Monday, August 20, 2012

Beer of the Month: Drake's Alpha Session Ale

Our Beer of the Month highlights a refreshing trend in brewing, the Session Beer.  What's a Session Beer you ask?  Well, Lew Bryson, who has championed the concept and is considered the authority on the subject, defines Session Beers using a bunch of subjective statements like "favorable enough to be interesting" and "conductive to conversation", and one highly unsubjective one, "under 4.5% alcohol by volume (abv)".   I like to think of a Session Beer as a beer you can just kick back with and enjoy a couple tasty pints with friends and not have to worry object standing upright when it's over.

With this recent emphasis on Session Beers, you might say the brewing pendulum has swung in the opposite direction from a year or two ago, when brewers seemed to devote most of their experimental energy going to absurd lengths with over hopped, barrel aged, exotically spiced,  10+% abv monsters.  Of course, it's fun to watch and at times, the results are enjoyable to drink, but sometimes all that envelope pushing gets a little tiresome.   Session Beers may not be as sexy, but are a reminder that "less is more" can make for a better beer and is a sign of real brewing skill.
And so we celebrate Drake's Brewing's Alpha Session, a great example of the Session Beer in the strictest Brysonian definition, checking in at only 3.8% abv.    The malt is clear and crisp, allowing the Simcoe, Citra and CTZ hops to form a lively combination of sharp piney flavors with some undertones of grapefruit.   Drake's calls it a NorCal Bitter, their take on the classic British Style and if you're wondering what the word "Alpha" has to do with all this, its from the Alpha acids that give hops their distinct flavor profiles.    It's not surprising that Drake's, well known for their alchemy when it comes to hops, foray into session beers is something extremely hop forward.

So whatever you call it, it's the Beer of the Month for August.


  1. Perhaps there is a push to bring back the old 3.2% beers of my youth?

  2. Great review. I love this beer as there are times I need to take care of my kids and after a few 10% ABV beers I'm just not that sharp...

    Check out the new Lagunitas Day Time...tasty ABV...