SMaSH beers (The Session #125) round-up

Welcome to the round-up post for the The Session #125 where our topic was SMaSH beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

I believe that this is everyone but if I have missed you, I apologize, and ask that you comment here or another place to let me know and I will update the post.

These are not in any particular order, just a result of trying to track all of my potential sources for entries.

Without further ado,

My friend, Ryan Sharp, one of the principals involved in Central Oregon Beer Week and the SMaSH Fest, commented on my announcement post with some stats on the 22 SMaSH beers available at this year’s fest.

qq made a comment as entry, or so I am taking it. While he does see a role for SMaSH beers, he also “see[s] the role of a brewer as giving pleasure to their customers, not setting them homework. So keep SMaSH in the pilot plant and in the homebrew world, and give us complex multi-varietal beers in the pub.”

DaveS, of Brewing In A Bedsitter, “… can’t ever remember having seen a commercial beer that made a virtue of its single-maltedness.” He is also looking for anyone having recipes with “a basic version, which would be reliable, simple and bordering on bland, but then a series of variations ….” Let him know if you do.

Andy Farke at Andy’s Brewing Blog. Welcome to a first-time participant! Andy thought they were a homebrew educational tool/technical gimmick until he began to brew Bohemian Pilsners.

Mike Stein at Lost Lagers provides most excellent answers to my questions; answers that provide a fair bit of historical context. Thank you, Lost Lagers!

By the way, my definition of SMaSH beer—without any other restrictions negotiated, in advance—means one malt, one variety of hops. Anything else, fruit, barrel-aging, coffee, wild yeasts or bacteria is an attempt at more character but does not defy the definition and thus is OK. Am I going to rules lawyer about all hops being of the same type (pellet, whole, cry, …) and batch, year, etc.? No. But I would/will be using the exact same hops across each of my individual SMaSH beers.

Derek Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner writes:

“In the Bay Area, it’s a good bet we’ll start seeing SMaSH brews with the opening of the Admiral Maltings, an artisanal floor malting house which is set to open mid-summer.  I’m pretty enthusiastic about Bay Area brewers getting their hands on California grown malt playing around with it. As brewers learn how these new malts interact with hops, they’ll likely release SMaSH beers in the Bay Area, since there is a logic to starting with simplified SMaSH brews before moving on to more full blown, multi-dimensional efforts.”

I am excited for this kind of thing too. By the way, most of Mecca Grade Estate Malt from Madras in Central Oregon is sold in S. California; that is my understanding from a podcast I just listened to. But I take your point re California-grown.

Andreas Krennmair at Daft Eejit Brewing provides another historical take with the added point that historical examples weren’t intentionally SMaSH beers.

Gail Ann Williams at Beer By BART. In which a local brewer is interviewed and turns out to be a fan of SMaSH beers, both for brewers and consumers.

“This single-minded approach is not going away at Black Sands.  “It’s by far the most important thing we do,” Cole said. “Our Kölsch is a SMaSH – we always have a SMaSH on draft, no matter what.””

Thank you for this angle, Gail Ann.

Jack Perdue at Deep Beer wondered if I was joking ….

Mark at Kaedrin Beer Blog could see pitting several head-to-head in a comparative tasting.

Boak & Bailey, in the midst of moving, were “going to give this a miss” but then realized a few beers they have had have probably been SMaSH beers. They go on to wonder about other “Stealth SMaSH are out there in UK pubs?”

Jon Abernathy, of The Brew Site, is:

” … a fan of the SMaSH beer, both in concept and most of the time in execution, and I would love to see more brewers offering them up—or if they already do, for instance with a pilsner, highlight them as such, because I would seek them out. ….”

Jon hasn’t brewed a SMaSH beer yet but now seems on the hook to do so. Mission accomplished! Kidding, Jon. Brew what you want, brother.

Mark at By the Barrel. Me. I’m all over the place, as usual. While I agree that SMaSH beers mostly serve as a brewer’s educational tool, I still would appreciate a few more well-executed commercial examples for consumer education.

Wrap-up

That is the end of this month’s The Session #125. Thank you all for participating. I enjoyed and value your thoughts and opinions.

Next is Session #126

Session #126 is Friday, August 4th and will be hosted by Gail Ann Williams at Beer By Bart on Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist.

Please participate, if you are able.

SMaSH beers (The Session #125)

This month (July 2017), I am hosting The Session #125 on the topic of SmaSH beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This is my post on the topic, along with an initial recap of what I said in my announcement post.

Recap of Announcement

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago [May 27th]. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

  • Mecca Grade Estate Malt Lamonta pale malt
  • Sterling, 2016 whole flower, hops
  • Imperial Yeast A01 House yeast

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
  • I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.”

My thoughts (at the moment) on SMaSH beers

As to my SMaSH pale ale, it is happily well into fermentation. I brewed it on 2 July and it got off to a vigorous fermentation, which has now slowed down a good bit. I intend to give it plenty of time for secondary and cleanup of diacetyl, etc. Sadly, it will not be ready for this post but no doubt I will post about it closer to the solar eclipse [see below].

This beer serves two purposes for me. Or perhaps one purpose with lots of extra meaning attached. Our home(brewery) is called Starshine Brewery, based on pet names the wife and I have for each other. Thus, the beer names will be mostly, if not entirely, celestially and astronomically-related.

The timing of the eclipse just worked out for me and my first homebrew batch. I needed to make a SMaSH beer to get a good handle on what I taste/smell in Mecca Grade Lamonta pale ale malt and on how it comes across on my system as I bought a 50-lb. bag of it back in April.

It is an all-Oregon beer, as best as I could do and within my “definition.” I would have preferred to be a bit stricter but I got what I got.

My semi-American SMaSH pale ale is named Path of Totality as the path of totality of the 2017 solar eclipse will be passing directly over Central Oregon. My Mecca Grade malt was grown and malted right under the path. [They are, in fact, hosting a big party on their property which I truly wish I was attending. But we are not campers and have decided trying to travel anywhere that weekend just adds us to the other a-holes clogging up the streets.] The water and yeast come a bit outside of the path, on either side. And the hops were the best I could do on a first go but are, at a minimum, OSU/USDA hops.

I was after Santiam hops as the Santiam Pass will also be under the path of totality but could only get 2015 (or older) pellets. I wanted 2016 harvest and wanted whole cones for this so ended up switching to Sterling, which I do not really know. It got chosen as I am not really a fan of Cascades, Centennial, and Chinook as the more famous OSU/USDA hops.

Sterling: “… aroma and oil composition very similar to Saazer (USDA 21077) and other Saazer clones. Pleasant continental aroma; suitable for replacing Saazer hops in brewery blends.”

Might be a strange hop for a pale ale but I wanted something I could ID and not be in the way of the malt flavor and aroma. Even if I decide I love these hops, I was warned when I bought them that they are rapidly being replaced. I did look into it and, yes, production has been minimal for a while now and is decreasing; something like <1% of hop acreage.

They were also probably grown in Washington, not Oregon, but my local Central Oregon hop growing friends only had Cascades and such on hand, in pellets, from last year. I will make another all-Oregon pale and source it completely from Central Oregon, except for the yeast and, technically, if I used Wyeast yeast then I could call it all Central Oregon. So maybe I will. I have several hop growing friends here so will get some whole flowers this year. I am thinking some (CO)-East Kent Goldings from Tumalo Hops, but we will see who has what that isn’t Cascades or Centennial.

As to my trendy question, my friend, Ryan Sharp, one of the folks who puts on Central Oregon Beer Week commented regarding my “can they be a thing” question with this info from the SmaSH Fest:

“22 beers this year.

3 of them lacto sours (and one using a wild sacc strain).

1 beer had fruit added (mangosteen).

16 different hop varieties represented, including 2 experimental varieties.

4 beers showcased Mecca Grade’s local malt.

Styles represented by brewer description: Fruited sour, Berlinerweisse, Dry Hopped Sour, Pale Ale Extra Pale Ale, IPA, IIPA, Hoppy Wit, Hoppy Lager, Vienna Lager, Pilsner, Blonde, Rauchbier.”

Based on the strength of current trends such as “IPA forever,” saisons, sours, barrel-aged beers and any other actually hot sections of the market, I do not believe that they are trendy. I am not sure I want them to be trendy either but I would love to see a lot more of them, especially commercially available.

Yes, there were soured and fruited versions available at SMaSH Fest but those are trends in themselves and, yes, perhaps I contradict myself from above but I believe it is actually a more thought out answer than my off-the-cuff jest.

I would love to see more commercial breweries producing them and touting them, though. Especially with the rise of craft malting—Mecca Grade is just one of many around the country—I think this would be a useful thing. If you are paying a premium for your malt then you ought be working at convincing yourself and your customers that the cost is worth it. What flavors and aromas is that malt bringing to your beers? Or the more basic (but misguided) question, does malt contribute to beer flavor or aroma? [Hard to believe but I have seen and heard this explicitly asked. It is our current focus on hops that has led to such ridiculousness.]

On top of the truly large and emerging issue of malt contributions to flavor and aroma, there is the question of bittering, flavoring and aroma provided by individual hop varieties and how they are used. We have new varieties with new and different flavors and aromas, and we have vastly different ways of using them versus mostly as kettle/bittering hops, thus some of that focus is certainly called for but not at the expense of applying the same kind of interest to barley and malt.

I believe that a well-produced series of SMaSH beers could go a long way to helping consumers understand these agricultural products and the ways in which brewers are using them. This assumes a brewery that feels consumer education is a part of their mission versus simply selling as much beer as they can. I am pretty sure that is not always the case though.

As for purpose, I think that SMaSH beers primarily serve as education, for both the brewer and the consumer. What do your ingredients and processes add? Reducing ingredients to a minimum is a great way to control the amount of variables.

I feel that they, currently anyway, fill a niche in style space for me both as a fledgling homebrewer and as an interested consumer. A brewery that helps to educate me is going to get a lot of extra love and goodwill from me. I assume that there are others who feel the same but no idea how prevalent this attitude might be.

As for are they a “style,” for me, I would say no. I consider them a sub-sub-style, if you will. Or more accurately, a “give me a box to brew within” constraint on brewing a style of beer; that is, you choose to work within certain limit while still aiming for a tasty beer in its own right within a specific style or sub-style.

I have had several excellent SMaSH beers. Perhaps my favorite was a SMaSH American pale ale made by Mazama Brewing in Corvallis, OR in 2015 with an early batch of Mecca Grade’s malt and Crosby Hop Farm Centennial fresh hops. We got lucky and were in Corvallis for the release of this, which included talks by Dr. Pat Hayes, OSU’s barley breeder, on the origins of Full Pint (variety) barley and by the Seth Klann of Mecca Grade on their experiences growing and micro-malting it. Perhaps, as stated above, the educational and experiential component added immensely to the experience and to the beer—there has been a lot of talk online lately of the experience versus the beer itself and I come down (almost) fully on the experience side, assuming nothing is off in the beer itself. But this was a delicious American fresh hop pale ale, one which I would be happy to drink repeatedly and routinely. Deschutes has also made several SMaSH beers with Mecca Grade malts, including a saison that was quite good and excellent in its own right.

Based on my friend Ryan’s comment, there were many styles of single malt, singe hop beers made for SMaSH Fest. Based on my own (limited) experiences I would say that pale ale, saison, Pilsner, light(-colored) lagers and golden ales are the styles that have the best potential for making a great SMaSH beer. Next in potential, I would add IPA and Vienna Lager. After that I expect it to be a total crapshoot. I see an I/DIPA in the list but I would want at least a touch of some specialty malts in my I/DIPA although I imagine many IPA lovers could appreciate one done well. I am not claiming that no other styles would work; judgment is fully reserved on those.

As to do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers, I would have to say “Yes.” I think they can serve as a very valuable component of educating drinkers. What exactly do the individual ingredients taste like? Do I like it? Do I like it on its own or is it better as part of a mélange? Am I happy (possibly) paying a premium for a beer made with a craft malted malt or one of the trendy, thus in high demand and higher-priced, hops?

Personally, I am not a fan of most of the trendy new hops. Many of them have more thiols and bless the hearts of people who get berry and whatever else flavor and aroma they are sold on as providing. I just (OK, mainly) get allium from them; garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, leek, …. Pretty much one of the last things I want in beer aroma and/or flavor. I have had some IPAs and DIPAs with them and despite the aroma or flavor I quite enjoyed them. But. That note was always present and I always wanted it gone. The beers would have been exquisitely improved without that damned allium note, in my opinion. If you like them, more power to you. No grudges from me. Non-trendy hops are cheaper anyway and easier to source often.

That covers much of my thoughts on SMaSH beers, as of now. I am truly interested in what the rest of you have to say and look forward to doing the round-up over the next few days.

Again, to contribute:

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

Today (Friday 7 July) or the next day or two, you may comment on this post or the previous one and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @ gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or three of the first Friday (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

The links are already rolling in.

Cheers!

Announcing The Session #125 SMaSH Beers

The Session #125: SMaSH Beers

The next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, on 7 July 2017, will be hosted here. This is #125 and the topic is SMaSH (single malt, single hop) beers.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Our local, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, happened two weekends ago. Sadly, I missed it this year due to a bout of illness. When considering whether I was going to make it or not, I jokingly asked myself if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; I have not seen them yet though.

I will hopefully have brewed my first batch of beer—ignoring that attempt in Belgium in the early 1980s—between this announcement and The Session itself and, wait for it, that beer will be a SMaSH beer. It will be an all-Oregon, not too hoppy American pale, if anything.

So, at the moment, at least, it appears I think they have some value.

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

  • Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
  • What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
  • Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
  • Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
  • Do you brew them?
  • Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
  • Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?

I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.

Resources

Some resources–mostly brewing-focused, sorry–about single malt and single hop beers:

Brewing

Keeping it Simple with SMaSH Brewing [AHA]

Single-Malt Brewing [All About Beer]

Brew Your Own 20/4 Jul/Aug 2014 Single Malt and Single Hop 55-64

Zymurgy 40/2 Mar/Apr 2017 Uncommon Taste of Place SMaSH recipe 35

Style Guidelines

Neither BJCP 2015, NHC 2017, Brewers Association 2017, World Beer Cup 2016, or GABF 2017 have anything on them based on searches for “smash” and “single malt.”

Event

This looks like an interesting set of events and I wish more breweries did something similar:

SMASH Vertical Tasting Event

For General Beer Drinker (non-brewer)

I did try to find anything specifically directed more to the drinker/general consumer rather than the brewer but I could not find any. I would be interested in anything along that vein any of you have seen.

For instance, neither Mosher Tasting Beer, 2nd ed. or Alworth, The Beer Bible or Oliver, ed., The Oxford Companion to Beer have anything on SMaSH beer, although single-hopped does make an appearance in some of these.

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 7 July, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (July 7th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

The Session 109 Roundup: Porter

Thank you all for your participation in this month’s Session! The roundup follows, and while I hope I got them all if I somehow managed to overlook yours PLEASE do leave a comment below and I will correct the oversight immediately.

Your contributions

Juan Fajardo of Beer 511 (Juan’s Beer Blog) was first with his post, “The Session #109: Porter.” Having “settled pretty clearly on saisons, “farmhouse” ales, and sours. porter holds some strong and dear associations” for Juan. We learn about his journey into homebrewing, porters, and of a couple porters from Lima, Peru.

John Duffy at The Beer Nut went “Back to the source.” We learn about two versions of porter brewed for Marks & Spencer by Meantime, London Porter, and Greenwich Winter Porter with cinnamon and allspice. “Simple is best where porter is concerned. In 1750 and today.” Can’t say I disagree.

Gary Gillman’s Beer et seq. “The Session – What Is Porter?” provides a brief history lesson on the differences between porter and stout, and why it is all porter in the end. There are times and reasons to differentiate but this is certainly my thinking.

Jessica Boak  & Ray Bailey at their eponymous Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog dash off “Session #109: Porter” where they tell us “It is like drinking a Dickens novel.” Hear! Hear! Boak & Bailey spit out some rapid fire thoughts on porter and remind us that they have done some previous writing on the topic. Think if it as background material for this post, if you will.

By the way, have you read their book Brew Britannia? You should consider their Gambrinus Waltz also but I have so far failed to review it. Consider this a hearty recommendation. [Amazon US | Amazon UK]

Alistair Reece at Fuggled in “#TheSession – Head East Young Man” takes a look eastward and provides a story of Baltic Porter.

Sean Inman of Beer Search Party lets us know in “The Session # 109 – “Porter”” that he is clearly not a fan of porter with it being “…,  well, boring and solid” but seeing as this is an election year in the US he does bring in several political references. Who said beer and politics can’t mix?

By the Barrel; or, Bend Beer Librarian, “Porter (The Session #109),” in which I, your host, waffle on about a local cherry Baltic porter and The Brewers’ Project beers (currently) available from Guinness.

Thomas Cizauskas of Yours for Good Fermentables reminds us in his “In Praise of Porter. (The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.)” that “Modifiers heaped upon modifiers yield differences of kind not degree.” Be “honest and respectful” and call your Imperial chocolate coffee peanut butter porter something besides porter. I fully agree. We also learn about his homebrewing and professional brewing background that led to this respect for porter.

Kate Bernot at Draft Magazine writes an ode to porter after first almost dismissing them as a topic in her “We should all swipe right on porters” post.

Looke at Likely Moose “The session – Porter” could only find one in his British supermarket, Guinness West Indies Porter, which was “nice,” but ends with a question, “My question, are dark beers really just for beer geeks because the powers that be think most people dont want to drink it.” I certainly hope not.

Derrick Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner is in search of porter in his post, “The Session #109: In search of Porter.” Derrick has to work at finding a few porters among the plethora of other choices, whether at his local bottle shop, the supermarket, or at local bars. He succeeds but the numbers are not heartening to us fans of the style.

[Despite what I said above about agreeing with Thomas that too many modifiers/ications takes one away from the style itself I would love to try that Heretic Chocolate Hazelnut Porter. Maybe I’d decide it had gone beyond porter but was tasty nonetheless. That said, getting nuts right in beer is, in my opinion, almost impossible. Peanuts, “Blergh!,” but I have had one or two well-executed hazelnut beers.]

Jay Brooks of Brookston Beer Bulletin gives us “Session #109: Loving Porter.” Please tell me that you are aware of Jay Brooks’ more recent undertaking, Typology Tuesday! It takes place on the last Tuesday of the month, and addresses where he prefers that The Session itself had stayed centered. As he says, “So I want to make more of a concerted effort to explore the nature of different kinds of beers, how they can, or should, be organized, divided, dissected and shuffled around, preferably with one in my hand.” There’s a tad bit more to it if you need a better explanation but see that Typology Tuesday page. In January we did Barley Wine; February was Bock [Sadly I was unable to find one and was unable to participate.]; March will be Irish-Style Dry Stout, for which I have already secured a couple; and April will be Saison. Please consider joining Jay and others and let’s get this look at styles off the ground and running.

Why did I write all of this? Well, as one of my suggestions was to “Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages,” he did just that for Robust Porter. Check it out.

A Good Beer Blog, “Session 109: Porter And Our Shared Georgian Culture,” is written by Alan McLeod and brings us an image “from the commonplace book of William Maud, evidently of Wetherby, York, England, b. 1787 who served as a customs official in Great Britain; he was employed at the excise office in Leeds in 1830.” It includes recipes for both strong and common porter. As he writes, “Porter is Georgian Britain’s gift to us all. It comes in many forms.”

Quite possibly my favorite contribution from Georgian Britain.

Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site in “The Session #109: Porter” drinks a classic local [Bend, Oregon] porter, the flagship of what I often think of as our “little local brewery” [due to the pub] despite the fact that they are squarely in the top 7 or so craft breweries in America, along with a much newer, adjectified, er, flavored, porter from one of our newest local breweries that really has people talking.

Sorry about the timing regarding “Porter,” Jon and Sherri. But coincidence, serendipity, outright strange things cropping up seems to be some kind of metaphor or description of my life.

At my blog, By the Barrel; or, Bend Beer Librarian, my wife, Sara Thompson contributes “The Session: Lovely Time Warp” in which she expounds on the Bend Brewing Lovely Cherry Baltic Porters we shared and a lesson she learned regarding beer awards.

** Updated submission 08 March 2016 **

“The Session #109: Porter” by Dan at Community Beer Works in which we learn that he is just as confused as many others as to what exactly a porter is; “For me, stouts, porters and brown ales are sort of like a pie graph mixed with a venn diagram that then gets beer spilled on it ….” Sounds about right to me.

Some of us might want to pull that apart a bit but I actually kind of love that metaphor for the (few) non-pedantic moments in life.

Final comments

All this talk of porter and flavored porters, whether for or against, put the wife and I in mind of a few of ours that need drinking. We settled on our last Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout released in April 2015. It is a flavored with Oregon Hazelnuts, star anise, and cocoa nibs and it is fermented with ale yeast shot into space. Seriously.

Photo of a bottle, box, bottle cap and glass of Ninkasi Ground Control Imperial Stout

I think this is one of the best nut-infused beers that I have ever had but nonetheless did not want to risk the hazelnut going rancid. I first had it less than a week after it was released in the tasting room of the brewery in Eugene, Oregon (April 2015). It was particularly exquisite 2 1/2 months later. From there it has tapered off, in my opinion, but it is still quite tasty. It will never be my favorite Imperial stout, as I much prefer them “simple” as John said and “honest and respectful” as Thomas said. It was quite good with a bit of homemade chocolate chip cookie, which brought out a really nice rum barrel-aged quality that it doesn’t actually have. Yum.

Thank you all for your contributions to this month’s Session and I hope we can find room to appreciate one another’s viewpoints whether or not we agree.

Porter (The Session #109)

This is my entry for the 109th Session, which I am in fact hosting, on the topic of porter. My post will cover some tasting notes of several different porters. We drank a couple vintages of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter and I had three different porters from the Guinness boxed set, The Brewer’s Project.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

See here at Brookston Beer Bulletin for an intro to The Sessions.

Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic

On Sunday, 28 February 2016, the wife and I compared a 2013 and a 2016 bottling of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic. BBC is the third oldest brewery in Central Oregon and the second oldest in Bend proper. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2015 on my birthday, which means they are now over 21.

I respect the hell out of Lovely but it is one of my wife’s favorites, not mine (because of sour cherries). The label states that it is an Imperial porter aged on Montmorency cherries but makes no mention of yeast used. Is it truly a Baltic? Who knows? And it would depend on whose style guidelines you used anyway.

We had a bottle we acquired in October 2013 and another we just got on 13 February during Zwickelmania at the brewery. We asked the brewer’s wife, Jen, about the origins and she asked Ian (the brewer) and they confirmed it was bottled this year, which I assume means it was actually brewed sometime in 2015.

This is a beer that was originally brewed by Tonya Cornett before her departure for 10 Barrel. See this post at New School Beer for a profile of her from shortly after her departure.

For a profile of current head brewer, Ian Larkin, see “Bend Brewing anniversary and profile of Head Brewer Ian Larkin” at The Brew Site.

See Jon Abernathy’s post, “Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter,” also at The Brew Site, to read one of the earliest reviews of this beer and learn a bit about its bottling history.

We compared them head-to-head and tasted them with assorted cheeses, chocolate, and roasted sweet potatoes, apples and pecans.

Two photos of a glass and a bottle each of 2013 and 2016 Lovely.

2013 on left; 2016 on right. artist Ken Knish of Sisters; styled realism of the 1940-60s. http://www.knish-artwork.com/

They were definitely different beers but clearly also the same beer. The wife, who will be writing her own [guest] post, definitely preferred the 2016 bottling. I guess that means we best drink the other 2013 and the two 2014s and the other “random” one we found in our refrigerator.

For the record, I am not the biggest fan of sour cherries or even cherries, period, although I like the sweeter cherries more. But considering I am not a huge fan that then makes them an ingredient that, while I agree they can work in beer, I am not usually a fan of in beer. Nonetheless, this is a well-executed, award winning, beer.

Awards:

  • 2013 GABF Gold Medal in Aged Beer
  • 2012 GABF Bronze Medal in Aged Beer

I wrote a lot of notes on both of these beers but I just don’t know …

I kept waffling between them depending on temperature of the beer as it varied from cold to warm (and back to cold … as we refilled our small snifters) and as paired with different foods. I started out preferring the 2013 and at the end of the night just when I thought I was preferring the 2016 I decided to drink the rest of it off so I could finish with the last of my 2013. Different in lots of ways but sort of a tie. In the end though I think I prefer the older version. If I had to drink them by themselves and not together then I would choose to drink more of the aged one.

Tasting Notes:

2013

Aroma:

cold: med low sour cherry; med dark fruit

warm: med sour cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown with dark tan head, extra fine with some small fish eyes, non-persistent

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; initially sweet with slight sour bite from cherries, quickly moves to darker malt flavors arriving at chocolate in the swallow. Finishes dry with lingering light-med sour cherry and darker malt flavors of chocolate

warm: Tastes much thinner; but, in fairness, most of the carbonation would have been swirled out at that point. I believe it is a combination of the temperature of the beer and all of the swirling.

2016

Aroma:

cold: dark malts but far from prominent; can’t find cherry

warm: very light chocolate and cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown (carbonation interfering with visual inspection; head same as 2013

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; less sweet than 2013 at beginning; goes into darker malts rapidly; some very light cherryish notes in finish. A bit more bitter; from malt? [Didn’t seem a hop bitterness.]

warm: no notes

They were vastly different with assorted foods:

  • Egmont cheese
  • Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese
  • Rosey Goat cheese (rosemary): No! enhances soapiness of the rosemary
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Roasted apples
  • Roasted pecans

The 2013 was more complex than 2016; while in the 2016 the cherry, which was very subdued, came out nicely with assorted foods.

Again, I have the utmost respect for this beer but the cherry is not my thing. Give me BBC and Ian’s Big Bad Russian or The Raven Baltic Porter or Currant Volksekt or Salmonberry Sour or Ludwig German Pilsner. Ludwig is one of the very best Pilsners available in Bend, which is something with Crux’s amazing Pilsners available here, which also makes it extremely good. Period.

Guinness The Brewers Project Taste-Off

We saw our friend, Ryan Sharp, at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café last Friday evening and he told us Costco had Guinness’ The Brewer’s Project 18-pack in and he had only tried one so far but was looking forward to the other two. I went to Costco Saturday morning and got one.

Picture of a carton of Guinness' The Brewers Project box

Here’s an article about this project at Ad Age.

And here’s a 0:30 video from Guinness, which truth be told irked me after giving up an exact birthdate for age verification. In particular, my gripe is that that is it for info available there. Um. OK.

Photo of description of the beers on the carton

Yes, they used “brewers,” “brewers’” and “brewer’s” and they left a period off one description. Grammar? Sort of. Sad they can’t get the name standardized.

Dublin Porter [1796]

ABV 3.8% “Dublin Porter is inspired by a reference in our historic brewers’ diaries dating back to 1796. It is a sweet and smooth beer with subtle caramel and hoppy aroma notes and burnt biscuit finish.”

Aroma: Sweet; very light grape. Slight tang emerges as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; very light tan, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Very slightly vinous, very light smoke, definitely light tang?, very light grape; finishes very lightly sweet and then dries out long. Thinnest of the three.

West Indies Porter [1801]

ABV 6.0% “A style with origins from our brewer’s diaries dating back to 1801, West Indies Porter is complex yet mellow, hoppy with notes of toffee and chocolate”

Aroma: Light smoky sourness.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; light brown, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Light but lingering smoke; med dry finish with light astringency. Light chocolate as warms.

Guinness Original [1800s]

ABV 4.2% “Guinness Original is the closest variant to Arthur Guinness’ original stout recipe and was first introduced in Dublin around 1800’s as a premium porter. Still sold today in the UK as Guinness Original, this brew is very similar to Guinness Extra Stout. It’s hoppy, roast and crisp with a bittersweet finish.”

Aroma: Very light chocolate. Extremely light grape as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; fine-bubbled head, non-persistent, in between other two in color

Taste: Creamiest [mostly due to carbonation]; very light sweetness and extremely light tang across middle; finishes with hint of chocolate, med dry but sweeter than West Indies Porter. Very light astringency and mild chalkiness late in the finish.

Comparison. Color of the beers and all aspects of the head were pretty much the same with the biggest, yet still small, difference in head color. As for body, all were very similar yet different.

None of them are really that good but they are respectable. I will most likely use the remaining 13 for cooking with unless I have a friend visit who simply must taste them.

Concluding thoughts

I am looking forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts on porter and in how they interpreted the fairly wide-open prompt.

I adore some porters and if you include stouts as forms of porter, as Terry Foster and Martyn Cornell do, then I love lots of them but I much prefer some forms of porters and stouts to others, to say the least, and even then I don’t love every example within each sub-style. As for “regular” porters I prefer them to be sliding into stout territory in body and roastiness along with a slightly broader range of bitterness acceptable.

Even if none of these are my favorite examples within their various sub-styles I quite enjoyed spending some time tasting and comparing all of them while trying to work on my sensory perceptions and translating those into words. Usually a good exercise.

See you in a couple days with a Session #109 Roundup post. Cheers!

Announcing the next Session #109: Porter

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

What is The Session?

“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.

Porter

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

Possibilities include:

  • Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
  • Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
  • The history and development of the style
  • Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
  • Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
  • Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
  • Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
  • Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
  • Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
  • Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Further Resources

To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:

I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.

Style References

BJCP

  • Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
  • English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
  • American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]

The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.

Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).

Brewers Association 2015

  • Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Smoke Porter :  North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles

World Beer Cup 2016 or PDF  

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
  • 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
  • 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles

GABF 2015 or PDF   

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
  • 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
  • 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles

BreweryDB

This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above,  I am just going to list and link these.

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

  • Brown Porter 34
  • Robust Porter 48

UnTappd

UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other

Other References

Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today

I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].

Foster (1992) – Porter (Classic Beer Styles 5) [Publisher’s page]

Pattinson (2012*) – Porter! [see here for a bit of info on author]

Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles

Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165

Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282

Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]

Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.

Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.

Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style ProfileBrew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]

Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter

Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer 

Baltic porter, 82. See also porter

porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)

[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]

Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table 

porter beer, 30, 43, 137

American, 47, 313-25

British, 135-38, 145-52

food with, 138-39, 314-16

producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)

And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe

For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.

See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.

Barley Wine: Typology Tuesday #1

This is my post for the first Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles, the brainchild of none other than Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The first topic is Barley Wine. [I would have hoped to do better than this post but I only learned of Typology Tuesday today. I now have the next couple scheduled in Google Calendar.]

Typology Tuesday logo

Let me begin by stating that barleywine is one of my favorite styles, although I much prefer mine to the English-end of hopping. As Derrick Peterman wrote at Ramblings of a Beer Runner:

“I’ve had some good American Barley Wines, but found a fair share of them to be either unbalanced palate assaulting monstrosities or bloated, muddled concoctions struggling beneath the weight of all their heavy flavors.”

This past weekend I had the good fortune to judge at a commercial craft beer awards. On the second day, Sunday morning at 9 am, out came the American Barley Wines (BJCP 22C). “Well. Alrighty then. Glad I didn’t get too buzzed during Saturday’s judging and that I had a good breakfast,” said I.

We were told there was another table doing American Barley Wines so we had decided we only wanted to advance three. We had initially been brought four but they were cold still so we asked them to go ahead and decant any others and bring them to us. Not long after we got five more.

Score sheet and small plastic cup of barleywine

After a short break to let the first four warm up some we dove in. We couldn’t find anything particularly wrong in any of the first three, except some oxidation; something all of us preferred but were they within guidelines? “Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). (BJCP 2015)” We also did not find them exceptional.

Thus, beginning with the first one we set them aside until we had a few more under our belt. We did this to the first three. Finally after the fourth one we started narrowing them down. We had one or two that were too heavily oxidized and one with DMS and diacetyl. We, of course, had to retaste the first three. After getting to the ninth one and having weeded it down to a potential three we got brought four more.

OK. We quickly had them verify that we were in fact the only table with barley wine and that there were 13 in total. When we finished we thought we had passed on five to the medal round but it turned out to be only four. We got fresh pours from new bottles of all of them and got to work.

One was easy to remove as it was certainly odd man out and pushing the style guidelines in a couple ways even though we all quite enjoyed it. From there we moved on to ranking the other three and while third came easy, ranking the other two was much harder.

When we were done (thankfully that was the entirety of our morning) I found myself still sipping the odd man out. Realizing this I had one more sip and added it to the dump bucket. There really was no good reason to be putting more barleywine in my body!

Except for a couple of these, they were all quite drinkable. Some were not to my preferred palate in a barleywine but they all made you want another sip. They were mostly all well-executed although some more than others, of course, and the one I preferred the most was not exactly to style. Such is life.

Some were more heavily oxidized than others but that is how I prefer my American barleywines! I am one of those folks who age these beers at least 9-12 months before opening. I also age them no more than about two years as all that staling hop character can get unpleasant quickly. English barleywines need little aging and can last years and years, in my opinion and experience.

I will never judge barleywine (or any other style) at GABF or the World Beer Cup, as Jay Brooks has, but I feel privileged nonetheless and learned a lot from the other two more experienced judges, one a long-time homebrewer and one a long-time homebrewer and professional brewer.

A few barelywines wrap themselves sinuously around my soul while doing their utmost to fire the hell out of my pleasure receptors in a profound and spectacular way. Generally the ones that do are less bitter than those that don’t. But if I must have bitter bombs on occasion I could do far worse than American barleywine.

I am so very glad they exist as a style.

My 5-star checkins of the style per UnTappd are (I have had at least 60 distinct Americans):

  • Firestone Walker 2012 Sucaba
  • Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2013
  • Dogfish Head Olde School 2009 (~4 years old when drank)
  • Amnesia 10th Anniversary

I also see Firestone Walker Helldorado 2015 there but that is not an American barleywine, folks.

My favorite English barleywine (per Untappd) and only 5-star (Helldorado belong here too) is Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2009. And, honestly, I’ll take the infected or non-infected version. Have only had the infected version now, twice. Delicious. We really need to try one of our 2014 Mirror Mirrors soon.

Holiday Beers (The Session #106)

This is my entry for The Session #106 with the topic of holiday beers; hosted at by Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin, which is the home of The Session.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The prompt

So for this Session, write about whatever makes you happy, so long as it involves holiday beers.

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

Review one or more holiday beers.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

Those are just a few suggestions, celebrate the holiday beers in your own way. Happy Holidays!

General thoughts

I seem to have a somewhat fraught relationship with “holiday beers.” I’m going to talk about some generalities, some specific beers, and then answer Jay’s questions in the prompt.

This is what I recently wrote in a post about McMenamins’ 2015 Kris Kringle:

“Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest a couple years ago I looked forward to trying different winter warmer beers. I have gotten over them as quickly as I have pumpkin beers. Actually, I like some pumpkin (and yam) beers. What I pretty much despise are pie beers. Use the freaking pumpkin to flavor your beer. Keep the f’ing spices out of pumpkin beers though. I guess if you like Creme Brulee Stout and its ilk then have at it. But I think pie beer sucks.

Many, if not most (I’m betting), winter warmers are the equivalent of pie beers. Full of spices that are good for a sip or two but become gagging if I have to contemplate more than a couple ounces of said beer. Can’t stand beer like that.”

So my basic stance is “Um, no.”

But I followed those paragraphs up with “This is NOT one of those winter warmers.”

I also keep trying pumpkin, squash and yam beers and hoping they aren’t pie beers because I appreciate the subtle influence of those ingredients used well. Fort George has the wonderful Squashed Stout at the Festival of the Dark Arts, or has the last 3 years. There are others.

Perhaps more to the overall point, as Jay pointed out in his announcement post:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? Different breweries, thankfully, do this in many, many different ways. Some use unusual spices or fruits, some use special malts or hops, some use other uncommon ingredients like spruce or rye, and some make a style that itself is unusual. So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

Thus, no stylistic rules to go by and while winter warmers do not fall into a coherent style many holiday beers are within its purview. But then anything “made to impress” can also be a holiday beer.

So I keep trying them.

Impress me. Please.

Specific beers

I have written positively about Kris Kringle twice now. But it is extremely lightly spiced and an otherwise well-executed amber perhaps. [McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013)]

We recently shared a bottle of pFriem Winter Ale which turned out to be a very lightly spiced PNW IPA. It was a well-executed beer and I found it tasty although not what was expected. The wife spit and called them heathens. I told her that was a bit much but tilted her way a tad bit. Thankfully there are plenty of other pFriem beers we both adore.

Deschutes Jubelale is an annual ritual at the Deschutes Bend Public House. It gets some particular love for the free poster-sized artwork (which the labels are based on) with a signing by the artist each year. We have them all since we moved here in 2012 (um, 4 then). And the signing starts at a good time if you aren’t worried about dinner. Go to the bar at the Deschutes Pub and order a very fresh Jubelale and get in line to get your poster signed. We may have been first this year for posters. It is an easy in and out and you get to drink tasty beer, meet a talented artist and get a free, signed poster. Be sure to tour the brewery to get a view of the real artwork from most of the years as you finish your tour. Much of it is breathtaking. Thanks, Deschutes!

I actually need to pick up a six-pack of Jubelale as this is now the time of year for me to drink it. Was kind of craving it Tuesday night when we finally got home from work and the store. It is quite delicious this year. I don’t drink lots of it but a sixer or two each winter seems proper.

Wednesday night we had a Fermentum OG 1111 (2012?) [brewed at the Santa Maria al Carrabiolo convent per RateBeer] which I picked up a couple months ago at Corvallis Brewing Supply.

Carrobiolo

“birra stagionale invernale” = winter seasonal beer

This was an odd one. Smoked which I guess all of the flames on the label ought have tipped us off to. The aroma was of light smoke as was the taste. As it warmed that smoke became somewhat peat-infused. It was medium-bodied with the light peatiness lingering in the finish. Neither of us are smoked beer fans, nor especially of peat, but this was oddly drinkable. It wasn’t an awesome beer to us but I’m glad I tried it.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA – fresh, in early to mid-Winter, it is one of the best beers in the world.

Maybe this is not actually a holiday beer I guess but I think of it as such seeing as it is a winter seasonal (available January – April). This beer has been named The Best Beer in the World a couple times, which is honestly ridiculous. But for about four to six weeks each year in early winter this is one of the world’s best beers. I don’t believe it would be if it was available year-round although it would still be an excellent beer. Just give me my several Red Chair between January and my birthday in February. Just please keep the nitro away from mine! Yes, I am a winter baby. Has something to do with my attitude towards holiday and winter beers, methinks.

Jay’s suggested questions answered

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Review one or more holiday beers.

See McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013) posts.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

The idea is perfectly fine. It is the execution. And differences of opinion and literal taste and all that.

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Nonsensical question to me. In a special context or situation—like I take it we assume “the holidays” to be—then I want a special beer. For me, and the wife, that is probably a massive imperial stout or a similar barleywine; quite probably barrel-aged. For me it could also be an excellent lambic or gueuze or Berliner Weisse on the rare occasion I get a chance to enjoy such lovelies. It could also be an aged Samichlaus. Considering so many other people who are routinely under the misguided impression that many of those are not year-round beers are now thinking the weather is right ….

There just are no holiday beers (as more commonly thought, but see below) that I have found yet that reach the pinnacle of my palate. Some are quite tasty and are indeed worth drinking by the numbers one can do on two or three  or maybe even four hands over the course of a couple months [see Jubelale and Red Chair, above]. But none have reached the level of preference for special occasions, or even if I just want a beer I will love [well, OK, extremely fresh Red Chair is a beer I will love BUT ONLY for a 1-2 month window].

For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period. And some are quite exceptional beers in their own right but they impress me in ways I consider differently, I guess.

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Deschutes The Abyss release day is a tradition for us. It is also a holiday for us. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important days of the year! The wife would also add Deschutes’ birthday which is (usually) release day for their Black Butte Reserve anniversary beer, which might be my second favorite Deschutes beer. Tis her first by a head.

The release the last couple of years [2013] has been between the second and third week of November so a great pre-Thanksgiving start. Last year (our 3rd) we got our first snow of the year the night before and it was a big one. The next day we faced the tough decision of whether to trudge the one mile each way to the pub in snow boots or to use our snowshoes. We opted for boots and was there for opening through a foot of snow, drifts were deeper.

I failed to write this up last year, which is one of my great ones along with nothing about Fort George’s Festival of the Dark Arts our 2nd and 3rd years.

It was an epic day but in a mostly fun and enjoyable way. We were able to spend several hours drinking our vertical flights and still leave while it was light out.

We will be there at opening (11 AM) this year on 17 December [got pushed back a bit this year but even more “holiday” now]. Cannot wait to compare 2011-2015 vintages and “Please, please, please!” have a truffle, Deschutes!

Based on this recent tweet I suspect they are. Not sure what that silvery gunk is but I imagine it is good or I can ignore it.

Official 2015 The Abyss release day info (10th release this year):

Sounds awesome but even I find that a tad insane. I’ll take my flight at 11 AM and settle in for the next couple of hours of tasty bliss.

If you want to read my sort of love letter (let’s be honest) to The Abyss then here it is. If all goes well I will get to have this experience again next month with even more vintages, all 10. Please, life. I am begging you.

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Ones that get wide distribution are released too early, in my opinion. Smaller, more local ones seem to be better timed.

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

I have not been to many. The only one that comes to mind was the 1st Annual Winter Beer Fest, sponsored by Growler Guys and hosted at GoodLife on 14 December 2013. The beers and the event were alright but we also had another beer event that evening, the inaugural event of a friend. We did not make last years event. This year’s event is the 3rd, now called the Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival.

Seems like it could be a festive mood in which to try various offerings and in smaller quantities. That’s one of those fraught questions which arises considering other beers in different styles, or various processes or ingredients: if it is only tasty for, say, 2 to 6 ounces can I call it a good beer? Let any superlative you choose that fits the context stand in for good? Is it then? I haven’t answered this one for myself yet. I can’t  answer it for anyone else.

Other holiday beers on hand to drink

HolidayBeers

I kept a couple Anchor 2014 Christmas Ales and picked up the pFriem and Stone yesterday.

Anchor Christmas Ale [Our Special Ale] 2015 release is here. This is its 41st year. See all of the labels here and see which trees have been used by artist Jim Stitt over the years.

We did drink one of the 2014s we held on Thanksgiving as our noon beer and it was OK. I don’t think the year did it any favors though.

pFriem Belgian-style Christmas Ale. Ah yes. Belgian (or Belgian-style) Christmas beers could almost be a class in itself. Not revisiting the others from over the years here. For instance, Delerium Noël or Fantôme Noël, which we had along with others at a Deschutes Brewery University class on Winter beer and cheese back in January 2013. Bring these DBU classes back please, Deschutes.

Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout has just been rereleased (due to popular demand, by the way) and this time, now in 12 oz bottles versus first-run 22 oz bottles (bombers), it claims to be “For the holidays and the new year.” OK. It’s a holiday beer posing as a Mexican hot chocolate. It was damned tasty last time. Here’s hopin’.

It’s brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. This semisweet milk stout was excellent last time. This is what I said about it in my Untapped checkin:

A full-on trigeminal attack. Oily mouthfeel; var. astringencies; spice & aroma of peppers w/hint of heat. 4.75

Oh yeah. I remember this. If you ever need a beer to engage every possible sense perception in your mouth, throat and nose this is a number one contender.

So. Much. Going. On.

In there all at once and in weirds successions and … It was mind-blowing actually. An experience, as they say.

Boy. I hope this can stand up to my hopes and memory now. But if this is a holiday beer then bring them on.

Final thoughts

So my holiday beer thoughts and experiences are fraught and complicated. I truly appreciate some beers that have spices and other flavorings; see Kris Kringle, Jubelale, and Xocoveza above as examples. Just as I do quite appreciate some pumpkin, squash and yam beers.

But these do not circumscribe holiday beers as Jay Brooks has described them for years in the annual holiday beer tasting for the Celebrator Beer News. Also above [with the clipped bit]:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? … So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

As I said above,

“For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period.”

These are not the same things to one of a philosophical bent but I’m not defining “holiday beer” for anyone else either. Certainly not for myself for all time. This isn’t even a view I held 5 years ago.

But I see some overlap.

As I prefer a beer that impresses me–and those above that I want to drink several of do–I think they fit Jay’s description perfectly. [I am not claiming that he sees it as a definition.] The fact that they would only greatly impress me if they kept their seasonal, whatever the “season,” release and thus remain somewhat restricted is irrelevant.

Speaking of beers that impress me, I want to leave room in my description of holiday beers for the narrower one of “my favorite holiday beer:”

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Much overlap but these may also be beers that would make any occasion special, raise it from the ordinary, force you to pay attention. To it and to what is going on around it. They bring you back to yourself.

Cheers!

Thoughts from a real beer writer

Just in time, a new article by K. Florian Kemp from the Stylistically Speaking column in All About Beer v. 36(6) dated 2 December on the history of some kinds of holiday beers.

My previous posts for the session (one is by me wife)