Lohring describes a session beer as having low to moderate ABV, but not sacrificing flavor, as they made for drinking multiple pints in one sitting. "Craft beer enhances our times together, session beers extend that time," he said.
Big alcohol beers with high alcohol content are fine, but Chris Lohring said he noticed something was missing in the craft beer world: a highly flavorful beer that low in alcohol.
Lohring wanted to do something about that, and last year he started Notch Session, a brewery in Ipswich, Mass., that skips past the big beers that are so popular today for lower-alcohol "session" beers.
"I've been called everything from lunatic to crazy (for starting Notch Session),” Lohring said.
Lohring was the founder and brewer of the now-defunct Tremont Brewery, and ran it from 1993 to 2002. After that, he left the brewing industry because, he said, he was burned out.
It was at that time, he said, that he had an "epiphany."
"During this time, I discovered the beers I enjoyed became less available," said Lohring. "I had to turn to foreign brewers to get lower ABV (alcohol by volume) beers. American brewers were forgetting the category of session beers and all of the opportunities they present."
Lohring describes a session beer as having low to moderate ABV, but not sacrificing flavor, as they made for drinking multiple pints in one sitting.
"Sometimes you can drink a beer when you normally wouldn't," said Lohring. "A session beer is about enticing the drinker to go back for more."
Lohring contacted the Kennebunkport Brewing Company in Maine, and they let him brew some test batches there. During the test brewing, he realized he did not want to be limited to English-style beers, which are typically associated with the term “session” beer.
"I stepped back and said, 'Britain isn't the only country that has session beers. Other countries have them, even if they don't call them that,"' he said.
One of those beers is a Czech-style pilsner. He said he spent time in the Czech Republic and fell in love with the lower-alcohol versions of pilsner they produce only for locals.
"It shows a low-alcohol beer can be wildly flavorful and interesting," Lohring said.
Lohring, whose beer is brewed by the Ipswich Brewery, has recently started bottling his Notch Session Ale and Notch Session Pilsner, and they are now available in six-packs.
The pilsner –– my favorite style to drink, for now –– is a fantastic, easy-drinking beer. It comes in at a low 4 percent ABV, but it's full of flavor.
"The pils is a lighter style, crisp and dry, and has a good degree of hoppiness," said Lohring. "For the style, it's aggressively hopped. It's a great beer for someone who is just getting into craft beer, and it's also a great beer for a beer geek who wants to have a drinking session and still wants to have flavor."
The ale is closest to a pale ale and comes in at 4.5 percent ABV. It has a great hop presence and more of a malt backbone than I thought it would.
"It's my interpretation of what an American session ale would be, since we really don't have one," said Lohring. "I kind of had to make it up."
Other Notch Session beers in the planning stages are Modern Mild, a 3.6-percent ABV, English-style ale that won't be bottled; and a saison, a Belgian-style ale, that will be less than 4 percent ABV and available this summer in six-packs and on draft.
Lohring said he does not want to replace high-alcohol beers; he just wants to give people other options.
"There's nothing wrong with those kinds of beers," he said. "I think they're great for craft beer, but there has to be balance. There are a lot of people trying to push this (session) category. We're trying to establish session beer as a category in the United States.
"Craft beer enhances our times together, session beers extend that time," he said. "I think people are sick of being one or two and done. Beer's about social interaction, and session beers allow you to interact longer."
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer in Massachusetts. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/ or follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.