On the Coast beer columnist and CAMRA member Rebecca Whyman spoke to host Stephen Quinn to talk about session beers and why we're seeing more of them in local breweries and pubs.

So what is a session beer?
A session beer is one that's lower in alcohol, but it doesn't mean it's lower in flavour. The idea is for you to be able to drink many beers in one session.

Where did they come from?
There are many theories about where session beers came from, most notably during the First World War, shell production workers in England were only allowed to drink beer in four-hour stints.
That theory makes sense: if you go back in history, European workers used to drink beer instead of water, and you would still need to go back to work after the drinking session, so you couldn't drink high alcohol beer.

Rebecca Whyman
Rebecca Whyman (CBC)
So why are we hearing more about sessional beers now?
The pendulum is now swinging from high alcohol beers to less potent beers. Brewers are always looking for a challenge, and it isn't easy to make a lower alcohol beer while keeping all the flavour.
Sessionals are also historical beers. They've been around for a long time, with many of the German and English beers coming in at around four per cent.

Can you make any beer a session beer?
Almost any beer is sessionable, except imperials. You can lower the alcohol without sacrificing the flavour, by putting grains that don't ferment into the beer, and by adding hops at key points in the process.

Where can I go to taste some good session beers?
Spring is a great time to try a sessional because it's light and refreshing and you can drink more of them.

The Spring Sessional Cask Festival is on May 10 at The Cobalt, 917 Main Street from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Home brewers and beer fans will be excited about the collaborative session ales that are one-offs at the event.

Rebecca's recommendations for sessionals:
  • Bomber's Bike Path Best Bitter
  • Central City India Session Ale
  • R&B Sun God Wheat Ale
  • Steigl Radler (grapefruit, lemon and raspberry)
And her picks for great restaurant patios to drink them:
  • Tap and Barrel (2 locations)
  • Steamworks (Gastown)
  • Biercraft (2 locations)