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Session Beers (Book Review)

Session Beers by Jennifer Talley

Jennifer Talley is the brewmaster at Squatters Pub Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah – a State where a 4 per cent ABV (Alcohol By Volume) limit is imposed on brewers as a legal constraint. For this reason alone, there should be no surprise that she was the go-to person to be asked to write this book about Session Beer: Brewing for Flavor and Balance. She’s an accomplished brewer, beer judge and competition winner with a career in creating and bringing to market consistently high quality low ABV beers that don’t knock you off the bar stool. Beers perfect for weddings and afternoons with your friends. Sessionable beers.

Of course, these session beers have been around for a long time in our society. The term might be more recent, but humans have been making highly consumable beers in this genre through history. Just be aware that a session beer isn’t merely low ABV, though. A session beer leaves nothing to hide behind when it comes to making errors. It’s extremely well made beer that you want to drink another and then another throughout the day (or night). And session beers are harder to make than might first appear to be the case. Alcohol, after all, contributes to the flavour of beer. Take away that mask and you better be sure of what you’re doing in the brewery.

This probably isn’t the best book review I’ve ever written, to be honest. I really don’t know what to say except go buy this book and tap into Jennifer’s knowledge about making great beer. I’ve currently got an English Bitter from page 221 sitting in a fermenter down in the basement waiting to be cold crashed and bottled next week. In the last year I’ve started to really get interested in making these lower ABV beers. They’re kind of fun. And I’m pretty much over the 8% ABV IPAs that I started out brewing with my Brew in a Bag setup. I’m more about traditional ales nowadays – my next beer to roll out will be Dusseldorf Altbier, another sessionable style.

I would also note that Jennifer Talley is a female in the brewing industry and we should tip our hats to that fact. Not because she’s female, no. But because women have a longer and stronger history in brewing than do 30 something year old tattooed bearded hipsters. This has traditionally been a woman’s skill – at least until industrialisation scaled up the ventures and pushed women out the back door. The Exploress podcast has an entertaining episode on the history of women and beer, if you’re interested.

There’s also a 30 minute BeerSmith interview of Jennifer Talley about this book on YouTube to whet our appetite. Seriously, if you’re making beer then you should be reading this book. And if you’re drinking beer you might consider the pleasure of being able to have more than three of them at your discretion.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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