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ABV’s & session beer; sanity & insanity – Part 2

Jun 26, 2011

Continuing my quest to highlight the misuse of the term session beer, here is part two of the ‘Sanity & Insanity’. Read Part 1.

References to Insanity



  1. Ken Weaver

    “4.0% is the absolute maximum ABV for a beer to be accurately called a ‘session beer’”

    Ding, you’re an Englishman in the U.S.

    You take a great deal of pride in the UK definition, but for some reason, you can’t imagine that there’s any sort of cultural shift or typical nuance in moving terms like “session beer” between countries, time, or anything else.

    The sad fact is this: you just aren’t rational or interesting enough to argue with. I’d much rather hang out with some friends drinking 4.5% “session beer” than write a sensationalist blog just to get some hits and attention. Best of luck to you.


    • Ding

      Ken – I’ve been in and around the US beer scene long enough to know that a lack of respect & understanding, plus trampling all over tradition, are central and fundamental planks in the whole movement (much like the lack of subtlety in many things ‘American’). However, this noisy, adolescent type behavior does not make it ‘right’. In addition, if you think I care about being sensationalist rather than just correcting people, then you know less about me than you appear to know about session beer – and that’s saying something!

      As for ‘arguing’, my logic is sound and well thought out, backed up by plenty of evidence, and undeniably rooted in the original meaning of the term. Yours is an arbitrary cut-off, chiefly adopted because you actually *have* no session beer in the US.

      As for drinking 4.5% beer with your friends, I think you should. Of course, you won’t be drinking session beer, but that’s OK.

  2. JoeLikesBeer

    This was pretty interesting after the ban but you need to find a new trick soon or I’m not coming to the show any more.


    • Ding

      Joe – you appearing to be misreading my motivation. This Blog is NOT about ‘entertainment’, rather it is a record of my deep, inner thoughts about beer and beer culture. I’m not about ‘new tricks’ or even about necessarily attracting visitors (although that would be nice), I’m really just using dingsbeerblog.com as an avenue for my own expression and to offer some education.

      • JoeLikesBeer

        You’re not educating anyone if nobody reads it. I’m not just bagging on you here (although I am bagging on you a little). You write eloquently, offer a somewhat unique perspective, and you play a character (perhaps unintentionally) that people enjoy watching. That has potential to be something more than another unread blog about beer. I just think moving on from this session beer/beer culture 1-2 punch would behoove you. It’s unsolicited feedback and it’s your blog so do with it what you want.

      • Ding

        Your point is well taken, but at the same time I can only write passionately (and with eloquence), about things that I truly care about. Session beer and beer culture are things that truly matter to me, whereas much of the other stuff related to beer in America (ticking, limited releases, collecting beer, conspicuous consumption, the CONSTANT need to associate beer with an ‘event’ rather than an everyday simplicity, massive beer, high ABV, exotic ingredients etc.), are not things that I care for. The only way I’m likely to write about those is in a (very) negative context. Of course, THAT won’t stop me from doing so, but at the same time that too is likely to attract criticism. That’s fine, I’m used to that and that was the constant theme on BA, but I honestly mean what I type and it will never be only ‘for effect’.

      • Tim

        Every single item on the “not things that I care for” list is, in fact, a facet of beer culture. I’m fairly sure I know what you meant to say, but as you generally define things in the strictest manner possible, I feel that your choice of words there was poor.

      • Ding

        Tim – in AMERICA they are, I would agree, and that’s my problem! ;-)

  3. Bill O

    Point made by Marquis over at BA today.
    “Session beer isn’t of course a style, it’s a strength and as Ding would have said, once you get over around 4% you miss the point.”

    • Ding

      Hey, thanks for keeping me posted!

  4. Brian Yaeger

    The UK (and pretty much the rest of the entire world) goes by meters, but the US goes by yards. And your meters are just a little bit bigger than our yards. So why can’t American “session” beers be just a bit bigger than back in Britain? (Misguided though you might think me to be, I go by the 5% mark, but to say William got it “100% wrong” for including beers up to 5.4% (named “Session” incidentally, fallaciously or not), well, if that’s 1.4% more ABV than you’d like to see, shouldn’t you at least have said he got it 98.6% wrong?

    • Ding

      Brian, 1.4% is 35% more alcohol than a 4.0% beer. Most session beers are less than 4.0%, so in most cases the 1.4% would start to get even higher than the 35% over in most cases. What this means is that if you were in the UK on a decent session and had lets say, 10 pints of (real) session beer, but a friend drank a beer that was 35% higher in alcohol, you would have close to 4 MORE pints of beer!

  5. The Beer Buddha

    Alright I’ll play. In Beeradvocate Issue #52 Colin Valentine from CAMRA states, “In the UK, we’re really talking about between 3.5-and a maximum of 4.5% percent ABV.” It almost appears that there is no real definition of what a session beer is. You say no more than 4% and this guy says no more than 4.5%. Whose definition do we Americans follow? Even you guys in the UK don’t agree. And Ding if this was already touched on in Part 1 I apologize I haven’t read it yet.

    • Ding

      It’s a fair question and one that I (think) is easy to answer.

      In a nutshell I feel that Colin Valentine is plain wrong to indicate that a beer up to 4.5% can be called a ‘session beer’. I do NOT have the article in front of me so I am missing some context, but regardless, if he is saying simply that beers over 4% can be called session beers then I believe he is mistaken.

      As many people know, I have HUGE respect and regard for the work of CAMRA but they are not infallible and perhaps importantly it should be noted very carefully that CAMRA is not *necessarily* synonymous with ‘session beer’, rather they are synonymous with ‘real ale’. The fact that much of the real ale sold in Britain does happen to be 4% or below is somewhat coincidental, i.e. CAMRA is NOT the ‘Campaign for Session Ale!

      The reasons that I consider Colin to be mistaken are listed fairly extensively in my original post on the matter; I stand by those comments despite Colin’s assertion.


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