Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Smuttynose Star Island Single – Smuttynose Brewing Company – Portsmouth, NH

Hey, now this is a surprise. After walking into my local shop this past Friday, I was greeted with a rare treat, a new (for my shop at least) offering from the Smuttynose Brewing Company. I love this Brewery. They don’t produce heavy, smack you around, brews…but what they do give you is a nice quality brew that never lets you down. Every time I’ve poured one I’ve been impressed by their simplicity, and their dedication to produce just that…simply good beer. With that in mind, I immediately picked up a six-pack of their Start Island Single. As usual, the packaging was simple, but yet artful, and with a weekend of College and Pro Football…as well as my son starting his Hockey season, I was looking forward to a beer that promised a little lighter experience. Here’s what the web had to say:


Visitors to Smuttynose Island, peering across the dark waters of Gosport Harbor towards the ragged rocks of neighboring Star Island, are sometimes startled by the fleeting sight of mysterious, alluring creatures swept up from the Atlantic’s cold, inky depths.  Or so they tell us.

Our Star Island Single is an eminently sessionable, Belgian-style pale ale offering a beguiling mix of flavor and refreshment. This medium-bodied golden ale features a slight residual sweetness from Honey Malt and hints of citrus and tropical fruits from the unique Belgian yeast it is fermented with, leaving a crisp dry finish. Enjoy it sociably while you savor good times, tall tales, friendly company & life’s unexpected pleasures.

Color: pale gold
Malt Bill: North American 2-Row, Crisp Pale Ale, Honey malt, Acidulated malt
Hops: Sterling
Other: Freshly ground coriander seed
Starting Extract  11° Plato
Terminal Extract  1.6° Plato
ABV 4.7%
IBU 17.2

Recommended Food Pairings: Roasted white meats (chicken, turkey and pork) sautéed mushrooms and creamy mild cheeses

"Very refreshing. This one could be a winner for those with summer thirsts or long sessions at the dinner table."  Charlie Papazian, "All About Beer," July 2009                             

"Distinctive and creative effort to be applauded."  Charles Finkel of Merchant du Vin, same issue of AAB

Available year ’round in 6-packs and on draft in 1/6 and 1/2 barrel kegs.


Ahh, the session beer…the envy of lunch breaks everywhere. But what truly makes a session beer. Beer Advocate provides us with the answer at http://beeradvocate.com/articles/653

You may have encountered the term session beer before, as in, This would make a fine session beer - a statement usually proclaimed with a sense of nirvana, followed by a subtle smile of reaffirmation. You may have even experienced the feeling of discovering a session beer yourself, when, during the course of a night at the bar, you suddenly come across a particular beer that sticks with you for the rest of the evening.

But what exactly is a "session beer"?

The Drinking Session

A British expat and buddy of ours in California once suggested that a "session" referred to one of the two allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed on shell production workers during World War I. Typically the licensed sessions were 11am-3pm and 7pm-11pm, and apparently continued up until the Liquor Licensing Act 1988 was introduced. Workers would find a beer that they could adequately quaff within these restrictive 4-hour "sessions" that were laid down by the government without getting legless and return to work or not get arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Now he could be full of shite, but we've found some smatterings of info to back this up and it sounds like a fine origin of the term to us.

Sessionable beers of the time might have been a cask-conditioned offering, Mild or Bitter, at 3 to 4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), but no higher. Poured into a UK pint glass (20ozs vs. the US 16oz pint), patrons might have had upwards of 8 pints during a session and still remain coherent, ergo the "session beer." Sounds like a lot of beer, but it actually works out to be about 1 beer per hour if you take into consideration the rising ABV of today's beers.

The Session Beer

Though the term session beer has more or less preserved its meaning over the years, it has yet to be truly defined by anyone. To boot, we get asked a dozen times a week. So let's give it a stab.
session beer

Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish - a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yes, you can drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk.)
Let's use it in a sentence!

"Whoa. This 4.5 percent ABV lager is so crisp, refreshing and drinkable, with just a touch of hops and malty sweetness. I could drink this all day long! Actually, I think I might!" exclaimed Todd. "Sounds like a perfect session beer! Next round is on me!" agreed Jason.
Why does a session beer have to be under 5 percent ABV? The average ABV of the 30,000-odd beers in our database is 5.9 percent, but as you approach the 6 percent mark, we've found that beer drinkers feel the impact of this extra 1 percent quite easily over the course of a drinking session. While body chemistry varies greatly from person to person, 5 percent ABV seems to be optimal for everyone. Remember: the point of a session beer is imbibing socially without getting loaded.

But dont be fooled; just because a beer is lower in ABV doesnt mean that its lower in flavor. All over the world, there are thousands - tens of thousands - of beers being made at 5 percent ABV or lower, in every conceivable style. So lets all raise a glass to session beers, and always remember to ...

Respect Beer.


The Smuttynose Brewing Company
Welcome to the Granite State’s leading craft brewery, located in the historic seaport city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Smuttynose was founded in 1994 by the folks who started the Northampton and Portsmouth Breweries. Our beers are distributed from Maine to Florida and as far west as Wisconsin.

We offer tours of our facility Fridays at 5:30 PM and Saturdays at 11:00 AM. Click here for more information and directions to help you find us.

Thanks for your support,
The Smuttynose Crew


“Through distribution in 19 states and a portfolio full of year-round classics, adored seasonals and highly sought after limited edition bottles, Smutty is one of the most respected east coast breweries offering something for everyone.”     Wine Enthusiast Magazine

“Smuttynose has a well-earned reputation as one of America’s best all around breweries.”      All About Beer Magazine



Wow…who would have thought that a beer containing so little alcohol could be packed with so much flavor. The pour was crisp and clean, producing a nice, thick head. The coloring was golden and inviting. The first sip immediately quenched my thirst. I detected just the slight hint of spice, but not in an overpowering way. I even let it sit for a while, just to see if this was one of those brews that needed to be served ice cold to mask its inadequacies. That said, the brew tasted just as good slightly warm. The lower alcohol meant that I was sharp as a tack after a couple had been downed. Now I don’t usually go for session beers, but this is one exception to the rule. The flavor just keeps coming, and I have to say that I was truly impressed. If you’re looking for something light to enjoy with a sandwich at lunch, please seek this one out. You will not be let down.


10/10 – Excellent Session Beer

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