Summer of session beers

From curb side pick-up and delivery to temporary closures, we’ve seen a lot of changes to how breweries sell beer in Nova Scotia. Not having a regular work week anymore makes it all too easy to reach for that late afternoon weekday beer. Thankfully we’re shifting into summer season, which means the return of session beers.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) generally defines session as a beer in any style that’s 4% ABV or under, but plenty of breweries call anything 5% or lower a session. The beer should still taste like the style it’s named for, for example, a session IPA should have a good balance of hops to malt to avoid one flavour overpowering the other.

Here are six to try now (and how to buy them in these strange times):

Azacca Session India Pale Ale
Propeller Brewing Co.
Halifax, N.S.
Named for the Haitian god of agriculture, the Azacca hop is known for mango, pineapple, and citrus flavours. Pair that with El Dorado’s tropical flavours and bitterness, and Citra’s smooth flora and citrus aromas and you have the makings of a light but juicy IPA. Find it in tall cans at all three Prop Shops (which you can now pop into) or order home delivery online (free over $65 within much of HRM, $5 for smaller orders). Update: short cans will be back in stock at the Prop stores on Saturday, and in the NSLC in early June.

2 Crows Brewing
Halifax, N.S.
Session beers often get a bad rep for being so light on malt that they come across tasteless. That’s not a worry here. 2 Crows added warmed honey after the boil but before the beer was pumped into one of the brewery’s foedres, then added honey comb, plus an extra dose of honey before packaging. Despite the high honey content, this beer isn’t cloyingly sweet, and the foedre and oak barrels it spent time in deepened the flavour to make the honey more of an add on than the star of the show. It’s dry, funky, and will change the way you look at low ABV beer. Find it at the brewery (which you can now enter) or order home delivery online (free home delivery in HRM over $50, over $75 for the rest of N.S).

Dusk (schwarzbier)
Tatamagouche Brewing
Tatamagouche, N.S.
I haven’t tired this offering yet, but given my love of a schwarzbier, I see it in my next beer order. The style is a dark lager, usually with hints of coffee and or chocolate. Dusk promises coffee and light caramel, mild bitterness, and a dry finish. Order it online for home delivery across the country (free shipping on Maritime orders above $95, most other provinces over $150) or pick up at the brewery 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (M–Sat.), 12 p.m.–5 p.m. (Sunday).

North Brewing Co.
Cole Harbour, N.S.
The beer formerly known at “We Do Helium” is back. Made with flaked corn and a generous lemon and lime zest additions, it packs a fresh zing that makes it perfect for summer. I’m a big malt fan, so I didn’t expect to like this beer as much as I do, but the brightness of the citrus zest makes it a thirst quenching option for a day in the backyard. Order contactless pick-up at the brewery, or free home delivery in HRM on orders over $30.

Pink Boots Blend
Breton Brewing Co.
Coxheath, N.S.
The ladies of Breton brewed this IPA to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) but it’s freshly released this week. It’s crisp but has more body and mouthfeel than you’d expect from a session ale. The hop combination is Azacca, El Dorado, Idaho Gem, and Loral, bringing the beer tropical, citrus and piney aromatic qualities. Yakima Chief Hops staff and Pink Boots Society members develop the proprietary hop blend annually, and proceeds from the hop sales benefit thePink Boots Society scholarship fund. Free next day home delivery on orders of 12 cans or more, $10 charge for smaller orders.

Stillwell Brewing Co.
Halifax, N.S.
My original plan was to only include beer under 5%, but as I finished writing this post I knew I couldn’t leave Kompakt out. It’s my favourite beer launched during COVID times. This Kölsch-style ale is Stillwell’s first canned beer. Lightly bitter and soft as a feather, this beer was lagered for two months before canning. Hops bring a lot of people to craft beer, so lagers are often the last thing they try. Don’t make that mistake. This beer is refreshing and crisp, and promises to convert you to the lager camp. Order online for free next-day delivery on orders over $30, or add one to your next Stillwell food order.

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