPA and Tropical Tart Ale as well as one seasonal release YVR ISA. timely selections in light of the fact Ontario is in the midst of a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature is rising, it isn’t surprising that she can, really can-can …. Oops off on a bit of a digression there perhaps the heat has gotten to my brain. Thankfully though my palate has been spared.

YVR India Session Ale is a lightly hopped 4.4% session beer that pours clear straw gold colour with lots of bright white head. Big citrus hop nose, good carbonation and lots of flavour packed into a very accessible beer. All citrus and tropical notes at the front followed by a subtle bitter finish. Light bodied and perfect for a patio pint. I really love session styles, especially in the crazy humid days we have been having. If you think IPA’s are a bit too much this brew is a great segue. As always beautiful bottle artwork.

Tropical Tart Ale is as advertised a 4.9% ale with tons of passionfruit flavour. This beer pours a hazy gold with lots of airy head on the initial pour. Like the YVR, the nose on this beer is all about the tropical fruit, reminds me of papaya, but also a little bit of that sourness that kind of puckers the back of your cheek. Effervescent and a little too easy to sip, light sours are really one of the best summer options out there in my humble opinion. There is also some yeastiness on the finish giving it a subtle hefe quality. A very pleasant surprise. If this beer makes it easy I will be picking up some more.

White Angel IPA is a 6.9% hybrid of IPA meets Hefeweizen. Pours hazy straw gold with lots of thick white head that leaves nice legs on the glass. Lots of carbonation. Spicy almost funky nose, all hefe, with the IPA character coming through after a couple of sips. Not as hop forward as I thought it may have been. At first, White Angel seems like a fairly light beer but the strength really begins to come through the more you sip. Of the three I sampled this one is not my favourite but it is an interesting blend of styles and the slightly higher ABV lets the big flavours -spice and hop- come together nicely.

Thanks Steamworks Brewery for a little taste of home!


Does this Beer make my Butt look Big?

Craft beer is the future, we all love the little guy, quality trumps quantity every time but alas there is one downside to this explosion of craft beer culture.

Much like mass market beer craft beer contains …wait for it … (insert ominous music here) calories and not just a few of them.

Beer your the Devil!

Beer you’re the Devil!

No one could argue that beer quality and taste has not improved immeasurably thanks to the efforts of the small scale breweries but sadly the ugly truth of the matter is our body does not discriminate when it comes to the source of our caloric intake. Our bodies cannot and do not appreciate discerning palates by magically flushing all the calories away when we reach for a Deschutes Abyss instead of a Bud Light (stupid bodies). In the end we may all have to come gut-to-gut with the dreaded beer belly.

Homer's Beer Belly

So just how bad is our craft beer habit on our waistlines?

Oddly (or maybe not so oddly if you are the skeptical sort) the answer to this question is not readily available and in the few cases where nutrition information is  accessible it is usually in conjunction with the promotion of a ‘lite’ product or hauled out as an ambiguous justification to assure you that of course beer is good in moderation. Some articles herald the vitamin B content of beer while others suggest beer has no fat so it really can’t be that considered a poor nutritional choice.

Beer bad or beer good? Well you can convince yourself either way but the irrefutable fact remains that beer contributes to our dietary allowance and as such we must be cognizant of what (and how much) we are ingesting.


The internet tells me the most popular beers weigh in at between 140 and 180 calories per 12oz serving; in this instance most likely referring to a lager style beer with a fairly low ABV. There is no shortage of tables listing calories and carbs for various beer brands but there seems to big a rather large shortage of accurate and consistent information.

The problem is most craft beer drinkers tend to consume beers of all different styles, sizes and strengths meaning one day we may have 4.5% pale ale but the next we may imbibe in 12% barley wine. A general statement like a 12oz beer has 140 calories may be waaaayyyyy off the mark in the craft beer world affording us a distorted sense of how much we could and should drink.

If there is so much arbitrary information out there why are there no nutrition labels on beer?

Turning once again to the great-and-powerful Google I learned that in 2007 the United States decided that beer, wine and liquor would have to include the familiar nutritional labels on their packaging. A three-year window was allotted to provide businesses with time to implement the packaging changes. Well 2010 has come and gone and a quick look through my fridge reveals that my assortment of Canadian, American and UK beers are not providing us with nutritional content and the question of why not remains visibly unanswered.

Nutrition Label

It seems more than a little condescending to me that consumers cannot be trusted to continue to enjoy their favourite beers if we are presented with cold hard truth that beer, like everything else we ingest, will have an impact on our diets.

For years, the fast food industry lobbied to not provide nutritional information to customers in fear that we may learn the shocking truth that fries, soda and burgers are not the most nutritionally sound foods on the market. Well duh, people are not quite as unaware as we may appear.

Personally, I would like to know just how many calories I may be consuming if I reach for a second stout. Knowledge will not force me to shun craft beer but it will create a better informed beer drinker one who can make choices based around the other foodstuffs I consume. It will also continue the push forward for craft breweries to turn their attentions to session and lower alcohol beers that we their patrons can enjoy with more regularity without the ugly trade-off of no longer fitting on the bar stool at our favourite tap room.

*Thanks to Avery Brewing for the Mephistopheles Badge image, Irish Taxi for the image of Homer Simpson’s Beer Belly, Beeriety for the diagram and Drinking Beer fir the conceptual alcohol nutrition label.

Beer’s in Session

As an avid beer geek (and blogger) I tend to want to try every new beer that comes to market but at the same time I don’t necessarily want to cultivate a drinking problem. As such, now and then, I appreciate a lighter beer that manages to retain its’ craft character without the hefty ABV or flavour overkill.

Not too long ago I wrote a post on near beers or small beers but in this post I am not talking about a complete absence of flavour and taste like the dreaded ‘lite’ beers of the 1980’s and 1990’s instead I am referring to a class of beer called session beers.



The Beer you want to Marry

According to Mosher (2009) in Tasting Beer, session beer refers to a class of beer that is lighter in gravity and alcohol and designed to be consumed without overtaxing the drinker in either flavour or intensity. Typically these session beers are less than 4.5% ABV. Mosher cites British Bitter, Witbier and American Adjunct Pilsner as examples of the style.

When it comes right down to it what we are talking about is the somewhat intangible quality known as drinkability.

Mosher suggests, “There is something quite remarkable about a beer of ordinary strength with enough personality and depth to keep you interested but with enough subtlety to keep you charmed right to the bottom of the third pint”.

Our taste buds are not designed to handle a constant bombardment of harsh or strong flavours. Bold flavours are okay in small quantities but we can easily become flavour fatigued by too much of a good thing. We may flirt with the big beers but the session beers are the ones we take home.


Is Drinkability just another word for Compromise?

Some might argue that this very quest for drinkability is what led us down the slippery slope to mass produced and mass marketed lagers in the first place. I mean wasn’t it the quest for a neutral beer people could purchase in large quantities that resulted in beer stores where 24’s of Molson Canadian and Bud Light rolled out on conveyor belts and into the back of your pickup truck?

Initially the reassertion of craft beer could be seen as the antithesis to everything lacking in ‘big box’ beer including flavour and alcohol content. We got hop bombs and barley wines, barrel aging and double bocks but did we fill the niche for a go-to beer that can please almost everyone?

I do not think this is a hypocritical goal for craft brewers as drinkability (though once distorted to ugly levels) is an essential and, let’s face it, basic element. Perhaps most importantly drinkability is an element that has a direct impact on customer loyalty and patronage.


A Little Box of Treasure from Full Sail

Last time I was down in Mount Hood, OR I paid a visit to Full Sail brewery and picked up a mixed case of the three session lagers they are producing; the Fest, the Black and the Premium. Each of these lagers, housed in cute little stubby bottle, manages to find that balance between flavour, body and, wait for it, drinkability. Not too strong, not too hoppy and not too heavy this trio has found their way into my heart (and into my regular beer rotation).

If you haven’t found a place for session beer in your life you really need to give these little guys a try.



For more information on the session beer movement, check out the Seen Through a Glass blog for information on the The Session Beer Project and Session Beer Day (April 7th).


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