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photo1When someone says “craft beer”, the usu­al con­nota­tions, at least to a non-beer drink­er, are of hugely hopped, rich beer, usu­ally with an ABV above 7 per­cent. And to be fair, for a while this was the case as brew­ers wanted (and in lots of cases still do want) to explore and expand the sci­ence of their profession.

But while it’s rel­at­ively easy to cre­ate a big-bod­ied, high-alco­hol beer, there is much more fin­esse in cre­at­ing a low-alco­hol beer while main­tain­ing fla­vour. This is a chal­lenge that has been accep­ted by an increas­ing num­ber of New Zea­l­and brew­ers, giv­ing rise to the new ses­sion beer movement.

There are already a few stand-outs. Crouch­er Lowrider (lovely and hoppy at only a smidge over 2.5 per­cent) and Haller­tau Min­im­us (both the sum­mer and winter ver­sions) from Rotorua and Auck­land, respect­ively, are real favour­ites of drink­ers who want to remain upright after night out.

This is of huge import­ance to brew­ers, who, unsur­pris­ingly, drink a lot of beer. Matt Warner of Par­rot­Dog says that you can “have one with lunch and still func­tion for the after­noon; have one or pos­sibly even two and still leg­ally drive home; have a hand­ful through­out a long ses­sion and not turn into ‘that guy’.” Indeed, no one wants to be ‘that guy’ (remem­ber: drink lots of water).

Par­rot­Dog have recently turned out their own low-strength ale: Clipped­Wing. “We wanted to brew a refresh­ing low ABV beer for those long summer/autumn ses­sions where you don’t want to fall over at the end,” says Warner. “We wanted most of the good­ness of an Amer­ic­an-style pale ale, without the high­er alco­hol con­tent. We’ve brewed three batches of it already to try and meet demand.”

He’s not wrong. Clipped­Wing (a ‘mini APA’) has taken over Wel­ling­ton. At 3.5 per­cent it has the same ABV as the brewery’s Dogg (a dark mild ale), which is a bet­ter bet for a low-strength beer in winter.

Bey­ond par­tic­u­lar beers made for ses­sion­ing, there have also been a num­ber of ‘mini’ ver­sions of pop­u­lar beers. 8‑Wired released their Semi-Con­duct­or (a mini Super Con­duct­or), and recently at Great­er Wel­ling­ton Brewday I had a Min­i­matta, which was a low-alco­hol ver­sion of the ‘world fam­ous’ Gun­na­matta from Yeast­ie Boys.

Enjoy­ing beer doesn’t mean get­ting drunk. Your sober driver can actu­ally join you for a pint. Ses­sion beers allow us to do some­thing I love — they let every­one enjoy a beer together.


What to drink

Par­rot­Dog have made anoth­er beer for GABS (the Great Aus­tralasi­an Beer SpecTAPu­lar): Dev­il­Bird (a Bel­gian golden strong ale). This, along with a num­ber of oth­er GABS beers from Wel­ling­ton brew­ers, should be released at the end of May after GABS.


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