It's not that the guys who work at Ska Brewing don't want to get drunk. It's just that they don't want to get drunk as fast, says company co-owner Dave Thibodeau. "There's been a lot of hype about session beers, but that's not why we made it. We made it because most of the people around here drink a lot of beer without really paying attention to the ABV, so it's probably best to tone a little bit," he says.
And that's why the Durango brewery created Rudie Session IPA, a hoppy low-alcohol beer that will debut this weekend at Sesh Fest, taking place at Sculpture Park in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. It will also be sold in twelve-ounce cans at liquor stores year-round.
Brewed with El Dorado and Galaxy hops, Rudie is only 4.5 percent ABV, a number more typically associated with German-style lagers or wheat ales. Distribution will be somewhat limited this year because of a shortage of El Dorado hops, but Thibodeau says it should expand next year once Ska gets its hands on more of the ingredient.
Ska has made two previous versions of Rudie as one-off beers for the Durango Film Festival, but this final recipe was the one that went over best in the taproom. "We feel like we really nailed it, so we don't want to mess with the recipe," he says.
Session beers are typically defined as being lower than 5 percent ABV. The name is sometimes credited to mid-twentieth century workers in England who might have one, two or three during a single after-work session -- or even during lunch -- without getting drunk.
Today there is some controversy over the concept, since craft breweries in the United States are experimenting with low-alcohol versions of a variety of higher-ABV styles -- from stouts to IPAs to barleywines -- and adding the world "session" in front of them.
Thibodeau is interested in the conversation about definitions, but he's more interested in being able to drink a lot of beer "and still hold it together," he says.
That's also the goal of Sesh Fest, which is being co-hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild and Imbibe Denver from 3 to 7 p.m.; tickets, $20 are available at seshfest.com. There will be more than 25 breweries pouring lower-alcohol brews.
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