Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Session Beer" - the Toasted Lager review

Waiting to taste your splendid, frothy, miraculous malt creation has to be the most difficult thing about homebrewing. Especially when each batch utilizes some new-fangled technique, recipe, or method, which in my case happens quite often. Such is the story with my Homemalted Organic Toasted "Ice" Lager (is the name long enough for you?). Here I sit, having just got home from a barbeque with my friends (during which many blah-tasting commercial beers were imbibed by all those present) just staring at the kegorator, thinking - why not just have one glass? And so I went ahead and poured the first sampling - aaaah, what a wise decision.

Even though this beer has been force carbed in the keg less than 48 hours, I must say that it has great body and is very delicious. This is the first ice beer that I have ever brewed (by accident), and I must say that I can notice an immediate difference in the head formation and retention. Absolutely amazing! After pouring the first glass, I can see that the head is very thick and robust, almost like meringue, and it lasts and lasts. Even when I took the last sip, there was still almost a finger's width of thick foam floating on the surface. So I can't help but wonder - should I freeze all my beers from now on?

I was even tempted to try and balance a quarter on top of this amazing head, but by the time I found one, I had already finished most of the glass. The flavor of this beer is very light and malty with hoppy undertones, actually more hoppy than I expected. A bit more body than the last "homemalted" creation, but very smooth and easy to drink. With its clean aftertaste and low alcohol content (about 3.5%), I would definitely consider this a "session beer."

The term "session beer" is used by homebrewers and beer drinkers to describe a beer that is easy to drink and can be heavily consumed in one sitting without becoming inebriated. Wikipedia defines "session drinking" as "drinking in large quantities over a single period of time, or session, without the intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking, the focus is on the social aspects of the occasion." Homebrewers like to say that their session beer is "quaffable," or easy to drink.

But where did these terms originate? I've always wondered about their conception, so lately I have been digging around a bit, and I found this awesome article, which states:

A British expat and buddy of ours in California once suggested that a "session" referred to one of the two allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed on shell production workers during World War I. Typically the licensed sessions were 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm, and apparently continued up until the Liquor Licensing Act [of] 1988 was introduced. Workers would find a beer that they could adequately quaff within these restrictive 4-hour "sessions" that were laid down by the government without getting legless and return to work or not get arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Now he could be full of shite, but we've found some smatterings of info to back this up and it sounds like a fine origin of the term to us.

Sessionable beers of the time might have been a cask-conditioned offering, Mild or Bitter, at 3 to 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), but no higher. Poured into a UK pint glass (20ozs vs. the US 16oz pint), patrons might have had upwards of 8 pints during a session and still remain coherent, ergo the "session beer." Sounds like a lot of beer, but it actually works out to be about 1 beer per hour if you take into consideration the rising ABV of today's beers.

Very interesting stuff, right? However, unlike England circa WWI, there are no regulations regarding drinking "sessions" at my house. So come on by anytime and let me introduce you to a better beer - fresh homebrew!

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