| In Praise of Session Beer
submitted by Patti Muller
Hello Bob -
While it might be great to have a sour beer, an IPA, whatever, I
sometimes go looking for something I can buy in a 12-pack or even
a case that I can keep in the garage, I just throw it there and that’s
what I drink between serious craft beers. There's something to be
said for those kinds of simple macro beers..To be honest, sometimes’
al I'm really looking for is something that I can drink every single day,
because it's refreshing and easy to drink.
What if—now, hear me out—what if the pandemic has helped to turn
us all into basic style beer drinkers? What I mean is are more and
more people becoming what I call garage-beer drinkers now? t’s
not just the sales boom in larger packs that followed the lockdowns..
Those sale increases continues today, as people fill their shopping
carts and minimize trips to the supermarket. Breweries able to get
their products in front of our eyes on store shelves are in better
shape today than those who had been relying heavily on taproom
draft beer. (And with no vaccine expected to be widely available until
sometime in 2021, it’s reasonable to expect that trend to continue for
There are other trends I see that speak to garage beer. One is the
rise (at last!) of craft lager. Lager never stopped being popular, just
as Miller Lite never stopped being a garage beer. But in this context,
we’re talking about lagers brewed by smaller, independent
breweries, almost invariably with more character than the mass-
market brands. More breweries are adding pilsner, helles, Vienna,
and the like to their tap lists—er, online shopping menus—alongside
all those IPAs.
Interestingly, the growth in thee styles among craft breweries
appears to have taken a modest hit recently, as smaller breweries
leaned more heavily into their tried-and-true brands. However,
according to the Chicago-based market research firm IRI, craft
pilsners were still up 8.8 percent over the past year in retail stores. .
Meanwhile, “other pale lagers” were up 11.8 percent, and bocks
were up 15 percent. Those numbers can’t keep up with IPAs (up
18.6 percent), but they’re nonetheless encouraging for lager-heads.
And check out this year’s Reader’s Choice poll of your favorite
styles. Pilsner has jumped into third place, up from fifth last year.
Helles is in 10th, up from 15th. Vienna lager dropped two spots but
in reality held pretty steady in terms of votes.
Then we have the rise in independently brewed light beer—and
whether that means lower-alcohol or lower-calorie is academic
because it amounts to the same thing. This growth in “craft”
lightbeer—still a tiny sliver of the pie, but that sliver grew 31 percent
over the past year—cuts across a range of styles. They include low-
calorie IPAs, such as Bell’s Light Hearted Ale, Deschutes Wowza,
Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty, and more. For those of us who’ve
been hoping for years that brewers would make more session-
strength beers, this is good news.
That trend also includes lighter lagers. One brewer I know who’s
proud of his lower-strength (and thus lower-calorie) lager tells me
that he would love to fill supermarket shelves with the stuff at a low
price point. Brewers call it session beer, I call it healthy-lifestyle
beer. I know a lot of who like me are buying it by the case.
Bob, I hope your readers might join me in the "session" beer
Thanks Patti for a most interesting article. Sales statistics don't lie,
session beers and approachable lagers are indeed experiencing big sales
increases. You make a good case for their popularity. Thanks!
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about
anything related to beer in any way just as Pattie did. I select the best
and publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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