This sponsored column is written by Todd Himes, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.
This week I was lucky enough to find myself over at Nationals Park to watch a game and, for professional purposes, to have a hot dog and beer.
It wasn’t my first trip to the stadium this year, but it was the first time I sat up in the newly reopened 300 level, which was much closer to where I’d say my usual seats are (also from where I saw T-Swizzle back in 2015.) However, the closest District Drafts stand was all the way down by the 100s, and because this beer purchase was for Professional Research Purposes™, I made the walk down and back up, which gave me time to think about sessionable beers.
Session beers are hard to nail down in an exact definition. Originating in British and Irish drinking culture, these beers are characterized by being low in ABV (at Arrowine, we’re aiming for sub 5%) and high in flavor and refreshment. You might find stories of workers being allowed drinking “sessions” while working, a “session” meaning anytime you get together to have more than one beer. And you might think that concept exists so ubiquitously that it doesn’t need to have its origins pinpointed. For many folks in the U.S., before the growth of craft beer in America, this is what all beers were. Even now many of the imperial stout and double IPA drinkers I know will reach for light lagers when extended days of drinking are on the docket.
The walk back up the twisting switchback ramp was even more inspiring with a Port City Optimal Wit and a Right Proper Raised by Wolves in hand. My wife and I always toast Opening Day with an Optimal Wit, since the story goes that it was Port City’s Bill Butcher who did some heavy lobbying to get the District Drafts stands into the park. Plus, it is a delightful beer that I could drink anytime, anyplace. The Raised by Wolves stands out as being packed with flavor, extremely aromatic and, because I had sessions on my mind, the 5% ABV really swayed me. Maybe it was because it was a weeknight. Maybe it was because I was ordering the 23-ounce large size of each. Or maybe it was because of the time I spent this week tagging items in our online store to build out the session beer section of our website. Whatever the reasons, drinking something delicious but not Barrel-Aged-Imperial-Coffee-Marshmallow delicious was the raison d’etre.
Never really going out of style, the concept has made many a push in my time of beermongering. You have a strong British influence that was present in corners of the aughts, the rise of session IPAs that followed the “extreme beer” era and even now the number of large craft producers introducing low calorie, sub-4% IPAs geared toward expanding the audience of craft. Add on top of that the rise of craft lagers that are following the hazy IPA wave that has been washing over the industry, and we might be poised to enter a session renaissance.
If you’ve got a favorite sessionable beer, drop a comment below and look out for it possibly coming to our shelves.