A new beer trend has a lot of Canadian beer drinkers thinking lighter thoughts, and drinking lighter draughts. Session beers – craft beers with less alcohol – are becoming incredibly popular across the country. Dozens of brands have popped up in the past few years, from many different respected breweries.
The trend is a reaction to the first wave of craft beer, which brought to Canada, along with greater body and vivid flavors, alcohol percentages that could be shockingly high. A standard, pre-microbrew beer might have 5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Some craft beers have ten or even fifteen. What’s the problem? Diners and bar patrons who are used to driving an hour after one beer, who now get behind the wheel after a triple-strength brew, impaired far beyond legal levels.
“The reception has been phenomenal,” says Tim Barnes, VP of Marketing & Sales at Central City Brewing in Vancouver. ‘We didn’t think it would do as well as it has.” Their particular session beer, India Session Ale, is 4% alcohol.
Lower alcohol beers have been available for decades, but these new brews distinguish themselves from so-called “light” beers because they retain the flavour that the low-alcohol offerings from so-called Big Beer are not renowned for.
Restaurant chains in Canada are embracing the trend – serving lower-alcohol beers keeps roadways safer without hurting their bottom line. “The laws about drinking and driving are getting more strict,” says Barnes. “They’re never going to get any looser; we all know that.”
Canadian restaurant chains appear to have made peace with this trend, in a manner that has not yet caught on in the US. Perhaps the proliferation of a session beers is a sign that more people are willing to drink together without getting drunk. Score one for highway safety.