The first day of spring saw me scooting down the mountain without a shirt on and getting my first sunburn of the year. And with temperatures pushing 70 and bright, sunshiney days, it’s definitely and finally session season. Session beers have been on the rise the last few years with brewers across the country, from Dogfish Head in the East to Stone in the West, all kinds of breweries have rolled out beers that can be consumed by the six-pack.
A session beer is not new; it dates back to the peak of the industrial revolution when laws on working hours started being restricted and workers were permitted certain hours in which to drink and had to return to work with a clear head. Workers would then choose beers of a lower ABV so that they could drink during the entirety of their break and still return to work. In recent years, craft brewers have started brewing to the same idea: brew a beer that can be drank for a few hours and still allow the drinker to maintain their sobriety. I took a day off this week to try a few and have some great recommendations and reviews of beers that can be drank quickly and easily but still pack a ton of flavor and character.
Personally, I think beer that’s supposed to be drank fresh should be canned. It saves yourself and the world a load of trouble. Glass is hard to recycle, hard to pack out when camping or hiking, and impossible to take on the river.
Even though Left Hand’s Introvert Session IPA is in a bottle, it’s still a notable session beer. With a thick, sturdy white head that lasts forever and a beautiful orange color, I was a bit sad that the bottle had expired (Check your dates, liquor stores!) and had a significant haze, but this didn’t translate into a lack of flavor or aroma. Distinct apricot and pineapple notes on the nose with a soft hop bitterness and light cracker maltyness, it goes down smooth and refreshing.
Another beer in a bottle that gets a pass is Hoppy Birthday by Alpine Brewing out of San Diego. Really awesome aromas of clementine and grapefruit rind with a great toasted malt and deep piney resin flavor do not disappoint anyone looking for IPA flavor in their session beer. And with a nice orange glow and great white foam, it looks good, too.
The only beer on this list that isn’t an IPA, is 5:00 Afternoon Ale from Renegade Brewing in Denver. This slightly hazy yellow beer has a subtle head and soft carbonation. It has the aroma of lemon zest and sourdough bread, with a floral wheat malt flavor that still finishes clean and refreshing. Because it’s in a can, I can definitely see myself taking a few of these on the river come summertime.
Ultimately, and because this isnt’ about patting myself on the back, I reluctantly have to mention Ska’s Rudie. With all kinds of citrus fruits, slight amounts of piney, resiny goodness, and beautiful amber color, it’s my favorite session beer. It seriously is the best beer to take on the river because it’s loaded with hops and any trace amounts of river water spilled into the top from going through rapids with make itself known.
The best part of a session beer is the ability to slay a lot of beers, so please, mix it up, try a lot of different beer. Find out the best ones to shotgun. Discover the best hot dog and session beer pairing. Soak up as much of the flavor these beers and the Colorado sun have to offer.
Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Co. His first book of poetry, The Blank Target, was published this past spring by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected]