First Draught: Award-winning Sam Roberts Session Ale arriving at LCBOs
Image: David Ort
Compared to “what is craft beer?” the slightly less nebulous “what is a session ale” is an easier question to answer. These are beers well-suited to a several-pint night because they are lower in alcohol than usual and have a balanced flavour profile. The idea grew out the British tradition where a session at the local pub has friends take turns buying a round (hence the lower ABV), so the beers usually are also made to stylistically nod in the general direction of England.
Spearhead Brewing, a contract brewery based in Toronto, collaborated with one of Canada’s most recognizable musicians to create the Sam Roberts Band Session Ale. For winning the popular vote at this year’s Session Toronto Festival it gets a spot on LCBO shelves starting this month.
The Sam Roberts Band Session Ale is a deep copper with a cap of off-white foam. Its aroma is of caramel with a touch of toffee and floral hops. Pine flavours and a moderate bitterness help season and balance more caramel malt sweetness. The carbonation is nicely restrained and that gives a creamy mouthfeel to this beer.
Spearhead’s is one of a small crop of new beers that roughly fit into the session ale category. The list also includes Brakeman’s Session Ale from Junction (subtlest), Great Lakes’s Limp Puppet (most distinctive, lowest abv), and Muskoka’s Detour (most popular). As the session beer trend creeps into Canada from both of our historically-important cultural influences, the US and UK, I’ll wager that 2015 sees even more entries to the category. I’m doubly certain of this after hearing rumours that Muskoka sold more Detour this summer than the annual production of 80% of Canada's craft breweries.
Spearhead's Sam Roberts Session Ale, $13.95 for 6 X 355 ml bottles, LCBO #398750
In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David Ort writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including his own site. He is the author of The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook; now in stores and available for ordering online. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.