Seven session beers

There's more to session beer -- those brewed to have lower alcohol levels -- than mini-IPAs. There are stouts, wheats, lagers and more with less than 5 percent ABV.

CHRIS DROSNER — State Journal

By now you've probably heard of session beers.

These lower-alcohol beers have been a big deal in beer circles for the past few years now, with one brewer after another adding them to their lineups.

If you've been wondering why, the answer comes this weekend.

Super Bowl Sunday is the environment for which session beers were made: five-hour-long parties laden with big, heavy foods.

Beer is a perfect fit, and the commercials that run during the game suggest pale light lagers made by companies that can afford to spend $4.5 million on 30 seconds of marketing. Those are session beers — most light lagers are around 4.2 percent ABV — but c'mon, if you're reading this you're at least open to the suggestion of a better beer.

Yeah, you can pour yourself two imperial IPAs over the course of the party and plan to nurse them, but there's an undeniable inertia in a glass with beer in it. When it's there, and it's good, you will drink it. Usually you'll do it more quickly than you think you will, especially if you're not paying very close attention to the beer, which is exactly what you'll be doing Sunday.

You'll be paying attention to the game, to the snacks, to the friend you see twice a year, to the commercials, to Twitter complaints about the officials or announcers, to whatever. But beer is almost certainly not going to be the center stage.

That's OK, just be careful. And one way to be careful is with session beer.

Now, just because a beer is under 5 percent ABV — the line I've drawn in the sand for the purposes of today's column — doesn't mean you can put away a 12-pack during the party and still drive home. Responsibility remains. For perspective, most session IPAs are about 20 to 40 percent lower than regular IPAs' 5.5-7.5 percent ABV.

While those lighter IPAs dominate the beers that have "session" in their names or descriptions, there are plenty other beers of many styles that qualify and would make a tasty football companion on Sunday.

These hand-picked few are varied in style and winnowed from as many as I could find on the shelf in the Madison area, studied closely so you can focus on the game — or at least the buffalo chicken dip.

Super session beers

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Chris Drosner writes the Beer Baron column for the Wisconsin State Journal.