The Seth Rogen of Session Beers

I imagine it’d be a lot of fun to hang around with Gary Busey for a few hours.  He’s nuts, sure, but his manic energy, awesome stories and larger-than-life character would make for an interesting evening indeed.

I also imagine I’d be happy to see him leave at the end of the night, after he’s shocked my psyche with his rapid fire intensity and his crazy anagrams.  He’s not the kind of guy you’d want around day in and day out.

My go-to Christmas brew, Troeg’s Mad Elf, is the Gary Busey of beers; a big character guest I love to see during the holidays, but one that eventually wears me out with its intensity; it packs an ABV of 11% and enough sugary sweetness to make you an honorary diabetic.

Now that the Christmas season is over, I’m in the mood for something more mellow, but still with lots of flavor.  The Seth Rogen of beers, if you will; a session beer that doesn’t scrimp on character. 

It’s been pretty difficult for me to find something that actually fits this bill, as most beers under 5.5% ABV (my personal ceiling for what constitutes a “session beer”) lack the flavor of boozier brews.

Then I remembered one beer from my past that surprised me with its combination of big character and low ABV: Troeg’s Pale Ale. I discovered this 5.3% ABV American pale ale pretty early on in my craft beer journey, using it as a stepping stone between Bass Ale and IPA’s.

Peter Kennedy from Simply Beer invited me to take part in a “Session Beer Shootout” podcast a few years ago, where everybody brought a beer under 5.5% ABV, and we duked it out to see whose beer was best.  Even though I was a craft beer noob at the time and was amongst dudes who really knew their stuff, I won the day with Troeg’s Pale Ale.  Everyone couldn’t believe how satisfying it was (and that the rookie won!).

There’s really nothing pale about Troeg’s Pale Ale, as it pours with a deep golden amber body and a decent (if short-lived) head. It packs enough of a citrus hop kick to grab your attention, and enough of a malt backbone to balance things out nicely.

The mouthfeel is a little lighter than something like a Dale’s Pale Ale, but it’s flavorful enough to make you think you’re drinking a beer that’s packing more than 5.3% ABV, which is a pretty neat trick.  The plus to the light mouthfeel is that you’re not bogged down after you’ve had one.

I’m happy that I’ve rediscovered this little gem and its rare balance of flavor and sessionability.  It’s definitely the Seth Rogen of beers, which is just the right thing as the holidays fade into memory.  Now I just gotta find the Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Michael Cera of beers.  A man can’t live on Seth alone!




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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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37 Comments on “The Seth Rogen of Session Beers”

  1. January 12, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I’m interested to try Founders’ All Day IPA. It’s a sessionable IPA coming in at something like 4.7% ABV, similar to the levels of British IPA’s. However, it will actually feature American hops and not be as malt-forward as the Brits tend to like their beer. The only problem is that they’re not distributing it to all of their states just yet.

    Troegs isn’t even on my radar unless I travel east. Still, I like the analogy. Good post.

    • johnking82
      January 12, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Same here for Founders All Day, had a discussion about them the other day and how dead one they typically are with their beers.

      I’m still waiting for the “Sponsored by Troegs” logo to show up on here. 😉

      • January 12, 2012 at 11:46 am #

        Ha ha – I thought about that as I wrote about replacing one beloved Troegs beer with another. But it is what it is, and I’m loving some Troegs right now.

      • tronto
        January 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

        I know….I picked up a mad elf just cuz this site.

        • January 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

          See?! I’ve made a HUUUGE difference in their bottom line – ONE six pack sold – Cha-chinggg!!

    • January 12, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks, Zac. The All Day IPA sounds very interesting. Think I’ll be in MI in a couple of weeks, so I’ll look for it.

      • johnking82
        January 12, 2012 at 11:48 am #

        Jim, look for the Better Half as well…it’s coming out shortly and Hopslam should be everywhere.

      • January 12, 2012 at 11:49 am #

        Yeah, the idea of the sessionable IPA has me intrigued. Every brewer makes a sessionable pale, but even good breweries often brew mediocre pale ales (your beloved Schlafly comes to mind – APA is another story). So, I’d love to see breweries make really hoppy session ales so that I can get my Bob Pollard on!

  2. Marvin Kinney
    January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I love the headline. I haven’t had any Troegs, most definitely on my list of breweries to try though. We do not get it here in Idaho.

    • January 12, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Thanks, Marvin. Troegs doesn’t do anything really crazy, but they’re super solid. They also just opened a new brewery in Hershey, PA with expanded capacity, so perhaps they get out west.

  3. January 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Try Boxcar (West Chester, PA) – they make beers in the English mild style – their original and brown ales are much more complicated in terms of flavor than they first seem, but they run 5% ABV – even Boxcar’s IPA is only like 7.2% and not going to cream you on IBUs.

    Yeah, I volunteer there, so that’s my mandatory disclaimer, but the beer is good and worth trying when you want a session beer.

    • January 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      I’m not sure if I’ve seen it around here, but I’ll check it out of I do. It could be the Jason Segal of beers (then again, I hope it’s not!). 🙂

    • January 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      I live in n.Central MD and wud love to try Boxcar but they’re still only in a very limited sales area. Wanna ship me some (LOL.)

  4. Heather
    January 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Have you tried Carton Brewing’s Boat beer? It’s something like 4.2%. I think they consider it an IPA because there’s a lot of flavor. Really hoppy in a grapefruity kind of way. I really don’t like session beers, but I like this one a lot. Cheers!

    • January 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Hmm..never even heard of Carton Brewing, but it sounds interesting. I just wish someone would do a 5.2% bourbon barrel aged stout!

      • Heather
        January 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

        Carton just opened up a few months ago in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Draft only and they are still self distributing. Here’s how you can find some:

        Ha! 5.2% barrel aged stout… Yes, why don’t those lazy brewers get on that!

  5. January 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Note to self:

    Don’t sent Jim the Dubbel, Strong Dark, Barleywine, etc.

    Got it!


    • January 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm #


  6. January 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    21st Amendment’s BItter American has some good hop character, and is only 4.4%. But I will not use the word “se$$ion”. I am completely, and quite irrationally, annoyed by it. Sorry.

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      I don’t mind the term, but I have no clue what “session” refers to.

      • tronto
        January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

        session refers to lower abv beers that can be consumed in multiples without a big effect. from what I understand it came from british workers drinking on their lunch “session” and being able to go back to work without being tanked. That’s a loose definition.

        • Don
          January 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

          Tronto, it is official. You are the Beer and Whiskey Brother’s resident beer “Historian” Congratulations. 😉

        • johnking82
          January 13, 2012 at 9:07 am #

          You mean “Hipstorian”

  7. beercommdood
    January 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    This is why, aside from holiday beers, I try to brew and perfect session ales. Sure, you can stock a brew with tons of sugars and adjuncts to land a huge flavor profile and come in at 8+%, but sometimes you want the flavor without the kick of a big beer. The dark mild friends and I were working on is dialing in quite nicely at around 3.7%…

    • January 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      I also brew very low ABV beers, mostly because I can’t get my stuff to ferment properly! 😉

      • January 13, 2012 at 1:22 am #

        Take better care of your yeast and it will take better care of you!

  8. January 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    As ya’ll know by now (since I’ve beat it to death) I prefer session beers AND I think that you can get good sessions with plenty of flavor. I ain’t knockin’ the higher abv stuff, and I’m sure I’m being nit-picky, but I have some pretty stringent personal classifications, as follows: under 3.5% is barley tea, 3.5 thru 8% is beer, 9 thru 15% is wine, 16% and up is a liqueur. When I drink the really high abv stuff (18-20%, aka 36-40 proof) I actually use a liqueur glass.

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      LOve the idea of “Barley Tea” – maybe I could drink that at work!

  9. January 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    I like Stone’s Levitation Ale. It’s kind of an over-hopped Amber and it weighs in at 4.4% ABV. Boulder Beer’s Hazed and Infused is the same kind of beer (Dry-hopped Amber), and is under 5% too. Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale is one of my favorites and it packs in a lot of flavor for 5%.

    I think I’ll try brewing a low ABV hop bomb when the weather warms up.

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      I’ve been thinking about Leviation lately, but never when I’m buying beer, which does very litlle to get some into my fridge. 😦

  10. January 13, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    If under 6% is considered sessionable, Widmer Drifter Pale Ale has really hit the spot this year. I love the light body and hop profile on this one and drink many pints of it each time I’m at a certain one of my favorite watering holes.

    I too wish All Day IPA would make it to my region as I love pretty much everything Founders does.

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      I never see Widmer around here (not that I’m looking for it) so I’ve never tried the Drifter.

      Agreed on the All Day – I’m going to be in MI in a few weeks and I’m eager to find some.

  11. Bellefay1
    January 13, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    The Michael Cera of beer is without a doubt O’Douls.

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Ha – now that you say that, I’m inclined to agree with you…

    • January 13, 2012 at 11:23 am #

      Just out of curiosity, has anybody here ever tasted an O’Douls? If so, what does it taste like? (I suspect that in our case, its case of “Let Mikey Try it!”, but ya never know.)

      • January 13, 2012 at 11:25 am #

        I think I did once, but it was decades ago. It probably tastes like Coors light, but more beery. 😉

  12. January 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Note to Don: our Victory distributor said that they don’t sell their Oatmeal Stout in MD. BUT, I did pick up a sixer of Oatmeal Stout from one of my favorite VT breweries today, Wolavers, a 100% organic brewery in Middlebury. Its fantastic–voted World Class by The Bros, Good by BA, moderately dark, creamy but not a Guinness type mouth feel, w/ moderate carbonation, good head and lacing.

    Relevance to this posting? It has flavor to spare and at only 5.9 abv and $10.50 a sixer, I’m a happy camper. I’d love to hear your opinion if you can get it.

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