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Courtesy photo Massachusetts is the home of an excellent session-only brewery, Notch Brewing This is their Session Pils.Courtesy photo
By Nate Byrnes
July 03, 2014 12:00 AM
Local Brew and ChewChoo: July 11 from 5:30 to 8:30 or so, $64, Buzzards Bay. Seven excellent local breweries will be sharing their beers with specially paired appetizers on this train ride from Buzzards Bay to Monument Beach, then back to Buzzards Bay. Sounds as fascinating as it does fun! https://www.capetrain.com/beer-tasting-train.html
WGBH Craft Beer Festival: July 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. ($50, or $40 for members), Boston. More than 20 breweries and cideries will be pouring their wares at this second-annual event. http://www.wgbh.org/support/boxoffice_craftbeer.cfm
Rhode Island Brewfest: July 20 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., ($45) – Providence. Thirty breweries, featuring every one of the new Rhode Island brewers (including several that aren’t really open yet). http://www.ribrewfest.com/summer/
Granite State Brewer’s Association Summer Fest: July 26 from 1 to 5 p.m., ($40 or $50 for early admission), Manchester, New Hampshire. Your opportunity to try beers from 26 different Granite State Brewers. I’ve only heard of about one-third of the brewers there, so it could be a real eye-opener for folks who attend. http://www.granitestatebrewersassociation.org/events/
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp: Aug. 1 from 5 to 10 p.m. ($65) – Portland, Maine. Over 120 brewers, including quite a few Maine brewers and some west coast brewers that aren’t readily available here, will be featured at this event in Portland. https://sierranevada.ticketleap.com/bcaa-newengland/
Americans love their beer on the Fourth of July. There’s something about barbecues, fireworks, and independence from England that makes us a thirsty lot. Beer is a fantastic companion to fireworks and barbecues, at least until the person manning the grill or the lighter has too many brews and Independence Day ends up being celebrated in the ER.
Thankfully, there is a way to enjoy your brews and stay upright: “session beers.” The term for these low-alcohol but full-flavored brews comes from England, with the idea being that the drinker could knock back a few pints in a few hours without falling down on the way back home or to work.
In recent years, America has jumped on board and has seen a rise in delicious sub-5% alcohol-by-volume beers, which is what I’ll use as the cut-off point for the purposes of this column. Strict session beer geeks will say a brew has to be below 4.5% to be “sessionable,” but we’ll be a bit more generous.
Some readers may not see much difference between a 5% beer and a 6% beer. It’s just 1%, right? But that 6% beer has 20% more alcohol than the 5%, which has 25% more alcohol than a 4% beer. Over the course of a day of drinking, that 1% or 2% makes a huge difference, especially if one intends to handle open flames or climb behind the wheel.
Of course, America’s macro brewers are famed for their “lite” beers and even super-light beers like Miller 64. I’m not going to write about those, because life is too short to drink boring beers. Read on to learn about low-alcohol brews that we can actually taste!
Fortunately for us, Massachusetts is the home of an excellent session-only brewery: Notch Brewing, whose owner and brewer Chris Lohring makes no beer bigger than 4.5%. I haven’t had a bad brew by them, and their Left of the Dial IPA (4.3%) may very well be the best session IPA out there. Mildly grapefruity, slightly floral, lightly bready, and entirely yummy, this is a session beer worth seeking out.
Another amazingly sessionable beer is Mayflower’s Summer Rye, which is just 3.8% ABV and packs a serious punch of spicy rye flavor and a crisp taste that includes a welcome slightly sour bite. It’s an impressive creation by the Plymouth brewery.
I was lucky enough to try the Sankaty Light Lager, by Nantucket’s Cisco Brewers, when I stopped by Brew Fish, a quite promising new beer-themed restaurant in Marion (at the former Wave on Route 105). Beers this light just simply shouldn’t have so much flavor — from lemongrass and malt sweetness to a hint of biscuits, this super-crisp brew would be welcome at any barbecue.
The ever-impressive Jack’s Abby, from Framingham, puts out a top-notch session beer called Jabby Brau. At 4.5%, it’s just a bit stronger than the previously mentioned beers, but it’s a super-drinkable brew that’s surprisingly hoppy, yet smooth. It’s crisp, refreshing, and straightforward enough to give to your American light lager drinker without offending them.
Honestly, there are a ton of worthwhile session beers, so I’ll just mention a few more that I really enjoy: Founders’ All-day IPA (4.7%), Troegs Sunshine Pils (4.5%), 21st Amendment Bitter American (4.7%), Harpoon UFO Big Squeeze Shandy (4.5%), and Lagunitas Daytime (4.65%).
Nate lives in Westport with his wife, two kids, small farm worth of pets, a basement fridge full of local craft beer, and assortment of bottles/kegs/carboys of homebrew at various states of completion. All past Good Brew Hunting columns are available online at www.goodbrewhunting.com. I really appreciate feedback! Hit me with ideas for beers, events, or breweries at www.facebook.com/GoodBrewHunting or via email at email@example.com.
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