Last Saturday (May 10th), the third-annual CAMRA Vancouver Spring Sessional Cask Festival proved that low-alcohol beer is nothing to fear.
The event at the Cobalt Hotel drew about 350 craft-beer enthusiasts to taste 30 sessional cask offerings, with both judges and attendees voting for the winners.
A "sessional" or "session" beer is any style of beer that's brewed to be low in alcohol (4.5 percent alcohol/vol or lower). The idea is that this allows consumption of repeated pints over a longer period, or session. The key is not compromising flavour or the malt-to-hop balance when brewing this easy-drinking beer.
Amanda Barry-Butchart, who is the event coordinator for the Vancouver chapter of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), told the Straight that the event challenged brewers to show that flavour is not neccesarily linked to alcohol strength, and a low-alcohol beer can retain the complexity and boldness of a higher-alcohol beer.
Indeed, there were plenty of interesting beers on offer.
Among these were a tart Smoked Apple Ale by R&B Brewing, a smooth Shamrocker Potato Stout by Granville Island Brewing, and a refreshingly different Lemongrass Thai Basil Kolsch by Bridge Brewing Company.
Moon Under Water Brewery, which is part of Victoria's vibrant craft beer scene, took the People's Choice award with its Raspberry Berliner Weisse. The judges, scoring according to Beer Judge Certification Program (BCJP) standards, declared Hooligan Session IPA their top choice. The latter is a collaboration between Parallel 49 Brewing Company and Kent Courtice.
Looking around the room, Barry-Butchart estimated that about 35 percent of the craft-beer fans in attendance were women. "That wouldn't have happened five years ago," she said. "Back then, maybe 15 percent of the crowd would be women."
"Women are getting much more into craft beer," she noted. "Beer isn't just a dude's drink."
For upcoming CAMRA events, see the Vancouver chapter website.