It's a slogan that we see a lot of these days, "Drink Responsibly", you can see my take on the slogan at the top of this page, for example. Pretty much every beer advert on the TV flashes it up after they have attempted to convince us that drinking their beer will put us at the heart of rather suave social situation or will give us the courage to chat up the boss's daughter. In all this fraternisation and sexual tension, one is encouraged to "drink responsibly".
Drinking responsibly, whatever that means, is certainly a commendable aim. I would most assuredly not encourage people to down a session's worth of some high octane brew and then drive, neither do I think drinking gallons of alcohol every night of the week is good for you. So yes, being a responsible drinker is something I think is a "good thing".
The question I have then is how come all the responsibility gets punted on to the drinker rather than the producer of the beer? Surely if a brewery is serious about encouraging its drinkers to be responsible, which I am fairly sure they aren't they are just complying with regulations, then they should be brewing more session beers?
It is a fact of life that people enjoy drinking and socialising, and by socialising I mean being with real physical people in actual buildings rather than being a social media approximation of real life. From a purely anecdotal perspective, people seem to drink at pretty much the same rate regardless of the strength of the beer being imbibed, though when you get north of about 8% the drinking speed does drop off, and understandably so.
Let me give you a concrete example, imagine you are at a party and in 5 hours you drink the equivalent of 6 US pints (4.8 imperial pints, 5.5 500ml glasses, or 8 12oz bottles) of Pilsner Urquell, which is 4.4% ABV, so just under the limit for session beer. If you are 250lbs then your Blood Alcohol Content would be 0.05, or to put it another way, you aren't getting a DUI on the way home. Let's up that though to the fairly average ABV for American breweries of 6.5%, based on my reviewing brewers' ranges and working out averages, and your BAC would be 0.11% and should you get caught you are in a shit load of trouble, and not just from your mother.
While I accept that it is the drinker's responsibility not to guzzle nearly a gallon of "average" beer and then drive home, sometimes it is pretty bloody difficult to get anything other than an "average" strength beer in the pub. It wouldn't hurt if the brewers and pubs gave responsibility a helping hand by having a diverse selection of sub 4.5% abv beers.
There are plenty of beer "styles" with upper limits on their ABV which fit nicely in the definition of session beer, and sadly they are the styles that seem to be the most neglected in the "I use more hops and have more alcohol than you" dick waving contest which is craft beer. So come on brewers, stop just nodding in the direction of session beer and let's see how good you really are at brewing by developing a whole range of beers.
PS - those that think 6% can be a session beer clearly don't know what they are talking about, and I would like to invite them to responsibly take a long walk off a short pier.