Great article on Advertising Age's website this morning about the growth of lower-alcohol craft beer. I've been predicting -- and hoping -- that the new trend in craft beer will be session beers, which are generally defined as those that contain no more than 4.5 or 5 percent alcohol by volume (some people insist that the threshold is 4 percent; they argue about this all the time on BeerAdvocate.com).
Most of the attention on craft beer over the past several years has gone to beers with higher ABVs -- brews like Stone's Arrogant Bastard (7.2 percent), Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA (9 percent), and Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout (13 percent). Great beers, yes. But one of those and you could be done for the night, so these kinds of beers are not exactly ideal for parties or gatherings.
Our big two local brewers -- Sam Adams and Harpoon -- have built their businesses on beers with ABVs around 5 percent, and it's heartening to see others following suit. My favorite new sessionable (to avoid arguments) beer is Mayflower Spring Hop Ale (5 percent), which is gone for the season but will be back toward the end of winter '12. I've also heard great things about Narragansett's new Summer Ale (4.2 percent). And there's a local brewer -- Notch, which brews in both Ipswich, Mass., and Kennebunk, Maine -- that makes nothing but beers under 4.5 percent ABV.
Session ales are what separate excellent brewers from fair ones: A mediocre beer can be disguised by its high alcohol content. A lousy 5 percent beer reveals itself. But an outstanding low-alcohol beer is something special.
(Globe photo by Yoon S. Byun)