21st Amendment – Bitter American

One of the biggest buzz words in the craft beer industry right now is “session”.  While I know some of you are really familiar with this word and its use, I’m sure others really have no clue why it’s a big deal.  There is a rather prominent movement right now to create more beers that one would call a session beer.  Not everyone is completely in love with the idea of a session beer.  I, on the other hand, am still trying to figure out where I stand on this issue.  I try to be as open-minded as possible when approaching a new beer style, but there is just some beer that doesn’t always find its way into my heart.  The entire principle behind this one has me wondering if I’ll like it, but I’m willing to give it a try.

The concept behind a session beer essentially relies on a few different ways of thinking about beer.  First of all, it should be something below 5% ABV.  This is for multiple reasons.  It doesn’t get you drunk as fast, which of course means you get to sit down and drink of a bunch of them in one sitting without getting hammered.  The other concept in this newish brewing style is to try to take that low ABV and still make it taste good.  You can have no problem at all finding beers that are low in alcohol.  The more difficult thing to do is to try to find one that has a lot of flavor.  Therefore, it would seem that craft brewers like this new challenge.  Lets do our best to pack good flavor into a beer that’s low in alcohol, which in return, people can drink more of in one sitting.  An interesting new addition to the beer industry.

I’m fairly certain this will be my first beer that is actually being called a sessionable beer.  Yes it does have multiple uses.  This is a beer out of one of my favorite breweries: 21st Amendment.  They are calling this one an extra bitter pale ale.  While it isn’t quite as bitter as an india pale ale, it does have a little more bitterness to it than your standard pale ale.  Interestingly, it was just announced that this one is moving from a special release beer to a standard release beer.   Hopefully it is pretty good  because I would love another excuse to buy some more beer from 21st.

This one pours out a very light yellow orangey color.  Having had so many dark beers lately, I feel like this color is slightly off-putting.  I have to remember that not all good beers are black.  There is an ample fluffy white head that develops on top of the beer.  I was slightly surprised by this, since I didn’t think it would be quite so prevalent.  There is a little light lacing, but it really isn’t too substantial.  A little sticky residue lingers on the side of the glass, and while the beer has really good clarity, I’m surprised I see no carbonation.

The smell is rather light overall.  I was thinking that a beer that prides itself in a low ABV wouldn’t really be too overpowering on the nose.  You do get a lot of nice piney hops, but they are rather muted for sure.  There is a little light floral quality, and you definitely pull out some light grapefruit smells as well.  You can also pull out a very light sweet malt quality as well.  The smell is really crisp overall with some light earthiness to it.

The taste was really surprising.  Like I said before, I’m fairly certain this is the first session beer I’ve had.  I thought I would be really blown away by how much flavor they packed into a beer with low in alcohol.  I, however, really didn’t find myself feeling this way right away.  The beer quickly starts you in with some light citrus flavors.  The subtle hops enter in but never overpower.  They sit back and linger on the palate throughout the tasting.  These hops have some very mellow piney flavor to them.  You also manage to pull the subtle grapefruit flavors as well.  There definitely are some very mellow sweet malts that run throughout.  Even though this beer didn’t blow me away right away, I felt I had to change my perspective as I consumed it, and I really started to like it more as I got further along.  It may just be the result of too many stouts and porters lately.

The mouthfeel is very similar to the taste: subtle.  The carbonation is really relaxed, but it doesn’t manage to become syrupy as a result. It’s all just really mellow.  The flavors are really clean and crisp while leaving a very light bitter aftertaste.

I’m still not really sold on session beer as a style; however, I do enjoy Bitter American.  I don’t really think winter is the best time of year to enjoy a beer of this nature, but I can imagine sitting out on a hot day and really enjoying one of these.  Definitely something to keep in mind.  If your interested in session beer, or if you just want to get a good easy drinking beer, then you should really check this one out.

Teacher Grade: B



  1. Thanks for linking my rant! That chimp is bitter because they launched him involuntarily into space, then plastered his mug on a beer referred to as a session beer. I’d be pissed, too.

    I agree with a B. I like this beer, and I’m glad to hear they are doing it year-round now. But it took me until about the 4th one (not in one sitting) to start appreciating it. The Haybag is still underwhelmed, though, so it may not be a frequent purchase. This may be a blessing in disguise, as it will be very time consuming when I have to place masking tape over every instance of the word “session” on the cans.

    • Yeah, I am interested to try some more, not because I necessarily fell in love with the concept, but because I want to see if there is one out there I like a bit more. I like this one, but I think it will be more of seasonal thing for me.

  2. I think the hubbub over session beer is like Brits complaining that we bastardized the Queen’s English as well. I may have to join your fight, Beerbecue. However, I want to take it to another level and fight the idea that only Brits get to decide how beer is defined. We have many different uses for various words. That and the fact that the English language is an evolving one that shouldn’t be limited by their narrow constraints. I think I have a new purpose for blogging.

    • Glad to have been a part of your new purpose for blogging. I really don’t get to fired up about much of anything. I’m just interested in seeing how session’s new popularity plays out.

    • I support this. The movement needs a catchy motto, like “Beer Pontification Without Representation”. Too chauvinist? Maybe.

  3. Wow, this “session” thing really has started a brush fire hasn’t it.

    First, session is not “newish”, the concept has just developed into the new fad buzz word because the GABF was stupid enough to make “session beers” a recognized style. The term has been around since the 1980s, popularized by CAMERA as any beer under 4.0 ABV.

    Of course the GABF (why they feel the need to screw with things I’ll never know) made it its own style ranging from 4.0-5.1 ABV. Which is hysterical since that means anything at 3.8% can’t be a “Session Beer” WTF? The term session beer should be used as a description of any beer with low alcohol. It should not be a classified style as that just mucks things up.

    Lew Bryson for his Session Beer project and Blog defines American session beer as any beer at or below 4.5% ABV. But then again Lew was the man who also said that IPA is the new pale ale so take that how you will.

    As for Bitter American. I don’t “rate” beers, but if you held a gun to my head a “B” seems fair. Maybe a B-. There are a couple of other 21st Ammendment beers that I liked better.

    • Thanks for informing me a little more on the origins of session beers. I’m hoping that I didn’t enrage you to much with my little brief synopsis of the current state of this “session fad”. I did know it wasn’t a brand new invention, but just something that was making a strong push in the industry right now. I’m not really trying to take a side on whether session beers are good or bad at this moment. I’m always one who wants to have all of the facts, and I need a larger sampling of more examples of it, before I make my judgement. Even then, I doubt my feelings on it will matter all that much. I’m a fan of big bold IPA, DIPA, Porters, and Stouts. So, I am trying to push my normal preferences aside and see this type of beer for what it is. I think my review of Bitter American pretty much does that. I get more mad at people who see something like this and automatically assume it will suck. I had two customers in last night who got all mad and actually made fun of the fact that the bar I work at only serves beer on tap or in can. As if bottles were the only way to drink beer. I just try to keep an open mind to everything.

      I did border on going B- on this one too. I think I was slightly swayed by my love for 21st. Plus I have a shirt for this beer my brother got me before I even tried it.

      • Nope, you didn’t enrage me at all and I hope I didn’t come across that way. I try to “play nice” in the blog world for the most part. Maybe I came off as a little forward because I was excited that I had some meaning full information to add to the conversation. That doesn’t happen often, LOL.

        I salute you for looking for something out side your box. Even if you don’t find anything, I believe the search can only give one a better understanding of what’s out there. You may find it a bit difficult finding a session beer that you like however, as you obviously like big beers. Session beers aren’t going to give you the same hop content of a DIPA as it would seem unbalanced.

        And I hear you about cans. I read in so many places people bashing the increase of craft brewers going to cans. Put good beer in a can, you’ll get good beer out. But some people don’t get it. Glad the bar you work at does.


      • There was one point where I thought you seemed a little angry, but I am glad to have you chime in on the topic for sure. I don’t really get discussions on these issues anywhere else, so I like to know what people with an opinion on it are thinking. So of course, thanks for sharing.

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