Friday, August 16, 2013

The Price of a Session

Come with me to the pub and let us darken the door of a hostelry. Let's take a table in the corner, normally I would sit at the bar but this is a decent sized group of people, and let's get the first round in. The menu includes such favourites as Bell's Two Hearted Ale (surely Doctor Who's beer of choice), Port City Porter, and given that autumn is a mere month away Sierra Nevada Tumbler, and Highland Brewing's Clawhammer Octoberfest lager are already on tap. In amongst the litany of smackdowns, big hitters, and other weapons of war, there is a single session beer, Troeg's Sunshine Pils for example. After a few hours of talking, laughing, and carrying on, each person's bill arrives, and while I am no more shedded than my friends, my bill is probably about 50% higher for the simple reason that I am a session beer drinker.

As a session beer drinker I value drinkability over IBUs, flavour over ABV, and the revelry of the pub over pretty much any other drinking sitz im leben. As such, I find that I drink more than many of my friends, session beers are great that way, 5 mouthfuls and you're done, ready for the next pint, safe in the knowledge that your friend opposite you trying to match you pint for pint will inevitably have his head on the desk all the next day, assuming we are drinking on a school night. I have got used to the fact that my sub 4.5% session beer is going to cost pretty much the same as my friends' IPAs and Foreign Extra Stouts, though that doesn't mean that I necessarily like it.

I speak to lots of people about beer, perhaps inevitably as I have this blog and I am known, outside my fellow beer loving friends, as 'the guy that knows about beer', and I hear the same refrain from many of them, they wish there were more lower gravity beers out there. I know several drinkers of BudMillerCoors Lighte who do so purely because it only has an abv of 4.2%. I tend to think though that pricing is also an issue, why would a consumer pay the same for a beer which has two-thirds of the alcohol? That makes me wonder if pubs, beer bars, and other assorted booze emporia aren't actually missing a trick by not having more session beer available, and  having it at a slightly lower price?


  1. I've just re-discovered your website after a period of several years. I'm pleased that you are still brewing and that you have at least one UK brewery amongst your favourites (even if Fuller's doesn't come near the top of my top 20).

    I haven't been to west Pondia for quite a few years now, and my impression of the beer at that time was not good. I do not remember finding any bar that sold anything other than tasteless lager type fizz of the Coors/Budweiser variety.

    Please tell me that it is the case that you can now find pubs that sell real ales and at temperatures that don't make the ale flat, tasteless and which turn your insides into ice palaces.

  2. If they don't want to offer it a lower price, at least give us a little more bang for our buck and serve it in an Imperial Pint glass.

  3. Sean,

    You can indeed such find pubs, but they are rarer than hen's teeth and often get it wrong, but at least they are trying.


    That is a fine idea!

  4. Brewing for someone elseAugust 16, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I agree with you Velky. It's getting harder and harder to find decent session ales, with flavour and body.
    Not all of us want, or can handle, high strength hop monsters. My current boss (brewer) won't entertain session beers, even though they sell when I do get to brew the odd one.
    I may just have to open my own micro.......

  5. I'm happy to pay as much for lower-gravity beers because what I'm buying is the beer not the alcohol. Sometime I feel like drinking my weight in beer but I still want to be able to go to work in the morning, and I'll pay for that privelege.

  6. Hey, awesome post here and I couldnt agree more. This is Michael Boitnott and we met at the Bock and Stout table at the Dominion Cup. I have been considering starting a blog of my own, so I really interested in checking your page out.

    The big issue is that many of the pubs are putting craft on because it sells and sells very well. Pair that with a growing trend towards big ABV, "big" flavor, and you begin to overshadow the session beers. With an overlooked session market, many of the pubs price all craft beers the same with some expensive outliers and some very occasional sales on cans (saw Mamas Little Yella for $3 the other day... :0).

    A key example is the local bar here, Mekong. Known for winning's #1 Beer Bar in America award. Dont get me wrong, I do love the place. Probably the best selection I have ever seen, ever. However, you are going to run into an issue if you plan to toss back a few pints and drive home (which I frequently like to do). I would venture to say their ABV average is around 7%. I could never knock them for this strategy because it very obviously pays off; people love high ABV.

    With all this being said (and it was a lot wasnt it?) it would be very interesting to see discounted session beer. It would be very nice. I really hope this beer revolution we have created swings back to the session-lovers direction. Then I think the lower prices would be more possible.

    Obviously this is all my opinion based in nothing but my own thoughts. I could be wrong, but probably not. :)

  7. Well, at least here in Poland the cost of materials is nearly insignificant in price calculations. It's taxes what drives the price in the 1st place, then cost of water, electricity, gas, oil and waste, not malt/hops/yeast. I'd say it's marginal when comparing 13 and 11 Plato beers.