Yes, there are differences in what a session beer is to the originators – the Brits! – and the newly acquainted – ‘Merica! – but (hopefully) we can all agree on one thing: a session beer is a low-ABV brew that can be enjoyed at a good length of time to enjoy the company of others and the (hopefully) flavorful beer in your hand/mouth/liver.
I’d be a fool if I made a trip to a local brewery and didn’t come away with something, so this weekend I put a growler of Mystery Brewing’s session beer to the ultimate test – a football-filled Sunday. Since this 3.5 percent ABV beer is only found in North Carolina, it’s yet to receive plenty of ratings on Rate Beer or Beer Advocate. Hit the jump to see how it played out for me, however.
While you can find more details on Mystery’s website, this session beer hits all the right notes – it’s low in IBUs (16) and bitterness ratio (.421), so your taste buds shouldn’t get tired. It pours a wonderful hazy amber and had a short-lived white foam that laced the glass for the first few sips before retreating all together.
On the nose, Pickwick is exactly what you’d expect from this recipe, which is based on a traditional British mild ale of the 1880s. The first whiff you receive is caramel sweetness from the malt followed by an unmistakably present smell of fresh biscuits.
The basics of the aroma essentially pass onto the flavor. My very first impression with a clean, untouched tongue was actually fresh wort from a brew day. There was plenty of malty sweetness and the hops were most certainly hiding. A biscuit taste came second that blended in great with a caramel flavor similar to the smell. The beer starts to differ here, offering just a hint of hops knocking at the door with some bitterness as the beer goes down. After a few glasses, the finish offered a sticky butter aftertaste which was most likely from some taste bud fatigue.
I can easily say that Pickwick is not only an accurate session beer, but one that’s pretty damned perfect. While – as Ding points out – you’ll find American versions of a session beer that are hop-forward IPAs, this is a classic version of the style that’s easy to enjoy for long periods of time. I took a growler from 1 p.m. kickoff through the 4 p.m. afternoon football games and didn’t feel worse for the wear. Similarly, 21st Amendment’s Bitter American comes to mind, but that has slightly more alcohol at 4.4 percent ABV.
Fun fact: The name for this beer is from Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers.” Mystery Brewing names all its beers after historical, literary of cultural names or themes.
My Rate That Beer sheet, for good measure: