Brewers will tell you that designing a beer to have “sessionability”, the indefinable something which keeps bringing the drinker back throughout the evening to refill their glass from the same fount, is one of the most difficult problems they can set themselves.
Simple one-off tasting sessions are unlikely to tell you if you have achieved your goal: it’s just like the “Pepsi Challenge”, where, in the battle of the colas, the sweeter drink wins in a head-to-head comparison, but over the distance the drier fluid wins. The only way to find out which new beers have sessionability, one brewer once told me, is to set a table up with a variety of free beers and ask the public to help themselves: the beer that is drunk the most, the beer that people come back to most often, will be the most sessionable.
Back in February, Lew Bryson, one of America’s leading beer bloggers, flattered me by asking for my comments about session beers, to go into an article he was writing. I found I had written several hundred words by the time I had finished, and as Lew couldn’t possibly use them all, and it’s long enough after his piece was published, here they all are, plus some extra just for you.
I love session beers. I love the way they make a good evening down the pub with friends even better. What makes a good session beer is a combination of restraint, satisfaction and “moreishness”. Like the ideal companions around a pub table, a great session beer will not dominate the occasion and demand attention; at the same time its contribution, while never obtrusive, will be welcome, satisfying and pleasurable; and yet, though each glass satisfies, like each story in the night’s long craic, the best session beers will still leave you wishing for one more pint, to carry on the pleasure.