Full and fair disclosure: I sat down and wrote this after an evening of drinking beer that wasn't session beer. I haven't altered it at all. I make some huge blanket statements that I don't fully agree with my own thoughts, but I said them after drinking. We all get smarter and more handsome when we've been drinking don't we?
I got into a rather heated argument with another fan of craft beer over the term "session beer." If you've kept up on my beer tastes (seriously, why haven't you?) you know that I'm in a relentless pursuit for a fantastic session beer that is full of flavor, showcases the brewers talent, and allows me to imbibe without the threat of not being able to function after a few pints. The problem is that most brewers in the US don't give a shit about session beer. It just doesn't sell. It is easy to sell the newest barrel-aged, 15%, hop bomb, made with the left nipple of the rarest cow this side of the Ganges, but it isn't easy to get people excited about a 3.5% ABV beer that is loaded full of flavor. Our beer drinking culture just doesn't really allow room for this outside of a niche product. I wish I were wrong, but I've yet to be proven wrong. The only company I know going directly after the session beer market is Notch Brewing. Ever heard of them? I didn't think so.
The person I was talking with (and many others for that matter) think that session beer means that that beer can be consumed over multiple pints for that user and that deems that as a session beer. Please allow me to retort......
The actual term session beer is a British term. The British think a session beer should never be above 4% ABV. In America though that is a little more forgivable up to 4.5% ABV. There are not many craft brewers brewing a beer below that ABV point. My personal favorite is from a brewer right here in Indiana. New Albanian makes an altbier called Abzug that is only around 3.8% ABV and has more flavor it than beer twice its heft.
My issue with it really becomes where do you stop? People want to called 6% beers sessionable, and to a certain person it may feel that way, but seriously where do you stop? The level is set at 4.5% for a reason, and the different between drinking 6 beers in an evening at 5% and 6% really is a whole different level of inebriation. The current level of what the government says is legally intoxicated is .08, and that is for a reason. You can't bargain with a cop to raise it if you are pulled over, so why do people insist on raising the ABV level for session beer?