"Session" is a new word to many a craft beer drinker's lexicon, but the idea of session beer far predates whatever new lingo is helping sell balanced, lower alcohol brews. You may have also seen the words "light," or "table" used in a similar context. Meaning: easy to drink, balanced, dare I say crushable? Some of you just cringed, I know, but it’s been hard going for anyone looking to sell these kinds of beers in our culture of extreme flavor and high alcohol and rarity.
That is, until someone decided to pair it with IPA. They need a pitch, a hook, to get people interested in what really, for most people around the world, defines normal everyday great beer. I mean, you don’t see Pilsner Urquell going around pitching itself as light or sessionable. But this is America—it all needs a qualifier of some sort.
One brewery in Salem, Massachusetts has done more than just pitch their beer with the word "session" in the title—they’ve gone all in on the concept, referring to their entire portfolio as American Session Beer. Notch Brewing—under founder Chris Lohring—started out as a contract brand, largely because he couldn’t convince anyone that these styles would ever be in favor. That’s hard to imagine in 2017 when it seems every craft brewer is gunning for the easy-drinking Lager, Hoppy Pilsner, and Golden Ale. So he took a hard road, scraping together support from fellow brewers with capacity, building his brand and base, and finally, just last year, got the investment he needed to open his own small brewery with a taproom and take another step into the future of his idea.
Oh, and the beers are absolutely delicious.
When I was there recently, I had the Pilsner, which was clearly more refined and delicate than most you’ll have in the U.S., and we’ll dig in to the reasons why in this episode. I also had the smoked Grodziskie, which was layered and balanced and just sang on the palate. I also enjoyed his take on the hazy IPA which, when viewed through the lens of session beer, makes a whole lot of sense.