Appreciating Session Beers

Posted on 12.05.07 5:20PM under Session Beer

Fizzy BeerAs I’ve been drinking all these seasonal monsters, at times I begin to want for a small beer. Sure, who doesn’t love being knocked on their ass by a big bomber of Barley Wine, but at the same time, sometimes I still want a beer, just for the bitter hops flavor to dance on my tongue. Thus is the role of the session beer. A small beer, normally 4% alcohol or less, but still fully flavored as any beer (well more so than Bud Miller Coors, and perhaps slightly less than a big Imperial Double American Stout Belgian IPA).

In a twist of irony, I am preparing to make my Imperial Stout. Sure it will only probably end up at 10% ABV (only…heh!) but as well as US-05 has been for me lately, I should probably still make a starter unless I want a finishing gravity of 1.040. Judging by the gigantic yeast cakes that my last two US-05 beers have left, I decided that the best starter in this case is a five-gallon starter. Sure I could have made a lame three-quart starter, but what fun would that be? What would that really provide me? Simple – nothing!

Now any starter shall be a small beer, typically around 1.040 OG. You don’t want to stress out the yeast, you just want to give it a chance to grow and multiply and get really jazzed up for the main show. The starter beer is sort of like the opening act for the main show of the big beer. So I can use this opportunity to make a small beer that is full of flavor and have a great big starter for the Imperial Stout.

Since the starter shall generally share the fermentable sugar profile of the big beer, I have decided to make a dark beer for the starter. But enough about that – you can find out more on My Life With Beer. The best part is that this small beer will be a welcome visitor among the giants presently inhabiting my beer fridge. It will be nice to be able to reach for a 4% beer at the end of the night rather than having no other choice than my 6.7% IPA. This will be a little sanity amongst the Insanity (ooh I need to get some of that Weyerbacher Oak Aged Barley Wine).

So as you seek the winter warming beers of high gravity and the booze-ridden barley wines and such, take a moment to reflect on the value of a quality small beer. You can have more than one or two and still see straight. At the same time, if crafted right, you can still enjoy the high flavor of a typical winter brew in a user-friendly package.

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