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A beer lover's plea for less boozy beer

There are two types of drinking: Drinking to get drunk, and drinking to enjoy flavor. I have certainly done the former (file under: awkward weddings, boring family gatherings and most parties before I turned 23), but now I find myself mostly drinking because I enjoy whatever beer, wine or cocktail I've ordered. That's at the root of my recent conundrum.

My drink of choice usually is craft beer, but lately I've noticed a disturbing problem: A lack of session beer on bar menus. Session beers are what they sound like: Lower-alcohol (5 percent alcohol by volume or below) beers that you could drink multiples of over the course of a few hours without ending up streaking Will Ferrell-style down Division Street.

Exhibit A: Friends and I convened last week at a brewpub to watch a Blackhawks game. Knowing I was in for at least three hours of drinking (and likely some overtime), I scanned the menu for a session beer. Nada. Seriously?

It's the summer. I bike a lot. I'm already losing fluids with all this sweating, er, glistening, and I could use a 5 percent, or better yet, 4 percent beer to sip in the afternoon.

I do give a tip of my cap to the breweries that are making these lower-alcohol beers, and to the bars that serve them. Stiegl Radler grapefruit, Bell's Oarsman ale and other sessionable brews are, sadly, often crowded out by the flashier double IPAs and imperial whatevers that beer bros lose their shit over.

Those styles have their places and I do enjoy them in moderation, but beer is a spectrum. A well-rounded menu, especially at a purported craft beer bar in the summer, should represent multiple styles and cater to the broad range of beer palates out there.

As more Chicagoans dip their toes into the deliciously carbonated waters of craft beer, bars and breweries are at risk of turning them off with alcohol overloads. If you guzzle three 9 percent IPAs thinking that's the same thing as drinking three Miller High Lifes, good luck.

So, bartenders, brewers and beverage managers, consider this my plea for some low-ABV beer love. And fellow session drinkers, make your voices heard, too; one of the reasons IPAs are everywhere is because hopheads are louder than the rest of us. I promise that if your bar devotes just a few taps to a tasty 4 percent beer, I'll order one—maybe even four.

Kate Bernot is RedEye's nightlife reporter. She suggests eggs Benedict and club soda to cure your hangover.


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