News Something called 'table beer' is becoming very popular

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by bbtkd, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,059) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Member

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  2. zid

    zid Champion (846) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    The author of that article sometimes posts in these forums. There are a couple of things about this article that I really don't agree with:

    1. Comparing Allagash Hoppy Table Beer to seltzer.

    2. That today's table beers tend to be between 2 and 4 percent ABV. (In my experience, while there are some 2%ish beers out there, most seem to be between 4 and 5.)

    3. The title of the article just isn't even in the ballpark of being true.
  3. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Crusader (733) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Kinda sorta. Locally Mystic brewing has had one for quite some time, but they tend to do more Belgian styles than anything else.

    Exhibit A just came out with one, I want to say Notch has done some form of a table beer in the past. While they're not my favorite (table beers in general, not the one's listed above), I do enjoy them. And any flavorful beer that is also low ABV is always welcomed.
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  4. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,504) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    "Table Beer" YAHWDTBTD. (Yet another historically well defined term bites the dust.)
  5. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (810) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I've had a couple of these "types", but maybe we should formalize and document standards for the definitive "Sofa Beer.
  6. zid

    zid Champion (846) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I'm not so sure of the "historically well defined" part. At least not as a fair comparison to what brewers are making today. I'm guessing you're referring to their ABV.

    "Table beer," as a named thing, existed historically in England and Scotland. Along with small beer, family ale, table ale, and dinner ale. It was a tax class rather than what we think of styles today. It could be pale ale, porter, or mild. A brewer even made an "imperial table beer" at one point. Spaten actually brewed something called a Tafelbier (table beer) that was 7% and in champagne bottles. Belgium and France had biere faible (weak beer), petite biere (small beer), and biere table (table beer). Most of everything I'm listing here was low alcohol.

    In my experience, a majority of US craft table beers are modeled after Belgian styles. It's too bad that in our self-proclaimed age of "extreme" brewing, US craft brewers aren't as willing to explore the lower edges of ABV as something "extreme" - most of today's beers called "table beer" have an ABV stat like an AAL.
  7. beernuts

    beernuts Disciple (312) Jan 23, 2014 Virginia
    Beer Trader

    The comments in that article are pretty top-notch. Apparently this is all the fault of millenial women.
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  8. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,504) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    You make my point fairly well.

    Table beer was indeed not a style but a category of ABV. It was well enough defined, as you say, in the U.K. by the laws under which it was taxed. Similarly in Belgium and France it was part of an ABV strength categorization.

    In the examples given in the article it is not part of a well defined ABV categorization except in the loosest sense of High vs. Not High.
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  9. zid

    zid Champion (846) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    Yeah, but when it was no longer a tax category in the UK in the 1800s, brewers were still making "table beers" because of consumer demand. I think bottled "dinner ale" eventually contributed to "table beer" fading away. I honestly have no idea how well defined these things were.
  10. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (517) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Seems like a discussion that @patto1ro might want to chime in on.

    I haven't seen much "table beer" around my area (Philadelphia burbs), but maybe I don't get out enough. Table beer might be a trend, but certainly in it's infancy [in the US]. I don't have any specific knowledge or references of table beer to add, but I'll be following this discussion to educate myself.

    Unfortunately, I don't trust most American brewers to correctly apply a historical term, like table beer, to the beer they produce, instead of just using the term willy-nilly as marketing tool. [e.g. way too many American applications of session, kolsch, festbier, mild, etc.] Although, if what @zid says is correct, table beer definition may cover a very wide range of beer styles, ABV, and ingredients such that specific definitions might be impractical.

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  11. zid

    zid Champion (846) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    Responding to you twice - I was always curious why most craft "table beers" followed Belgian templates over UK ones by default.
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  12. Celtics76

    Celtics76 Defender (690) Sep 5, 2011 Rhode Island

    I personally love the concept. I like the idea of having a light, well-made beer on hand that you can pair with anything. I pretty much consider most lagers as "table" beer. Locally, Narragansett comes to mind.
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    If you took that Narragansett and added an equal amount of water to it, you might have something approaching traditional Table Beer. It was really not made to pair with anything, but made to drink as a source of hydration in the days when the cleanliness and safety of water could not be spoken for.
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  14. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    "Table beer is whatever you (and the brewer) want it to be."

    Probably the worst sentence that I've heard in a beer-related article in a LONG while. It's like saying "saison is whatever you (and the brewer) want it to be".

    That's bullshit. Full stop.

    Categorization is there for a reason. Mostly to inform the consumer of what they are buying. Calling your beer whatever you want to call it leads to bastardization and, more problematically, misinformation. In this day and age, we should be tightening up historical and stylistic definitions and getting rid of much of the rumors and old wives tales that are out there, because they're just plain wrong. This includes the want of many breweries to market a beer using a name (like IPA, for instance) that just isn't reflective of what the beverage in the container actually is. That's dishonest.
  15. zekerey

    zekerey Initiate (123) Feb 16, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Tired Hands Fermentaria currently has a beer on tap called "Tabel Bier" (at 3.3% ABV) that they label as follows:

    "Tabel Bier:
    Tabel Saison 3.3% Brewed with Pilsner malt and raw wheat, and hopped with ample helpings of German grown Saaz and Mandarina Bavaria. Primary fermented in our of our large oak foudres with our Magickal saison yeast. Raw, simple, and meant for drinking."
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  16. ElijahSF

    ElijahSF Aspirant (242) Aug 30, 2013 California
    Beer Trader

    Fieldwork Brewing brewed one.

    "Hugo our brewery puppy is a spry little five month old named after Hugo Lloris the captain of Les Bleus, that has energy to no end. His namesake is our French Table Beer, a 4.8% ABV Table Beer using all French Malts, yeast, and hops. French Pilsner malt gives Hugo a nice grainy malt character that shines through this small beer much like your favorite German lager. Hops imported from France put off nice and subtle notes of orange blossom, fresh cut grass, and lemon zest. Finally our French Saison yeast strain dries the beer out to a degree that makes it incredibly dry, refreshing, and highly crushable; making this beer perfect for a dinner pairing or for drinking all day outside."
  17. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,164) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    If I'm to take the initial description in the article (>1%, slightly carbonated, liquid bread, sweet) as the standard bearer, than what he described is pretty much a Kvass, which is still a thing and doesn't need further labeling. If that we're merely an example of times gone, than I don't necessarily understand the need to define anything today as a table beer as style, but rather use the term table beer as an adjective that could include several styles, so long as they fit into a category of lighter beers - "This Saison has a light body, hints of pear and pepper, and would serve as a great table beer for your salad".

    Nah, that sounds stupid as hell too.
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  18. Karibourgeois

    Karibourgeois Poo-Bah (1,782) Jul 28, 2013 Texas
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Jester King has had one of these for a few years, Le Petit Prince. I think its around 3% or so and is a good basic, goes well w/ just about anything beer. Not earthy shatteringly good, but quaffable.
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  19. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Congratulations! They've brewed a saison, which, at least in this case, is decidely NOT a table beer.
  20. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member


    However, I don't think anyone was suggesting that "table beer" become a style. Rather, that those beers labeled "table beer", were, in fact, table beers and not some 5% saison or some damned thing.
  21. ElijahSF

    ElijahSF Aspirant (242) Aug 30, 2013 California
    Beer Trader

  22. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I really didn't mean to come off dick-ish with that comment, but I'm kind of a nomenclature freak, so I realize that I might have. Doesn't take anything away from the quality of the beer, just doesn't help anyone understand what a table beer is/was supposed to be.
  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,575) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,575) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    FWIW, the only Table Beer style in the Brewers Association style guidelines is Belgian - Style Table Beer:

    “Belgian – Style Table Beer

    Belgian - Style Table Beers are gold to black, with caramel color sometimes added to adjust color.

    Spices (such as orange and lemon peel, as well as coriander) may be added for barely perceptible aroma, but this is not common.

    Diacetyl aroma should not be perceived. Hop aroma is not perceived to very low.

    Mild malt character could be evident. These beers may contain malted barley, wheat and rye, as well as unmalted wheat, rye, oats and corn. Hop flavor is very low to low. Hop bitterness is very low to low.

    Spices (such as orange and lemon peel, as well as coriander) may be added in amounts barely perceptible for flavor, but this is not common. Diacetyl flavor should not be perceived. Traditional versions do not use artificial sweeteners nor are they excessively sweet. More modern versions of this beer can incorporate sweeteners such as sugar and saccharine added post fermentation to sweeten the palate and add to perception of smoothness.

    The mouth feel is light to moderate, though higher than one might anticipate, usually because of unfermented sugars/malt sugars. Body is light with relatively low carbonation and aftertaste.

    Competition directors may choose to break out subcategories of Traditional and Modern.”

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  25. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (517) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Does the historical definition of "Table Beer" originate from before modern knowledge of bacteria, viruses, and disease when improved sanitation/safety of drinking beer (boiling) over water was the issue? If so, then the historical definition Table Beer could be quite broad. Presumably the ingredients to make and the quality of the beer medieval-era families could afford and/or prefer to put on their table could vary significantly.
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  26. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    The concept of "Table Beer" invokes peasantry, in the vein of field workers, miners, and lower clergy. The stronger beers were reserved for special occasions, high holidays, or for the table of nobility or of the abbot, which is still seen in many Trappist designations today.
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  27. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (810) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Reading old English stuff like Boswell and many others, taking the bucket down to the pub for a pail of ale, likely not pale, is very commonplace.
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  28. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (810) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    You could freshen that up to say that it goes well with radishes, rhubarb, and/or rutabaga. Or with white bread.
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  29. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,164) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Great, now I've got a killer rutabaga craving. Looks like I'm Saison shopping tonight!
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  30. mig100

    mig100 Savant (914) Aug 3, 2014 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Petit Prince ftw
  31. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (517) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I was being a little indirect, so understandably so was your reply. You self-describe yourself as nomenclature freak and said strongly that some of the beers above are not table beers. However, you haven't really offered a clear definition of what a table beer is, other than it is not a 5% saison and invokes medieval peasantry/working class. If you have a precise definition with supporting information, I'd like to see it, because as I said above, I don't know and I'm here to learn.

    What I'm suggesting (but admittedly don't have proof) is if a word originates from 150+ years ago and spans different regions and cultures, then an exact definition might be elusive for good reason; or may require qualifiers to define place and/or time to be of any practical use.

    So far, @JackHorzempa is the only person to provide a clear definition of a Belgian-Style Table Beer from the Brewer's Association. I'm sure the definition is good enough for the Brewer's Association to create another style they can hand out yet another medal at a festival, but I find their definition lacking for several reasons:
    • Vague characteristics
    • Specific to Belgian styles, but it seems like other regions had table beers too (or maybe not?)
    • No supporting historical context.
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  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,575) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Randy (@Ranbot), permit me make things even more confusing.

    At a number of National Homebrewers Conferences I have attended multiple presentations on Brewing in Colonial America. Those presenters used the terminology of “small beer” to describe low alcohol beer that was brewed in Colonial America. This beverage would be consumed in fairly large quantities throughout the day; it was ‘better’ than drinking local water (e.g., surface water or well water that may come in contact with sewage).

    Here is a link to an AHA write-up on small beer:

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  33. rronin

    rronin Aspirant (208) Jul 4, 2005 Washington

    Sounds good to me! I love to roast root veggies in the fall for my dinner, with a nice flagon of a traditionally brewed beer to wash it down!
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  34. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (810) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Me too!
  35. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (692) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I like the Allagash version I have tried. For the price I don't see the value though so it's not a repeat beer even though it is a nice tasting beer.

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  36. zid

    zid Champion (846) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I'm surprised by their color description including black. When have you had a black "Belgian" table beer?
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  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,575) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    Chris, you are asking the wrong person here. I have very limited experience with drinking Table beers - basically the Tabel Biers of Tired Hands.

    Hopefully some other BA has an answer for you here.

    zid likes this.
  38. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Poo-Bah (2,334) May 21, 2008 Colorado
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    This reference adds a table with ranges for key attributes. Learned something new reading through all these posts as I had always thought it was (exclusively?) a Belgian thing. In any event, looks like a the net will spread pretty wide for the term.
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  39. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Savant (957) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I do not have a citation, no. A cursory search does not reveal much, but I'll continue looking, as I am here to learn as well.

    From my reading, "Table Beer" doesn't invoke a specific style of beer, but a general grouping of beers based on ABV that were consumed in a certain fashion.

    As do I, but that is the nature of things like this, as they do not fit narrow guidelines because they are not meant to be pigeon-holed.
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  40. Donco

    Donco Devotee (496) Aug 12, 2013 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I'd prefer to "table" this discussion....:beer:
    Squire likes this.