Session Beer/Sessionable: Beers with low alcohol (usually below 5.0%) that lend well to drinking in multiples. Any beer that contains an ABV lower than 5%, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.
According to BeerAdvocate, “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 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.”
Many different styles of beers are created around the world and can be classified as a “Session Beer”, but one style in particular has been getting a lot of the spotlight – “Session IPA”. The term Session IPA describes a category of beers marketed for their hop-dominant flavor profiles at ‘sessionable’ levels of alcohol. This class of beers arose around 2010 out of the Craft Beer Tradition as a reaction to the trend of increasingly strong beers and greater public appreciation for hoppier profiles around the globe. It is differentiated from American Pale Ale by typically being lower in alcohol and usually having more hop-dominant profiles.
A traditional Belgian style session beer is known as tafelbier, also translated in French as bière de table, or table beers—as we Americans call them—are a low-ABV, malty, Belgian tradition. Back in the height of their popularity around the turn of the 20th century, table beers were viewed as the perfect mealtime sipper; they were low enough in alcohol that you could have a couple, yet still flavorful enough to accompany any robust dish. Though there are many styles that can be considered session beers, alcohol content is yielded as the chief defining characteristic of each session styled beer.