John G’s Jibber-Jab: Session Beers for Session Fest

10256506_922085977836796_8614996690430812306_oWith our 3rd Annual NorCal Session Fest this Saturday at Jack London Square, we corralled Brewmaster & Industry Treasure John Gillooly and asked him to wax eloquently on Session Beers:

SessionFest2015_webteaser-(1)I think all of the brewers here at Drake’s get excited for Session Beer month – a whole month devoted to low-gravity beers with flavor. Fun technical challenges to make them well (nowhere to hide in a Session), and more fun to drink (and drink and drink…).

Our standards for Session Beer month are Alpha and Omega Session. Alpha Session is a straight-up “Session IPA”… really an English Bitter with a firmer hand being used in the hopping, and Omega is something we dubbed an American Dark Mild (because Session Black IPA is a combination of words that makes no sense).

SBM_final_webWe got a little feisty with the hops for Alpha Session this year – heavy doses of Chinooks and Lemondrop hops, supplemented with some Equinox & Simcoe and a bit of Mandarina Bavaria. As you’d imagine, the beer has a lot of bright citrus in the nose, backed up by a 3.8% body that features Golden Promise malt as its base, with a touch of malted oat for a little body. Definitely some bite to this little guy.

Omega Session, its opposite number, is brewed with the same malts, supplemented by some de-bittered black malt for color. Hops are completely different, with Mosaic and EXP 06300 doing all the lifting for flavor and aroma. The 06300 came in whole-cone form so we had to pull the hop back out to use them during knockout, and for dry-hopping we used our “Drambulator” to infuse the beer with the 06300, a hop that actually has some chocolate notes, so a great compliment to a dark beer.

We also brewed Trappistito, a 4.1% Belgian-style Single that we tweaked up a little – orange blossom honey instead of candi sugar, and hopped exclusively with Mandarina Bavaria. It’s a fun little beer – a bit of that Trappist yeast character comes through, and some neat citrus notes.

Highwire_wire_logoThose have been our Session Beer Month standards through May, and we’ll have a few more new ones debuting at Session Fest:  A Session IPA dry-hopped with coffee from our friends at High Wire Coffee and JupiterRobustito– a session-strength version of our Black Robusto Porter, and we’ll probably sneak out a Berliner Weisse.

As a brewer, I love the renewed interest in low alcohol beers. It’s fun to be able to have beers with flavor that don’t knock you out, and I love the challenge of making low alcohol beers. I see a lot of “Session IPAs” out there these days, and I’m curious to see what other beers brewers will bring to our Session Fest – plenty of “styles” lend themselves to low-gravity interpretations.

The 3rd Annual NorCal Session Fest will be this Saturday, May 23, at Jack London Square in downtown Oakland, from 1pm to 5pm.  Tickets available here.