A lot of new craft beer drinkers first turn their eyes to the alcohol content. They want to get the most bang for their buck.
Those people aren't serious beer drinkers. To fully appreciate good beer, one must understand the complexity and character of the whole product. A low-ABV sour can be just as sophisticated as a 12-percent imperial stout.
At least that's the belief among some of the top bar owners and brewers on the East Coast. A far-ranging panel hosted a Session Beer Forum Tuesday night at the Farmers' Cabinet. The main point: Drink for the flavor.
"We drink because we like the taste of beer," said host Dan Shelton, who runs Shelton Brothers, a noted importing company. "I wouldn't identify people that drink high-alcohol beers as serious beer drinkers."
That's not a knock. It's just the usual, natural progression involving craft beer novices. "Session beer," in case you're wondering, is defined as beers low in alcohol, normally pilsners and ales. Fifteen session beers were on display at Farmers' Cabinet, with the highest ringing in with an ABV of 5 percent.
"It's hard to sell a good pilsner for a lot of money. It's hard to promote this stuff when it's not going to give you that bang for your buck," Shelton said. "But they are great beers and they are harder to make. It's easy to hide faults in a 9 percent imperial stout."
The original idea behind session beers was to provide a refreshing drink that you could sip with your friends on a lazy Sunday -- for an extended period, not a just a power hour. "It's four ingredients -- you don't have to go crazy with alcohol," said Shelton.
Beer week at The Farmers' Cabinet
The Farmers' Cabinet (1113 Walnut St.) is celebrating Beer Week all weekend:
Friday: Zymatore Project Showcase
Saturday: Great UK Beerfest
Sunday: Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse Showcase