Moving Day = Session Beer: Stone Levitation Ale

It's been almost a month since I bought a house. As is typical for me, a chronic procrastinator, I was still packing the night before the move. Well into the night, actually. This beer kept me company; flavorful enough to distract me, mild-mannered enough to not distract me too much, despite the fact that I polished off most of a six-pack all by my lonesome, while wrapping miniature ceramic elephants in newsprint.

Lately, I've become deeply enamored of so-called "session beers," though they seem a bit hard to come by in this market. Lower-alcohol beers perfect for consumption in extended "sessions," these beers are a perfect foil to the extreme ABV examples that seem to rule a certain spectrum of the craft beer market. In a certain sense, they're cut from the same cloth, extreme in their own right. Their aim is simple: pack as much flavor into as little alcohol is possible. While I've certainly seen more extreme examples (Jester King's Le Petit Prince, for example, weighs in at an astonishingly low 2.9 percent ABV, and is an amazingly flavorful beer, considering), this is one of the most immediately enjoyable versions I've come across. Even after I finished packing, I've been enjoying it. Of course, there's always the unpacking ...

Levitation pours a light caramel color, turning from dusky to ruby-tinged at the edges. A creamy, thin cap presents a surprising amount of lacing, with that sort of shimmery, prismatic feeling you get from sitting too close to a CRT TV set. Remember that feeling when you pushed your nose right up against it? Static you could almost taste, painfully cross-eyed from the strain? That's what the lacing looks like.

Only here, instead of the smell of static, you're met with the slightly piney, orange oil-tinted aroma of hops. Aside from a bit of bready malt, that's about it for the nose, but for a vague and general sense of richness.

The first sip presents the beer as a dryly creamy affair, with the hops taking on slightly briny notes to go with the citric aromas. The texture, appropriately enough given the dry malt and brine, reminds me a bit of a mild stout.

Mid-palate caramel and bready malt, though not at all sweet, round things out, before a somewhat significant hop bitterness (this is Stone, after all) banishes them to reset the palate. On further sips, there's some earthiness along with a slightly minerally twang, and a dry, almost medicinal character, rounded out by a toasty cereal duskiness, finishes things off.

The great thing about a beer like this is that it stands on its own. If you handed me a bottle, told me nothing about it, and had me drink, I'd find it enjoyable. This isn't a case of "it's pretty good for a ..." This is a good beer, period. If you really feel the need to assign the qualifications, I'd say, "it's damn good for low alcohol beer." I'm just starting to explore this quadrant of the beer world. What other examples out there do you like? In the meantime, I'm going to crack open another Levitation. Or four.

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