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Session Beer Day. Reflections

Apr 8, 2013

Well that was fun. Actually it was surprisingly uneventful, but four interesting things came out of it.

Firstly I was surprised that I didn’t lose any Twitter followers, at least I didn’t lose any when considering the net numbers. In fact, actually there was a net gain. Given that I was obviously way over my normal tweet quota for ranting about @sessionbeer with 171 tweets yesterday,

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 11.39.06 AMI thought there would be some drop-off. Apparently not.

Secondly the rich, beautiful, amazing and sweet irony that occurred with the @untappd #sessionbeerday badge was simply PERFECT! In a nutshell, the badges were being issued for beers up to 10% ABV! LOL! It came to my attention when I saw @gregavola’s badge announced on Twitter, and it just about made my day. @untappd was, at least for a while, perfectly mirroring the American beer scene by using the term @sessionbeer with a complete disregard for ABV. Beautiful!

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 3.19.09 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 3.37.16 PM

Thirdly, on Friday (and over the weekend) the folks at The Wrecking Bar Brewpub here in Atlanta honored/mocked/taunted me with Ding  – The English Bitter at 3.6%, that poured at The Brewpub in Atlanta and at the Classic City Brewfest in Athens, GA. I’ll take it as an enormous compliment.

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 4.38.01 PM

Finally and perhaps most profoundly, I learned about the detail of the The Cullen-Harrison Act that repealed the 18th Amendment relating to prohibition in the US, and that ultimately led to the ratification of the 21st Amendment in December of 1933. The original act (passed in April 1933) is the reason that yesterday was also ‘National Beer Day‘ in the USA. Obviously I was aware of the act prior to yesterday, and its historical context and meaning, but the detail had, for whatever reason, escaped me.

When I read that the ABW of 3.2% (4.0% ABV) had been specifically put in place since it was considered that beer with an ABV of 4.0% would be suitable for the masses since it was too low to be considered intoxicating, I almost fell out of my chair! PERFECT! Actually Americans DO know the correct ABV of session beer, they just choose to ignore it.


  1. Steve Wright

    Now THAT LAST BIT about the Cullen-Harrison act giving a historical American definition of non-intoxication with a setting of 4 % abv is EXACTLY what I was talking about in my (overlong) comment on previous post. It provides what for me was previously lacking:

    1 – historical context
    2 – relevant national context (this applied to USA)
    3 – documentary evidence.

    One of your tweets was the simple “under 4% period” wherein period seemed to me to be exactly what was unacknowledged – that under 4% represents a definition from a very narrow historic period for the UK.

    Now instead of it looking to me (and I infer others) like you’d taken such a narrow definition of under 4% as a definition from post WWI British running beers to the USA and expected it to somehow work without translation or shifting from one place to another you’ve found a local definition from the USA that supports your position.

    Bravo – lets hear it for evidence, history and digging deeper not plucking a figure (seemingly) from the air. I learned something from that – and that’s what beer writing should (to me at least) be about – learning something rather than unfortunately and all too frequently seeing misinformation repeated ad infinitum.


    • Ding

      Steve – Thanks for commenting on this post, and the other one. I’ll get around to replying on the longer one in due course, but for now here’s my response to this.

      You might think that I would be delighted that you are pleased that I have now pointed to ‘evidence’, but actually I don’t feel that the revelation of the detail of Cullen-Harrison is anything more than a convenient truth for me. In a nutshell, the US has no business using the term ‘session beer’ at all, let alone misusing it. Period. If the Cullen-Harrison act had not referred to this, I do not believe it would have undermined my position one iota.

  2. Jason

    I’m surprised that this is the first you’ve read of the 3.2 ABV limit. I live a state that doesn’t allow “strong” beer to be sold after 10pm for off site consumption or on Sundays. However, 3.2 beer is legal for sale in broader hours and at more venues.

    • Ding

      Actually, I had heard of 3.2% beer (isn’t it a big deal especially in Utah??), but had never made the connection to ‘beer too low to be intoxicating’ and the Cullen-Harrison act. Not that I needed it, but I think it offers some VERY strong credence to my position.


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