Lunchtime Session (Beer)

By Jack Twachtman / Photography By Sean Kelly Conway & Amy Robb | September 27, 2016
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Aardwolf beer poured into glass
Low-alcohol beer finds its niche in Florida's craft breweries.

Despite the common belief that there is virtue in sobriety, particularly during work hours, it turns out that catching a buzz may actually improve your productivity. Recent studies have shown that mild inebriation creates a “flexible” state of attention that may allow for more creative problem solving. Which is great news for your next lunch outing! But before you head out on a “Mad Men”–style three-martini bender, perhaps consider a more modest approach: the session beer.

Although stories of the word’s origin are mostly anecdotal, the generally accepted definition of a session beer is one with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of under 5%. In other words, a beer you can drink several of without necessarily getting drunk.

Glasses of Aardwolf beer
beer menu at Aardwolf

 

The session beer is not a new phenomenon but its place in craft beer is something of a novelty. Many of the early “micro” breweries that didn’t survive craft beer’s first bubble in the 1990s were making light lagers that competed directly with industry behemoths. The next wave of brewers used a different approach: chasing bigger, bolder beers to differentiate craft beer from the fizzy yellow stuff. Over the past few years the pendulum has swung again, opening the door for brewers to tone down booziness without sacrificing flavor.

beer barrels at Aardwolf brewing
Preben Olsen of Aardwolf Brewing

 

“It was an inevitability,” says Preben Olsen of Aardwolf Brewing, whose San Marco brewery brews and serves several low-ABV options. “Now that craft beer has made a name for itself and people can see the inherent value of paying more for a higher-end product, you can go back to the subtlety and the craft of the actual beer.”

Whereas brewers can use adjuncts like sweeteners and spices to beef up the flavor of their heavy imperial stouts, lighter beers are far less forgiving, requiring a subtler, more skilled approach on the part of the brewer. “With something like a light lager, if there’s something wrong with it, you’re going to taste it,” Preben says, hinting that along with the changing tide of consumer preference, brewers these days possess the technical skill to rise to the occasion.

beer at aardwolf brewery
Aardwolf brewery
Aardwolf brewery
beer at Aardwolf

 

Aardwolf has locally championed two classic German beers that are traditionally low in alcohol: Gose and Berliner Weisse. Once obscure historical styles, both are having their moment now among craft connoisseurs— particularly here in Florida, thanks to their light, refreshing nature.

Across the river at Intuition, the canning line is turning out case after case of their newest packaged item, Easy on the Eyes, a session IPA with a unique hop profile. “The American taste has, and always will, be for big, hoppy IPAs,” says Taproom Manager Riley Leuthold. “The Session IPA is so popular because people still crave that hoppiness, even when they’re drinking something lighter.”

While all this is indeed great news, the same studies that linked a mild buzz with heightened creativity also showed that performance on tasks that require attention control can suffer while under the influence—so if you’re operating a vehicle or heavy machinery or splitting atoms, it’s probably still best to abstain. But for the rest of us, if there’s a problem befuddling you and the analytical approach doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to reach for a session beer to get those creative juices flowing. There’s sure to be one that goes great with whatever you’re having for lunch.

Article from Edible Northeast Florida at http://ediblenortheastflorida.ediblecommunities.com/low-alcohol-session-beer-lunchtime-niche
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