Inspired by Lew Bryson's appearance in Episode 9 of the podcast, we decided if we were going to talk session beers and promote the idea of session beers, then maybe we oughta give you some recipes. So we reached out to a bunch of folks, both known and not so known, and asked "hey, give us your favorite Session Beer recipe!"
Remember the rules of this particular game - a session beer is anything under 4.5% ABV and we got some traditional takes and not so traditional takes on the idea waiting for you here. And don't forget - if you're reading this as we publish, there's no reason you can't be pouring one of these fine beverages for your celebration of Session Beer Day - April 7th! (Every year in celebration of the return of low alcohol beer following the "interesting" times of American Prohibition). Heck, if it's April 1st, you can probably pull it off too! Don't believe me - read this article. Reading after Session Beer Day? Well, what's stopping you from enjoying a session beer anytime? So what say you brewers? Are you going to embrace the Session Beer? Have you already embraced the session beer? What's your favorite session beer or session beer recipe? Comment below! Oh and there are still a few contributors who may come trickling in, so we plan to update the article with new recipes as they arrive!
You knew there was going to have to be a recipe from me here in the mix! For this article, I chose my Pale Oat Mild. Does such a creature exist historically? Not a clue, but this is a tasty beer full of toasty British malt goodness and a rich body courtesy of the oats. It's like the best oatmeal cookie you never knew you needed. In fact, an addition of spices wouldn't be amiss - I've done a variation of this with curry (Curried Oat Mild in Experimental Homebrewing.) and goosed up version with raisins, rum and spices. What's the AK mean? Well, a lot of things apparently. In the past some have said "ahh, that was a pale mild", others have insisted no such thing existed... well, if it didn't, now it has. And it's good! Additionally, because I'm a Saison guy and people seem to get confused if I don't mention the style, I've included my Table Saison in the mix as a beautifully quick session beer with some character! This is also really handy to make to grow up your yeast for bigger Saison projects. You'll also notice that the malt bill is decidedly more complex than normal, but that's because I'm trying to build something to hang that final hop character and yeast boldness off of without adding gravity and thus alcohol.
Ok, not an actual pic of the Oat Malt Mild, but this is a session ale from MacLeod Ale Company that is an appearance ringer
Oat Malt AK Mild
For 5.5 gallons at 1.038 OG, 9 IBUs, 6.7 SRM, 3.9% ABV 68% efficiency
6.0 lbs Maris Otter 2.0 lbs Thomas Fawcett Malted Oats 0.6 lbs Simpsons Medium Crystal
Rest at 152-154F for 60 minutes
0.125 oz Target 11%AA 60 minutes 0.25 oz Challenger 6.5%AA 30 minutes
This is actually the infamous Clam Chowdah Saison, but the appearance is very close
Saison de Table
For 5.5 gallons at 1.037 OG, 1.005 FG, 23 IBUs, 4.4SRM, 4.2%ABV, 70% efficiency, 90 minute boil
5.50 lbs German Pilsner 1.00 lbs Weyermann Munich 0.75 lbs Flaked Oats 0.50 lbs Caravienne Malt
Single Infusion Rest - 150F for 60 minutes
0.5 oz Magnum 11.4%AA for 60 minutes 0.5 oz Saaz 4.0%AA for 0 minutes (whirlpool and substitute your favorite hop here)
Your favorite Saison strain. Wyeast 3711 will give additional body, Wyeast 3724 / White Labs 565 will give you classic Saison flavors. Read more here
Chris Colby is one of the minds behind BeerAndWineJournal.com. He and James Spencer (later in this piece) drop regular updates about the important things about beer and wine making. Chris is the former editor of Brew Your Own and the author of the soon to be published Home Brew Recipe Bible. This is his take on Murphy's Stout, a classic stout.
"This is a dry stout reminiscent of Murphy’s Pub Draught. This is a great session beer, or good beer to make if you are counting Calories. In my opinion, it tastes better when carbonated with CO2, as opposed to pushed with beer gas. But it’s up to you whether to carbonate or nitrogenate it. "
The Cure from Cork
For 5 gallons at 1.038 OG, 1.007 FG, 34 IBUs, 32 SRM, 4.1% ABV, 70% Efficiency, 90 minute boil
5.25 lbs English pale ale malt 0.75 lbs cane sugar 2.0 oz dark crystal malt (90 °L) 3.0 oz. chocolate malt 10 oz. roasted barley (500 °L)
100 ppm calcium (Ca+2) 20 ppm magnesium (Mg+2) 240 ppm carbonate (HCO3–)
Rest 150F for 60 minutes Mashout at 168F
0.9 oz. Target 10%AA 60 minutes
White Labs WLP007 (Dry English Ale) yeast
0.50 tsp. gypsum (boil. optional) 0.50 tsp. calcium chloride (boil. optional) 0.25 tsp. yeast nutrients 4 oz. corn sugar (to prime bottles for 2.0 volumes of CO2)
Make yeast starter 2 days before brewing. Crush the dark grains separately from pale malt., but combine them all in the mash. (You will likely need to tighten the mill gap a bit for the smaller dark grains.) Mash grains at 150 °F in 7.8 quarts of brewing liquor for 60 minutes. Mash out to 168 °F. Recirculate wort, then begin running off. Sparge until the specific gravity of the runnings drop below 1.008 (or the pH rises above 5.8) or until runnings taste exceedingly astringent. This will most likely be around the 4.0-gallon mark. Add water to make a pre-boil volume of 6.5 gallons. Bring wort to a boil and add half a teaspoon of gypsum and half a teaspoon of calcium chloride. (This assumes your original calcium level was 100 ppm or lower.) Boil wort hard for 90 minutes, adding hops for the final 60 minutes. Stir in sugar and yeast nutrients for final 15 minutes of the boil. Cool wort and rack to fermenter. Aerate well, pitch yeast, and ferment at 70 °F. Keg or bottle condition. [You can keg this and push with nitrogen if you like, but I think it tastes better with “normal” (CO2) bubbles.]
As rare and unknowable as American Mild, it's Dennyfoot ("photo" courtesy of Ken Harvey-AKA Wort-H.O.G on the AHA Forum
This is Denny's American Mild - a work in progress he says. Let's see where it goes and yes, that 165F mash rest is for real. I double checked. Denny says he achieved the same attenuation as when he mashed in at 152F! Next variant will apparently include some oats.
American Mild v3
For 5.5 gallons at 1.035 OG, 36.4 IBUs, 11.3 SRM, 3.5% ABV, 60 minute boil, 73% Efficiency,
4.0 lbs Great Western Munich Malt
2.0 lbs Domestic 2 Row
1.0 lbs Crystal 60L (American)
1.0 lbs Cara-Pils
Single Infusion - 165F 60 minutes
0.25 oz Magnum 12.4%AA 60 minutes
0.50 oz Cascade 8.4%AA 10 minutes
0.50 oz Chinook 12.1%AA 10 minutes
0.50 oz Columbus 17.5%AA 5 minutes
1.00 oz Cascade 8.4%AA 0 minutes
1.00 oz Simcoe 15.4%AA 0 minutes
Wyeast 1450 Denny's Favorite
Amber Balanced Profile
76 Calcium (ppm)
7 Magnesium (ppm)
11 Sodium (ppm)
76 Sulfate (ppm)
63 Chloride (ppm)
90 Bicarbonate (ppm)
Dana loves homebrewing so much that despite being a busy family man and highfalutin technical type that he's a member of two homebrew clubs - The Maltose Falcons (go team me!) and TOaked Homebrewers. He's even the co-webmaster for the Falcons and chief web dude and co-education officer for TOaked. With all that work, you know you need a good quaffable beer to keep going. Here's Dana's spin on a slightly stronger Dark English Mild called "Proper 1420". It was inspired by Ward Walkup's winning mild from the 2016 Doug King Memorial Competition. Oh and just to prove that even for the hard working, the world isn't perfect a report from Dana:
Brew day disaster! Lost about a gallon cause my whirlpool valve was open.
For 11 gallons at 1.050 OG (12.3P), 17.2 IBUs, 23.5 SRM, 4.2% ABV, 60 minute boil, 77% efficiency
14.25 lb Maris Otter
1.5 lb Brown Malt (British)
1.5 lb Simpsons Pale Chocolate
1.25 lb Crystal 50L (British)
0.75 lb Special B (Belgian)
Single Infusion - 158F for 60 minutes
3.0 oz East Kent Goldings Pellets 5.0%AA First Wort Hop
Wyeast 1968 London ESB
1 tablet Whirlfloc, 15 minutes in boil
One of the hosts of the "Come and Brew It" Podcast out of Texas Brewing Inc. in Fort Worth, TX. Greg is also the President of the Cap and Hare Homebrew Club and is providing us with his Session IPA which they also sell as a kit at the shop. And because everything is bigger in Texas, Greg provided us with a second recipe for a classic English inspired Session Ale called Johnnie's English.
Ok, not everything is bigger in Texas, but it's still big in flavor! (High Noon)
High Noon Session IPA
For 5 gallons at 1.047OG, 1.012FG, 25 IBUs, 4.6% ABV
8 lbs. Avangard Pale Ale
1 lb. Flaked Wheat
6 oz. Briess Caramel 10L
6 oz. Briess Caramel 40L
6 oz. Avangard Light Munich
Single Infusion Mash at 152°F for 60 minutes.
0.5 oz. Mosaic 60 minutes
0.5 oz. Mosaic 10 minutes
1 oz. Mosaic 5 minutes
1 oz. Mosaic Dry Hop for 3 days
Wyeast 1056/Safale US-05
Johnnie’s English Ale
For 5 gallons at 1.044 OG, 1.010 FG, 24 IBUs, 4.5% ABV
7.2 lbs. Muntons Pale Ale
4 oz. Briess Caramel 120L
Single Infusion Mash 152°F for 60 minutes.
1 oz. UK Challenger 60 minutes
1 oz. East Kent Golding 0 minutes
Wyeast 1028 / S-04
Brandon is the chief wrangler of one of the great sour beer sites out there, EmbraceTheFunk.com. He's also the overseer of Yazoo Brewing's sour beer program to keep things funky in Nashville. Brandon is also one of our featured All-Stars in the forthcoming Homebrew All-Stars. Celebrate the book by brewing this great spin on a Berliner. (Kettle souring will produce it super quick, if less complex) Mmm... funkyPhoto appears courtesy of Quarto Books aka the publisher of Homebrew All-Stars
The Funky Path Berliner Weiss
“There are two options for brewing this recipe: natural sour development in the fermenter or kettle sour/boil. I would recommend the natural sour method of pitching your bacteria and yeast into the fermenter to constantly develop. Kettle souring is a slightly more advanced technique where a brewer will keep the wort in the boil kettle at 95 to 100°F overnight with a pitch of Lacto. When the desired sourness is achieved—usually within 24 hours—the wort is brought back up to a boil for 15 minutes to kill off the Lacto. This allows the brewer to use his or her normal equipment including the ‘soft equipment’ I mentioned earlier without the risk of clean side contamination. Again, I recommend the natural sour development method"
For 5.5 Gallons at 1.030 OG, 0 IBU, 3.1% ABV, 0–15 minute boil
4.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
2.5 lbs White Wheat Malt
Single Infusion Rest @ 150F for 60 minutes
Lactobacillus: WY5335 Lactobacillus / WLP67 Lactobacillus delbrueckii
Yeast: WY1007 German Ale / WLP036 Dusseldorf Alt / Fermentis Safale US-05
Brettanomyces: WY5526 Brettanomyces lambicus / WLP653 Brettanomyces lambicus
Do not oxygenate the wort. I would advise against putting 95°F wort into a glass carboy; a bucket or “PET style” carboy is safer. Pitch the Lacto culture ONLY into the wort, and let the bacteria work overnight. If you have a pH meter or strips, try to target 3.5 pH before moving on to the next step. Once the wort has soured, cool to 70°F using an ice bath and pitch the ale yeast. When the high krausen begins to fall, you can optionally pitch the Brettanomyces. Let the beer ferment in primary for one month, then carbonate to three volumes.
Add tropical aroma hops, such as Citra, to dry hop. Add tart cherry juice and lime peel. Try using orange liqueur-soaked oak chips.
So we got this scrub, virtual unknown by the name of John Palmer asking if he could contribute to the Session Beer Day list. Ok, really, you know who John is. Author of the modern homebrew tome - How to Brew. (Or try out the free version.) He's also the co-host of Brew Strong on the Brewing Network. Like many of our experienced brew masters, John has a good longing for a simple lager and so he gives us his born in east LA version of a lager.
Born in East LA, if by East LA, you mean the foothills of the La Crescenta area. Also, sweet glass
East LA Lager
For 5 gallons at 1.042 OG, 1.010 FG, 30 IBUs, 13 SRM, 4.1%ABV, 75% efficiency
6.50 lbs Briess Gold Pils Vienna malt
1.00 lbs Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs Acidulated Malt
0.50 lbs Victory Malt
0.50 lbs Crystal 40L Malt
0.50 lbs Aromatic Malt
Single temp infusion at 149F (65C) for 1 hour.
0.5 oz Amarillo at 60 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo at 15 minutes
0.5 oz Amarillo at knockout
White Labs Mexican Lager Pitch at 50-52F (10-11C), Diacetyl rest on day 4 at 57-59F (14-15C).
Using 10 gallons distilled water, add 5g Gypsum, 5g Calcium Chloride, 2g Epsom Salt, 2g Baking Soda. Gives: 82 Ca, 5 Mg, 31 Alk, 80 SO4, 102 Cl, 14 Na, -31 RA.
If you haven't read Ron's blog - Shut Up About Barclay Perkins - you're missing out on a treasure trove of great information about historical brewing. Also, you're missing out on the reason why I have to preface every story I tell about beer as precisely that - "a story". Ron is one of a handful of beer writers doing the hard work of hitting the libraries and brewer's archives to dig out truth from beery legend. Ron gave us a historical table beer recipe that is historically accurate. You can find more recipes like this in Ron's The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer: Rediscovered Recipes for Classic Brews Dating from 1800 to 1965 and his several self-published books covering Mild, Bitter and more (avaialble at his site). To give you an idea of Ron's thoughts on the whole session beer thing:
A proper session beer recipe, as it's under 4% ABV.
Ron always finds these great images of beer mats, so it'd be a shame not to include one!
1851 William Younger T Table Beer
For 5.0 gallons at 1.037 OG, 1.013 FG, 55 IBUs, 4 SRM, 3.18% ABV, 90 minute boil, 65% efficiency
8.5 lbs Pale Malt (Maris Otter)
1.5 oz Goldings 75 minutes
1.0 oz Goldings 50 minutes
1.0 oz Goldings 20 minutes
Mash at 153º F Sparge at 184º F
Wyeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale
pitching temp 58º F
Our comrade in beer "citizen science" over at Brulosophy.com and the guy who keeps us honest in the stats. Since everything's an experiment to Marshall, it should be no surprise that even his favorite "session" beer has a learning component built in! (And for the record it's a no sparge recipe - read Marshall's full writeup for more details)
Marshall's Testing Grounds
Hop Test Bitter
For 5.0 gallons at 1.044 OG, 25-40 IBUs, 11.6 SRM, 4.2%ABV, 60 minute boil
7.0 lbs Maris Otter
1.0 lbs Crystal 60L
8.0 oz Victory Malt
4.0 oz Crystal 120L
Single Infusion 152F for 60 minutes
~8 IBU HOP OF CHOICE – First Wort Hop (FWH)
15.00 g Willamette – Boil 20.0 min
15.00 g HOP OF CHOICE – Boil 10.0 min
21.00 g HOP OF CHOICE – Boil 5.0 min
21.00 g HOP OF CHOICE – Flameout w/ 10 min steep
WLP002 – English Ale Yeast
- No sparge batch
- mash with all your water.
- Chill to 64°F prior to pitching yeast starter
- Ferment at 66°F for 3-4 days then allow to free rise up to 72° over the next week
- Cold crash for 24+ hours after FG is stable (10-14 days)
James is one of the co-hosts of Basic Brewing, which is a long running, super informative radio and video series. He also works with Chris Colby on Beer and Wine Journal. James went Belgian with his choice and went for a seemingly impossible malt schedule with 60% malted wheat and 40% malted rye - a lauter nightmare! But take it from the man below what happens when you make a rye wit like this:
"Here is a very low gravity, but tasty, recipe that pretty much requires Brew in a Bag because of the grain bill. It only uses malted wheat and malted rye. The rye gives the beer substantial mouthfeel, even though it’s low in alcohol."
Rye Wit - Photo from http://beerandwinejournal.com/
For 5.0 gallons at 1.028 OG, 1.008 FG, 2.6% ABV
3 lbs Malted Wheat
2 lbs Malted Rye
Single infusion mash 150F for 60 minutes
0.5 oz East Kent Goldings 5.7%AA for 60 min.
2.0 oz Nelson Sauvin (11.7% AA) - Flameout (Or your favorite flavor and/or aroma hop)
Safale US 05
Dry hop in keg if desired.
What can you say about Mike aka OldSock aka the Mad Fermentationist aka the author of American Sour Beers except that's a man who like to play on the funky side. But yet, what ho is this? When asked for a session beer did he give us something with weird and wild critters - nope, it's a session IPA with a malt bill leaning heavily on toasty Vienna malt and a no sparge mash schedule for more body. All the better for dealing with the bulk of late hop additions! Read Mike's writeup on the recipe for more details and his thoughts about session beers in general. All I can think is how dangerously close that is to being a spilled beer
Session Vienna "IPA"
For 5.25 gallons at 1.038 OG, 1.010 FG, 37.5 IBUs, 5.6 SRM, 3.8% ABV, 60 minute boil, 54% Efficiency
7.25 lbs German Vienna Malt
2.25 lbs American Pale Malt
0.50 lbs. CaraVienna
Single Infusion Mash 153F for 40 minutes
Profile: Washington DC cut 50% with distilled, plus 2 g CaCl and 1 g gypsum
0.50 oz Simcoe 11.00%AA 15 minutes
0.25 oz Columbus 11.00%AA 15 minutes
0.75 oz Amarillo 10.00%AA 10 minutes
0.75 oz Simcoe 11.00%AA 5 minutes
1.00 oz Amarillo 10.00%AA Hop Stand for 25 minutes
1.00 oz Columbus 11.00%AA Hop Stand for 25 minutes
1.00 oz Simcoe 11.00%AA Hop Stand for 25 minutes
0.50 oz. Amarillo 10.00%AA Start of Chill
0.50 oz. Columbus 11.00%AA Start of Chill
0.50 oz. Simcoe 11.00%AA Start of Chill
1.25 oz. Amarillo (Whole), 11.00% AA Dry Hop 1
.25 oz. Columbus (Whole), 11.00%AA Dry Hop
1.25 oz. Simcoe (Whole) 14.00%AA Dry Hop
0.5 Whirlfloc Tablet 12 minutes boil
0.4 tsp Yeast Nutrient 12 minutes boil
White Labs WLP037 Yorkshire Square Ale
No Sparge. Chilled to 68 F, strained, and pitched the .75L stir-plate starter. Left at 64 F ambient to ferment. Dry hopped in the keg.
Mark Van Ditta
Mark is a man of deep and mysterious knowledge who's been dropping little nuggets of sciencey wisdom here for a little while. We're always learning some new things from the man and it's doing a lot to inform our experiments! This is his American take on an English Bitter with a classic old school American hop profile. Incidentally, go read some of Ron's work (see above) to learn just how extensively American hops were used in the British brewing industry back in the day! Some people go to the beach for vacations, Mark goes to Siebel Also note Mark specifies his BUGU ratio (basically IBUs divided by OG) to pinpoint a level of bitterness that he uses when he scales the basic recipe up or down .
For 5.5 gallons at 1.044OG, 1.011FG, 30.3 IBUs, 4.3% ABV, 0.69 BU:GU
Malt Bill (assumes an extraction rate of 30 points per pound per gallon):
7.5 lbs Thomas Fawcett Pearl
8.0 oz Briess Torrified Wheat
1.5 oz Thomas Fawcett Pale Chocolate
Single Infusion Mash at 154F
1.0 oz Whole Cone Cluster 7.3% AA (60 minute boil)
0.5 oz Whole Cone Cascade 5.6% AA (last 10 minutes of the boil)
1.5 oz Whole Cone Cascade 5.6% AA (20 minute hop stand at 160F)
Whitbread “B” (a.k.a. Wyeast 1098, White Labs WLP007, or Fermentis S-04)
- An extraction rate of 30 points per pound per gallon translates to a brewhouse efficiency of approximately 83%.
- A grist that is composed of approximately 92% British pale, 7% torrified wheat, and 1% pale chocolate that is scaled to one’s brewhouse efficiency will effectively reproduce the extract portion of this recipe.
- I have brewed this recipe at 1.044 and 1.052 while maintaining the grist percentages and BU:GU ratio. It scales very well with respect to gravity.