The third annual Session Fest was held at Eagle Rock Brewery this past Saturday, and the celebration of easy-drinking, low-alcohol beer presented the flip-side of craft beer’s infatuation with big, boozy brews.
The first Session Fest took place just months after Eagle Rock Brewery opened their doors, and the event has grown to showcase nearly two dozen creative and flavorful beers all brewed by the brewery staff. Owner and Brewmaster Jeremy Raub says it’s mandatory for every employee to make at least one beer for the fest, and his pride and excitement for the brews his team produced was evident from the ear-to-ear smile on his face for the duration of the event.
Session beers have a long history, especially in the UK where the beer culture is more focused on sharing pints at the pub. The classic British styles like bitters and milds are known for packing lots of flavor into a brew that is under 4% alcohol by volume. Making a beer that is flavorful but not fatiguing to the palate is a challenge that an increasing number of craft breweries are tackling. The popularity of lower-abv “session IPAs” and even the resurgence of the mild style – like Eagle Rock’s own flagship Solidarity black mild – has given beer drinkers an alternative to rich imperial stouts and palate-assaulting double IPAs.
Some of the highlights being poured at this years event besides Eagle Rock classics like Solidarity and Ginger Saison were a “Black Session IPA” by Eagle Rock staff brewer Lee Bakofsky, the “Mini Moo” mint milk stout made by brewery co-owner Ting Su, and the refreshing “Bump ‘n Rind” – a kolsch ale spiked with heaps of grapefruit zest by first time brewer Tara Fulps.
Besides the entire slate of beers featured at Session Fest being under 5% ABV, another distinguishing feature of the event was the generous pours that were served. Instead of the scant 4-ounce pour of beer common to many festivals, Session Fest featured a real half-pint glass of beer making it a great event to actually sit down with friends and chat over beers that lasted longer than a sip or two.
Session Fest is a unique event on L.A. beer landscape, and it not only showed off Eagle Rock Brewery’s commitment to developing the city’s beer culture, it also showcased the creativity and passion of the whole ERB team. The session fest beers were one-off brews, but there is precedent for the more popular beers making a comeback – the brewery’s Spring seasonal Ginger Saison was introduced at the first Session Fest. Maybe we’ll see the return of the Bump ‘n Rind this summer.