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.

Snowed In (The Session #108)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site who is hosting this month’s Session:

“The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! …

My birthday is 2/3rd of the way solidly into winter, late in February. People can complain about winter weather all they like—as do I on occasion—but my birthday is during that hell of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing winds and everything else that comes with being in the Midwest or Central Oregon in the dead of winter. I used to despise it but now I embrace it. I want it all. And I want all the winter types in February! Now I’m not sadistic; I am perfectly pleased with a day or two of each of the bad kinds of winter weather or even a good gobsmacking by two or three all in one day. Then it can go away. It can, of course, be as nice as it wants; although, admittedly, I’d be a bit freaked out by temps over 60F/15C.

All of that to say, I am fully down with Jon’s topic. And while perhaps not as prepared as I would like “knowing the snow’s coming” we are not unprepared either. Both contingencies will be addressed, as will most of the ideas Jon proposed.

Cold weather beer styles

My cold weather beer styles are pretty much my normal beer styles, although a few specific beers creep in during the colder temps. Imperial stouts and barley wines, barrel-aged or not, are our go-to beers, all year-long. I am not a fan overall of the winter warmer category but a few like Deschutes’ Jubelale and Anchor’s Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale do get put into the winter line-up, at least a couple of each. It also means trying more of them to hopefully find others that can do spicing the way I prefer; not many do. There are also other winter seasonals, such as Deschutes’ Red Chair, that also need a few or more imbibed.

Dip into cellar? Something special?

Here is where we are already prepared. Our cellar is two smaller fridges—4.4 and 11 cubic feet—which are temperature controlled, for which we have a by shelf inventory (spreadsheet). We also—as we buy more beer than we can actually cellar—have several boxes full, all of which is also accurately inventoried. Then there’s the general drinking beer which we do not bother (anymore) to put into the spreadsheet. “General drinking beer” may still be an Impy stout or a barley wine but we simply had no intention of cellaring them when we acquired them; we simply meant to drink them “soon.” We were buying mostly cellar beer for a good while. Had to get that (somewhat) under control. We also used to put every beer into the spreadsheet. We were young. Or something.

So … “snowed in and not going anywhere”? We do have projected dates for most of the cellared beers but we adjust some of the longer, more hopeful, dates based on drinking as we go. Some have definitely moved up across time. We also realized we needed to drink a lot more of them sooner rather than later based on incoming amounts so we are “suffering” our way through that. 😉

I am going to assume this is around my birthday in a couple weeks; thus, as of now anyway, first up would be my last Firestone Walker Double DBA Proprietor’s Reserve Series No. 001 (2012). I drank the previous one February 28th last year and it was freaking ridiculous. It was simply one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and we had a whole 22 oz. bottle to the two of us. I got four of these from our friends at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in late 2013 and they have been amazing all along but the improvement along the way has been off the charts! So I have chosen this as this year’s birthday beer. Could change my mind but not thinking I will.

Next up for consideration:

Some of the tasties we are already scheduled to drink soon: 2013 editions of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and Crux’s Tough Love. There are far more coffee stouts than the Péché, like a 2013 BCBS Coffee, a Stone 2013 IRS Espresso and a Founders’ Breakfast Stout. among a few others.

We might finally get on with our Fort George Cavatica Stout tasting. We have 16 oz cans of regular Cavatica Stout from 2014, along with the barrel-aged versions from the last few years: 2013 Rye, 2014 Rum (also 16 oz cans) and 2015 Bourbon (22 oz bottle). Should make for a fun excursion.

I spy a 2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin slotted for sometime in 2016. Snowed in seems like as fine an occasion as any for it.

Perhaps one evening as we’re winding down, we could sip on a Westvleteren XII (2012) and contemplate our moments of good fortune. I still have three of these that I got in the “fix the roof” six-pack.

Like I said, there are others, listed in the spreadsheet or not, but these are some of the more intriguing and, in a few especial cases, better—fully world class—beers that would fit the extended snowbound occasion.

Stock up on go-to beer

Depending on the timing, I would want a case of Deschutes’ Jubelale. This year’s (2015) is my favorite so far. Every time I drank it I wanted another. Sometimes I chose not to but the “but I want another” was strong for me in this year’s Jubelale. The thing is … I only drink this fresh. Same as with Red Chair. And I do mean fresh. If I can’t verify this is only a month old or less I generally won’t touch it. My choice, I know. Saw a 12-pack at Haggen’s (supermarket) the other day (first week of January) for a reasonable price and I had a tough time rationalizing my way into following my own principles. I adore both of these beers but can only drink them for a few weeks each year as if it isn’t fresh it is not the same to me. I am not so much on this level of freshness with any other beers. Not at all. Don’t get me wrong I like fresh beer (and appropriately aged beers, no doubt) but this is some kind of hyperfreshness fetish. But, to me, when definitely fresh, these are both world class beers of the highest order but when not quite fresh anymore they rapidly start to approach “Meh. There’s better beer available in this town/bar/pub.” I don’t want to be there with either of these beers. So I self-limit in an odd way.

Picked up a case of Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout end of January. This is currently the wife’s go-to beer whenever I am drinking one of the many things I have around that she isn’t into. I also quite like it and generally leave it to her but with a case I can have a few. We’d been buying it by the 4-packs but realized I should just ask “my guy” for a case. Making that request a couple weeks ago reminded me I have no Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the house either. Went through several cases of that the last couple winters especially as that was my go-to beer. Might need to grab a 6-pack or two and see how it’s tasting. Could need to talk to my guy about that again too.

I have been drinking a boatload of Pelican’s Umbrella Single-Hop IPA with Ella hops from New Zealand as my go-to beer lately. I’ve been loving the heck out of that! Also a bit strange as there are only a few IPAs—of any kind or color—that get me excited. And never one I have bought by the 6-pack! I was so excited when Umbrella was put in 12 oz 6-ers and made year-round. Crazy but there it is. Seems I need a good hop bite with none of that “Is it the roast malts, or the bitterness from the hops/coffee/chocolate/ … WTF is that bitterness?” that we get frequently in many of the beers we love.

Even more lately, I have been drinking Fremont’s Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout in 12 oz cans. Fremont has just recently begun distributing in Bend but I have had several of theirs previously thanks to a local friend, Ryan, who is a big fan of them. In fact, he gave me one of these for my birthday last year. I gave it 5-stars (of 5) and wrote “Very creamy. Fruity. Nice. I like this a lot.” I left out the ridiculous roastiness, the massive mouthfeel during and long after, and the lingering complexity. This is big and chewy and at 8% seems even bigger.

Whoa! just checked Fremont’s website and they say this beer is only available January 1st to February 29th. Oh. Hell. No. Just shot my guy a message. Got a case on its way. This is stocking up on go-to beer, right?

Too late for more Jubelale for me this year but maybe if I truly knew the big one was coming I’d break my prohibition as it would still be a tasty beer, to say the least. I would want a case of at least one of the stouts but preferably the Ten Fidy as we need something Sara is happy to consume without investing lots of thought. Going with the Fremont for now but would not a couple 6-packs of the Barney Flats for something more sessionable and also of Umbrella. Need a little variety in your drinking beer, I do.

Homebrewer

I am a fledgling home brewer so do not yet even have all of the equipment and certainly not any ingredients for brewing up something on the spot—well, that’s a lie as I have a good 3/4 lb or so of Cascade pellet hops in the freezer that were given to me.

I have also not brewed in the snow yet but look forward to it. If I can find a way to make it possible.

I think a nice roasty, toasty porter or stout would be a good match for the weather and goes along with many of my other choices in this post.

“Desert island beer” but colder – snowed in for all of winter

Well … this depends. Is this something available and affordable to me? Is it something I choose for myself or for the wife and I both or something we choose together? Those questions will all influence the answer.

Considering that if it isn’t available to me (for whatever reason) or I cannot afford it (one of those reasons) then I’m not going to get it so we will just forget that blissful group of beers and move on.

I think, as of now, the easy answer is Barney Flats if only I’m choosing and Ten Fidy if I am for both of us, and possibly if we both choose one between us. I would go with the almost sessionable Barney Flats over the not-at-all-sessionable Ten Fidy myself as it would have a bit more range.

If I could somehow get fresh deliveries but only of the same beer I might for go this year’s Jubelale but that’s not really possible over Winter anyway since by then Red Chair has replaced it as a seasonal.

Beer book(s) paired with which beer

Well, there’s the easy answer of the appropriate style with each book in the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications, for instance Pale Ale with one’s favorite pale. I’m not sure what my favorite pale is although I know I like a few. Poking UnTappd I’m going to have to say either Deschutes Hop Trip, Block 15 Print Master’s Pale, Mazama Oregon SMASH, or Crux The Pale Ale.

I own Pale Ale (Foster), Porter (Foster), Stout (Lewis), and Barley Wine (Allen & Cantwell) (all of which I’ve read) and Vienna, Marzën, Oktoberfest (Fix & Fix) which I have not.

Probably couldn’t get very far at a time with Barley Wine unless sipping very slowly. I’ll leave it to you to choose appropriate beers for these and the following.

Might I suggest some possible combinations for your own consideration:

Boak and Bailey  Brew Britannia with the best approximation [if not in the UK] of English beer, preferably a sessionable one, that you can achieve in your location. Actual British beer would be preferable, with something from one of the upstarts even better. Perhaps you ought sit in your local and enjoy your beer there while you read it. That would be my choice. [Learned to read in bars in college & grad school, basically across my 40s. “Retired” from the Army and started college full-time to finish undergrad degree and eventually grad school.]

Patrick Dawson – Vintage Beer with anything cellared for over three years.

Sam Calagione – Extreme Brewing with some Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, or one of their other off-centered beers [same issue as Barley Wine above, though].

Terry Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts with tasty porters or stouts or an assortment of the various sub-styles if your tastes are eclectic enough. Mine are. I can appreciate a well-made porter or stout of any origin.

There’s also the Brewing Elements series from Brewer Publications:

Stan Hieronymous – For the Love of Hops with a nicely hopped (whatever that is for you), hop-forward beer, with either your favorite hops or some of the newer German varieties or anything from New Zealand.

John Mallett – Malt with tasty malt-forward beers.

Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff – Yeast with tasty yeast-driven beers. [not yet read]

John Palmer & Colin Kaminski – Water with, well, not sure what a water-forward beer would be, but tasty beers where the style is heavily-dependent on the water profile seems a good start. [not yet read]

Then there are potentialities like working your way style-by-style through some of these:

Mirella Amato – Beerology [read, not yet reviewed]

Garrett Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

Jeff Alworth – The Beer Bible [read, not yet reviewed]

Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries (or your own state/region) with a selection of Oregon (or other “district” as appropriate)  beers

Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer [still need to do a proper review of this]

Pete Dunlop – Portland Beer (or your city)

Joshua Bernstein – The Complete Beer Course [not yet read]

Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium with as many of the great beers of Belgium you can (easily) get to hand. [not yet read]

Leaving the easy to come by—self-evident—beer-related pairings:

Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with some “home-brewed ale.”

“‘Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.’*”

“From ‘Country Lassie’, a song by Robert Burns (1792). ‘Sine’: then; ‘maun’: must; ‘yill’: ale (Scots dialect). Cf. the proverb, ‘As they brew so let them drink’ (ODEP, 85).” 227/433

If you are still reading, thanks. Sorry for going on so long but I was inspired by Jon’s topic, even if it was mostly meaningful to me.

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)

The Session 105: British Beer and TV

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session: What is it?

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.”

In other words, it is a beer blogging carnival.

My previous posts for the session:

Session #105

This is Session #105 and the topic is Double Features, hosted by Mark at Kaedrin Beer Blog.

“For this installment, I’d like to revisit that glorious time of beer drinking when I was just starting to realize what I was getting into. One of my favorite ways to learn about beer was to do comparative tastings. Drink two beers (usually of the same style) with a critical eye, compare and contrast. Because I’m also a movie nerd, this would often be accompanied by a film pairing. It was fun, and I still enjoy doing such things to this day!

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that’s fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I’m a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point.”

On Sunday, 01 November 2015, I watched the last two episodes of Doctor Who Series 2 [reboot, David Tennant] and drank two organic beers from Samuel Smith, one per episode. Both episodes constitute story 177 (according to Wikipedia) and consist of “Army of Ghosts” (ep 12) and “Doomsday” (ep 13) and were written by Russell T. Davies.

Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale and Organic Chocolate Stout

Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale and Organic Chocolate Stout

I didn’t know what my theme was going in (other than British beer & TV) but it turned out to be “Old beer and old episodes.”

Beginning with “Army of Ghosts” I drank a Samuel Smith’s Organic Pale Ale.  Pale seems to be a natural fit for ghosts.

SamSmithOrgPale

Aroma: kind of like a dubbel; sweet, light nuttiness & light burnt caramel. Color: dark amber; almost no head. Taste: Strange. Wonder how fresh? Not bad but should it taste like this?

A lot of blue-on-blue lately—3rd episode at least where the Tardis is placed near other blue objects which mostly fill the frame. I’m kind of blue about this beer. Going to need to check out those date codes later.

Torchwood building.

Freema Agyeman. 1st appearance on Doctor Who? Not as Martha, though. Yes! I was right.

“Who you gonna call?” Ghostbusters riff by Doctor & Rose. Just a tad cheesy but good pop culture reference.

“Why are you always reducing it to science? Why can’t it be real?” Jackie Tyler to The Doctor.

Must be some diacetyl; which I had been thinking for a while.

A “Void ship” : “a vessel to exist outside time and space.”

From the teaser for the next episode: “Cybermen and Daleks. Together we could upgrade the universe.” Upgrading (I hope) my beer.

Moving on to “Doomsday” I had a Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout.

SamSmithOrgChocStout

A: chocolate syrup (coffee, fakey kind). C: black; short lasting tan head. Fakey chocolate syrup.

“I did my duty. I did my duty. Oh God. I did my duty.” Yvonne Hartman, Director of Torchwood ::Shudder:: I understand the horror of duty all too well. Sadly, I know many who understand it even it even more. My heart breaks.

The Cult of Skaro

“I did my bit for Queen and Country.” Yvonne as a Cyberman; black tears from her eyes.

Bad Wolf Bay

Woman in a wedding dress (Donna), who it turns out is only visiting and not coming back as a companion until next season even though she will be the companion for the first episode of season 3. Freema as Martha will be back as Martha very shortly for the rest of this season.

Well, this exercise taught me (reminded me blatantly, is more like it) that I need to be very careful with which beers I get at one of our local bottle shops. The next day (Monday) I researched Sam Smith date codes and this is what I found: http://freshbeeronly.com/Intl_Breweries.html My Pale Ale is SI13N1 = 13 Sep 2014 and the Stout is SC13N1 = 13 Mar 2014. Both are way too old for these beers. ::sigh::

So the moral, I guess, is old TV shows are OK to visit for either the first time or to revisit, as the case may be, but other than the beers-that-can-be-aged most beers should not be. Also, more importantly, learn to read obscure date codes and do so before buying. And advocate for legible and & comprehensible date codes on all packaged beer.

I apologize for how unfocused this all was. We had a different plan for this Session and that fell through for assorted reasons and I had to punt. Sadly, I bought beers that I knew I had enjoyed previously at the wrong place. And I am fully at fault for not checking/understanding the date codes. I do not fault Samuel Smith in any way and do not expect to have “fresh” beer from Europe but … most have not been so evidently off.

Session #105 Double Feature: Flirting with Coffee

This is the 2nd guest post from my wife, @esquetee  Her first was “Librarians in the Beer Tents” in July 2014.

I’m finally writing a post for a Session! This month’s theme:

“…highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature.”

Session105SQT01

 The chosen beers:

  • Péché Mortel from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel – aged 2 years at home
  • Big Bad Baptist (release #24) from Epic – aged 1.5 years at home

The common factor here: imperial stouts with coffee.  

Pour and color: the Baptist had very little head but beautiful caramel-colored lacing lingered on the surface for quite some time. The Péché had a bit more for a moment in the same color but it smoothed out very quickly. The Péché also had a touch of mahogany red in the body while the Baptist was consistently dark brown.

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Aroma: Very different! The Péché has a soft fruit note underneath the light espresso scent, whereas the Baptist is a punch in the face of bitter raw coffee bean. Mark described it as “rancid” and I have to admit it was a bit off-putting at first.

Flavor:  The Péché is lovely – almost wine-like in the layers and complexity. The coffee is present without overpowering, which leaves room on the palate for vanilla and chocolate to whisper in. The body is soft as a rose petal, making it very drinkable without even hinting at the 9% ABV underneath. A seductive, dangerous siren of a beer.

Before we get to the Baptist, let me just preface by saying there is a blessing and a curse to cellaring these big dark beauties. The blessings come when you open an aged favorite that has gone from delightful to divine. The curses take a fine beer and turn it into something thin and flavorless … if you’re lucky. Fortunately, we’ve had far more blessings than curses in our cellaring experiments.  

The Baptist #24 is about 6 months past its prime, I would say. Not a bad beer at all, but not up to its full potential. Having just had a fresh batch of Baptist on tap the night before, I definitely prefer the beer with some age on it – even a little too much age like this one. The sharp bitterness of a fresh batch has calmed down some – despite the aroma – and the body has balanced out into a wonderful texture. If I didn’t have the Péché to compare it against, I might even enjoy the Baptist far more than I am at the moment. But the Péché takes the idea of coffee imperial stout to another level here, which leaves the Baptist with a consolation prize of “pretty good.” Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoy both of them.

Now … the other half of this Session called for pairing the paired beers with some kind of media — movies, TV shows, music, what have you.

When I thought about what to pair with coffee stouts, the first thing that came to mind was the memory of some old coffee commercial in the 1980s? 1990s? that went on like a soap opera series about two neighbors who kept flirting over their borrowed coffees. Best commercials ever. Why don’t they make ‘em like that anymore? Anyway …

So I went to YouTube in search of these coffee commercials. At first I thought they might have been from Folger’s, but that only brought up Peter’s Christmas homecoming. With a bit more digging I found them! The Taster’s Choice Gold Blend saga. And to make it even better — they starred my favorite screen librarian of all time – Giles from Buffy! Otherwise known as Anthony Head.

What in the world do these dusty old ads have to do with delicious coffee stouts?

Flirting! Oh yes, the flirting. The screen chemistry between those two was enough to rival Moonlighting. And flirting is exactly what a good stout should do with you. So dark, you can’t be certain of its intentions. So complex, you know there are innuendos you must be missing even as some of the innuendos make you blush. As the beer warms up and opens up more flavors, you become even better acquainted until … at last … well, stay tuned for the next episode.

Is it over? (The Session #104)

The Session is now #104 but is on life support. Alan McLeod at a good beer blog stepped in at the last minute to save this one but is wondering how long the patient can last.

“…: if we just “take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course” aren’t we really admitting that beer blogging is a massive failure? [Inner quote is of Stan Heironymous.]

I have seen a couple of responses so far and the two by Oliver Gray “The Session #104 – Blog to Write” and Carla Jean Lauter “The Session #104 – Don’t Stop The Music” both speak to me.

While my situation is not the same as theirs—other than I also have a “beer blog”—I find myself in agreement with most of their points.

Oliver Gray
Life events have kept me from much in the past year. Have some drafts that just didn’t coalesce. Blogging is, or can be, a form of education. Truth and Meaning. [my synopsis & agreements]

“I’d submit that most people who write about beer (myself included) only do so because we’ve seen some fundamental truth about human nature either in the science of the kettle, or the behavior behind the bartop. I think all writers write to discover some meaning; beer bloggers (and writers) just use a medium that’s a tad more esoteric than usual.”

Carla Jean Lauter
Community niche. [my synopsis and agreement]

“… still refreshing to find a chunk of dedicated bloggers actually talking about things beyond the clickbait and the listicles.”

My simple answer is that no, even if The Session goes away that that is only a commentary on beer blogging, and of only a small subset of current beer bloggers anyway. It may speak to some (small) truth, but it is only one part of the story of beer blogging currently, or past and future.

I have participated 3 times in the past [see below] and have wanted to other times. For some of those, see “life events” up above and sometimes the topics were narrowly in an area I wasn’t at all inspired on at that time.

I have also been intending to host for over a year now but, again, see “life events.” I have also managed to lose the 2-3 topics I had hoped to use during my future hosting. My wife has given me one–which she vehemently assures me she WILL write on–but I’m not overly enthused about that (kind of narrow) topic at this time, even though it is also something that ‘chaps my hide.”

I was just looking at the emptiness of the schedule and was thinking it might be timeI might be well enoughto host. Ergo, need a topic.

The Session, also known generically as a blog carnival, may have run its course. They all do. I have been involved in a few and have hosted varying amounts of times in each. Some went several years and some didn’t.

I hope The Session hasn’t as I would like to become more of a member of this community. But life has kept me wanting a lot, from a fairly basic level, for a bit now. Lots of time, mental (and otherwise) effort, and motivational focus is on simply getting well. Nonetheless, I still dream of attempting to write intelligently on the topic(s) of beer.

The Session continuing in some form would greatly facilitate that by providing inspiration and a venue for community, whether small or not. And, yes, I realize this commits me to hosting in the near future.

Previous posts for The Session here

 

The Session #93 Beer Travel

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

 This post is my participation in this month’s The Session, #93, which is on beer travel. It is hosted by Brian Devine at The Roaming Pint, who asks:

“So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?”

The host states that visiting where our beer comes from—and drinking it there—is “a better and more valuable experience” than just sucking it down some other place. The reasons he posits seem to be Freshness < == > Respect / Understanding.

There is an awful lot in between, including the capability to better determine whether one ought “pay respect.” I certainly do not have all of the answers or reasons but I hope to lay a few down.

Note: I apologize that this is fairly superficial; I had truly hoped to go a bit deeper. There has been a death in my close family and I am struggling with an as yet undiagnosed illness.

1. Personal connection; meeting/talking with folks who make it and the difference that can make in your appreciation.

For instance, once in Hood River we were at Pfriem Family Brewery for lunch. We had a taster tray and I got to the Mosaic Pale and it was nothing like any other Mosaic single-hopped beer I had yet had. While there was a punch bowl fruitiness in the aroma and a bit in the taste, there was actual bitterness and quite a bit of it. Josh Pfriem, head brewer, was hosing down the brewery floor on the other side of a wooden fence at table height. I was able to wave him over and asked him about his Mosaic hopping rate/regimen. Turns out he used them throughout but mostly up front in the boil so that they were primarily used for bittering. While I still prefer my Mosaic single-hopped beers to be mostly/entirely late-hopped I was better able to understand what was happening in Josh’s beer and to my senses and, thus, to better appreciate, and understand, my experience but also to appreciate what the brewer was going for.

While that does not change the beer or make it “better” somehow, it does provide that real, human connection that, as humans, we are always looking for. I would rather I get that from the brewers and brewery workers/owners I visit, whether or not it is “real,” than from some actor in a television commercial. Which is never real.

2. Try beers not distributed (at all) or not distributed to your area. This one is dead simple. And while it may involve freshness and gaining respect or understanding, it may also just be about trying beers you may never get to try again.

Take a local example, both in the brewery and the distance to visit: Deschutes. Most pub beers, whether here in Bend or Portland, never see the outside of their respective brewpubs. [Except in growlers here and there, but it’s not packaged or distributed.] Why would I ever want to deprive myself of Veronica Vega or Ben Kehs beers? I truly like almost every beer I have had by either one. But to get them I have to go to the pubs; it matters not that Deschutes is a behemoth in the craft beer world. These beers are not that. I have to go to the source.

To take another local example, Crux Fermentation Project. I can get a lot of their beers in bottles around town but they also have pub beers that will probably never see distribution. Good beers. Now here’s my thing with Crux—I stress it is my thing as no else I have mentioned it to has this issue. But the bottom line is that I do not like Crux beers from bottles. Nor do I like them on tap elsewhere. They don’t taste the same to me. I really like Crux beer, by the way. But if I want the Crux flavors, aromas and tastes that I know and love I have to go to the brewery/brewpub. Thankfully we are fairly close.

3. Of course, in the real sense of travel, all of the above and more apply. Some of the beers won’t be distributed outside of the brewery, or the beer simply is not distributed to your area/state/country, the beer is probably fresher, you may learn whether or not you appreciate the brewery based on what you learn visiting, you may appreciate them more based on a positive visit with people you relate to.

These, and no doubt many other reasons I look forward to reading from others, make traveling to the source an often pleasant experience.

Prosit!

Compulsion (The Session #76)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Compulsion is the topic for The Session #76 hosted at beer is your friend. The topic of “compulsion” led to the wife and I discussing language. That may be a whole other topic but if we really want to talk compulsions then there’s that.

We sat at the Deschutes Bend Pub having dinner, waiting for their new Gose release to start so we could taste it, meet the brewer Veronica Vega and the Oregon artisanal salt maker, Ben Jacobsen, whose salt was used to make the Gose, and buy some salt. We discussed the relationships and differences between “urge,” “need,” “want,” compulsion,” “desire,” “addiction” and so on. We checked definitions of “compulsion” in apps and online via our iPhones. Sara asked the Twitters to rank “urge,” “need,” and “compulsion” and she learned that, for some unknown reason, “compulsion” carries less force for her than for many others, including me. We find these discussions of ours fascinating and they may well be a compulsion for us both.

This all started for me as I wanted to participate in this month’s round of The Session but I was not really feeling it. Do I truly have a compulsion around beer? That is, not an urge or a desire or an impulse, but a compulsion, one (or more) with the full freight of that word? I am not sure but I don’t think so.

Do I have more beer than I can reasonably drink in a week or two (disregarding The Cellar)? Sure I do. Do I keep buying more when there is no real room for it in the fridge? Yes. Is it starting to spill over into boxes and dark corners that aren’t perhaps the best for storage? Uh huh.

Do we go to lots of beer events (tastings, sensory classes, releases, pairings)? Of course. Have we planned a vacation around beer or breweries? It wasn’t truly a vacation, but we raced up to Astoria (7 hours each way) in February for the Festival of the Dark Arts at Fort George Brewery and raced back the next day. It was so awesome we plan to make it an annual event, and a true vacation next time. So, yeah.

Are we constantly trying new beers, new styles, new breweries? Indeed. But we are recent immigrants to the heaven of beer that is Bend, Oregon and the larger Pacific Northwest. And the place we lived before was a true wasteland of beer. We have definitely identified some few favorites but every one of them is in some way hard to get regularly as they are special releases, seasonals, or annuals. So tasting new things makes sense.

Am I a beer ticker? I had to look that up, although I had a good idea what it meant. This was the most helpful site that I found. At least based on this site, I think what makes beer ticking a potential obsession is the obsession many have with their hobby, compulsion or whatever else you want to label it, itself.

I do use Untappd and I greatly enjoy marking off new-to-me beers but I will not try something simply because I have never had it and I will definitely drink something I know I love instead of having something new if none of the other things are appealing enough. During (and after) Central Oregon Beer Week I had Deschutes The Stoic (2011) four different times when I could easily have had something I had never had because they simply did not appeal to me in the presence of what is simply (one of) the nectar(s) of the gods.

Before I started this post I looked up “compulsion” in the OED. This is what I found:

1. a. The action, or an act, of compelling, or the condition of being compelled; constraint, obligation, coercion.

1869 E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) III. xii. 247 Such an oath could have been taken only under compulsion.
1875 B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) I. 141 If he likes he pays my price, but there is no compulsion.

2. Psychol. An insistent impulse to behave in a certain way, contrary to one’s conscious intentions or standards.

1965 A. D. Weisman Existential Core of Psychoanal. vii. 205 In contrast to compulsion, choice is essential to responsible acts.

Merriam-Webster Online has this to say:

1 a : an act of compelling : the state of being compelled

   b : a force that compels

2 : an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing); also : the act itself

And check out those synonyms and related words. Those synonyms [arm-twistingcoercionforceconstraintduresspressure] can certainly be a part of any act of coercion but none of that is going on in my beer drinking, buying, research, or any other activity relating to beer in my life.

Do I have a compulsion, then, in regards to beer?

I don’t think so.

How We Love Beer (The Session #72)

 

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session: What is it?

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.”

In other words, it is a beer blogging carnival.

This is my first entry and this month’s topic—to be hosted at montana beer finder —is “How we love beer.”

How I love beer

I have loved beer for a very long time. My love began even before I began drinking beer. As an eleven-year old in St.Louis, I began collecting beer cans. For some reason I was actually encouraged in this hobby. My dad took me to trading sessions and other events of some of the very active chapters of the Beer Can Collectors of America. One was even affiliated with his place of work—McDonald Douglas—so he was able to do a little socializing himself. When I went on trips with my mom she would purchase beer in cans for me with my allowance. In 1977 my Dad and I even attended the BCCA ‘Canvention’ in Kansas City. Shortly after that I entered the US Army. Twenty years later, including three tours in Europe—two in Germany, one in Belgium—I had significantly added to my can collection, which had now blossomed into additional smaller collections of coasters, painted label bottles, openers, etc. I even attended a massive trading event of the Dutch club Blik op Blik while I was stationed in Belgium. Sadly, a plethora of moves since ‘retiring’ from the Army, increased storage costs, and so on has significantly depleted my collection. It has been heartbreaking each time I have had to reduce it. I still have a few cans and other assorted items but they are all in boxes—as most of the collection has been for years—in the garage. With my newfound interest in craft beer, and the possibility that we have finally found where we want to stay, and the hope we may buy a house in the next couple of years, I am looking forward to finally unpacking what is left of the first “how” of my love for beer and properly displaying it. It has been far too long since it has been displayed.

The next “how” of my love of beer is more recent. In June of 2012 we came out to Bend, Oregon—a true nirvana for folks who appreciate great beer—for a job interview for my wife. In our one day in town we visited the Deschutes Bend Public House and were quite impressed with the Obsidian Stout that we had. Two days later we were in Portland after a day in Corvallis for her second interview and we ate at the Deschutes Portland Public House and were even more impressed with the Extinction Stout that we had there. On our trip out to house hunt in July we made it to a few more places but also revisited the Deschutes Bend Public House.

Snifter of Deschutes' Extinction Stout - Portland Public House June 2012

Deschutes’ Extinction Stout – Portland Public House June 2012

Deschutes' beer menu description of their Extinction Stout

Deschutes’ beer menu description of their Extinction Stout

We, and our belongings, ended up in Bend on 6 August 2012 after a five day trip across country from western Iowa. Ten days later we were showing our love for beer by being volunteer pourers at the opening of Bend Brewfest, which we had signed up to do online before we even left Iowa. It was great fun and we hope to be able to do it again next year. We also attended the fest that evening and each of the two days after sampling many good beers.

Attending the Little Woody festival, several Deschutes Brewery University events, vertical tastings and blogging about them on my main blog followed. Completing the Bend Ale Trail over the next couple months was an enjoyable and tasty way to show my appreciation for craft beer. I started using Untappd (website and phone app) on the suggestion of a friend to track my explorations in beer and share with a community, and I did some research and bought the best small fridge I could afford to start cellaring some of the big beers that we so love (“The Cellar”).

I began dreaming of starting a beer blog to do more in the way of chronicling my adventures in beer and sharing them with others, which I have since done: By the barrel, aka Bend Beer Librarian. I have begun a program of reading books, websites, blogs and so on to increase my knowledge of beer. The pursuit of several certifications, such as Cicerone Certified Beer Server and Ale Conner Certified Beer Authority, are being started on. I am also planning a series of tastings for my friends. Thankfully we have met several friends here in Bend who also love beer.

At some point I hope to take the next logical step and begin brewing my own beer. But for now I am having a grand time appreciating all of the many local beers available at the diverse venues we have. Of course, we have some great bottle shops and pubs with guest taps where we can experience quality beer from all over.

These are the actions I am currently taking to show my love of beer, and I look forward to whatever opportunities the future brings that allows me to continue demonstrating my love of beer and to help others in demonstrating theirs.

Thank you for the opportunity to step back and reflect on the “how” of my love for beer and to participate in The Session.