Post your links for the Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

What’s the deal with these beers?  We’re going to find out together.

Welcome back to post your link to your content for the August 4th installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday! 

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Here’s the announcement post, for reference.  

On August 4, after you post your blog, add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in a comment below on this page or on the announcement page.  I’ll check both.  Or, to get some buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert me directly @beerbybart on Twitter.

Monday I’ll do a round-up of all of the submissions and make links back to your work.  So, post today for impact, or wrap it up over the weekend.  

Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

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A Juicy Session: Announcing #126

Announcing The Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

Ready for the next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday?  On August 4th, 2017, the topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet.  New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them. 

So fire up your keyboard – let’s hear about your own encounters with these strange IPAs.

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Any approach is welcome. Choose an idea or find your own:  

  • The encounter:  Do you remember your first NEIPA – if so, what was that like?  Details, please.  And how has your perception of the style changed over time? 
  • Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend … why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does “IPA” still apply in a way that’s helpful to drinkers?
  • Or the crusade:  Testify!  Exactly why do you love or hate these beers?  How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you.  Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?
  • Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?   What makes an IPA simply an unfiltered dry-hopped American IPA without much clarity instead of part of this style?  What about the sweeter “milkshake” IPAs – part of this style definition or something else?   What flaws make for weak examples of the style? Or maybe, where should the numbers be for this style – abv, ibu, color and clarity, etc.? What tasting instructions would you give to judges of these beers?
  • Or take another angle, tell another tale!  Have you been writing about these beers for several years now and watched them evolve?  Know something cool about the making of these beers, the people behind them, their spread to the UK and Europe?

Choose any angle and make it yours – they’re just ideas to get us thinking, not a questionnaire.  And if you have zero interest in such a beer, just say why in the fullest detail. Have fun with it!    

A few resources

The Brewers Association and the related Homebrewers Association both started out skeptical. This discussion (including comments) shows a step towards recognition: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/news/new-england-ipa-haze-craze/  Check out the April Fools style announcement complete with gravy boat snark from 2016: https://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/ne-ipa-recognized-official-beer-style

How to Participate in August’s The Session

On August 4, after you post to your blog, come on back here to add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in your comment below on this page, or to get a little more buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert us directly @beerbybart on Twitter.  

I then follow up soon thereafter with a full round-up of all of the submissions with links back to your work and we all soak in the breadth of opinion and information of the beer blogging community.  Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

Enjoy!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Aged beer: whatever am I saving this for?

This month The Session, a grand monthly beer writing conspiracy, is a challenge from Sir Ron, blogger at The Ferm. He challenges beer bloggers who have a growing cellar of strong beers waiting for a special event to “break free and open up something special, whether with a friend, family, or even all on their lonesome.”

How’d he know we have a little problem with hoarding Special Beers?

Since there are two of us who work on BeerByBART, and we had the inclination earlier this week to open something good, we had no reason to hesitate.  Why wait for a special moment?  Isn’t life good enough to celebrate as special?  We’re both here, yay, and we’re lucky to both love beer. Let’s make that reason enough, and pull up something amazing.  (But not one of the sour beers!  Too special.)   Sheesh.  No, no, not that 22 ounce barleywine!  Gotta work tomorrow.

They get better until they don't

With all those strong beers staring back at us on a week night, it was reassuring to find a prize that was in an 11 ounce bottle. As soon as we opened it and got a whiff of the bread-pudding aromas within, however, it seemed far too small a container.

The beer we opened was a 2007 Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra.  It was an 11 ounce bottle we hand-carried back from a family visit back east that year.  It came back wrapped in dirty clothes in checked luggage and went into our San Francisco basement/garage, which averages just below 60 degrees F with relatively little variation in annual temperature. Not the cellar temperature of the mid 50s all the time, but strong beer seems to be fine at this temperature range.  We do not save anything below 8.0% alcohol by volume unless it is a sour beer, with a whole other biochemistry going on to make it keep on going.

This little bottle lists the alcohol at 18% by volume.  No, that’s no typo.

So as expected it aged gloriously.  We sipped slowly.  “Less raisin than I remember,” I say.

“Oh, I get a ton of raisins,” says Steve.

Hmm. I will investigate further.

Quiet sipping.  Ok, not by a fire, in front of TV, but I can’t remember what was on, and that’s the modern day equivalent of a romantic flickering fireplace.

“Bread pudding. Sherry or port or something like that in the sauce.  A dry chocolate note, like powered hot chocolate, too.  Yeah, I think there are raisins in the bread pudding.”

Altogether delightful, and much better than I remembered.

Medium carbonation. Dark brown, and not clear.  And…  yummy.  A yummy strong ale.

At some point we agreed that if someone served this to us and said it was an unknown port or sherry-like fortified wine, we’d be amazed but would accept that at face value.  It was a remarkable beverage that had come into its own in the bottle.

So cheers to seizing the day! No real reason, just a happy raison. Thanks to the bloggers who carry on the tradition of The Session.

-Gail

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Post hoc ergo… this beer tastes odd

This month’s version of The Session – a beer blogging tradition of note – is dedicated to the idea of “framing” an experience by expectation and context. The experience is beer, of course.
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One of the pleasures of trying exciting new beers in the company of a close companion is sharing sips in bars, restaurants and festivals. Who can resist nearly twice as many interesting beers to try and to talk about? Now and then we find that there is only one beer on the list that we both crave, but usually we make the most of one of the classic “beer geek couple” benefits by discussing our choices, sharing and comparing.

What a way to learn about flavors, preferences, differences in perception… and the importance of flight-sequence! The first beer frames the second. After this, therefore somehow influenced by this. That seems to be how tastebuds like to work, not quite like the famous logical fallacy, but strangely similar, letting sequence change perception on a sensory level. This is framing like that experienced by contrast in tempo or other characteristic in music or perhaps as in a novel, with foreshadowing to color the unfolding action.

The first thing beer tasters are likely to discover is that a favorite beer can taste bland if preceded by a similar but sweeter, more bitter, more roasty, more yeast-flavored or higher alcohol beer. That’s easy to notice when the flavor of the known beer is strongly committed to memory, and the contents of your glass are no secret. It’s harder in a blind tasting situation, or where the known beer is not a recent favorite. When you get to a second beer in a tasting flight that’s one you have never had before, there is no way to know exactly how the prior beer is changing your perception of the current one.

The usual suggestions for coping with this are:

1. Milder, lighter (in flavor but not always in color) beers should be tasted first.
2. Before you go to the next beer, have a few sips of good water.
3. Before you go to the next beer, have a bite or more of bland food like bread. Salty breads, crackers, chips or pretzels are not quite as good because they change your perception of sweetness, but they may be better than nothing for resetting your palate.
4. Before you go to the next beer, use a trick from experienced Beer Judges and smell your own clean shirt sleeve, resetting your ability to get the aroma of the next beer. This can look a little odd, but it works like a charm. Best if you use unscented laundry detergent, of course.
5. Just take a few minutes to rest your senses before tasting a different beer. Easier when you are not sharing sips, perhaps.

A few more strategies that we have come across accidentally may be interesting to play with.

If you share beers, try to have more than one sip before swapping back. Sometimes “just a taste” gives a bad impression, but swapping back after several sips can make your original glass seem like the odd one. That’s not ideal either, but at least it’s instructive.

After a while you’ll start to get an instinct for what beers not to order together. Recently Steve and I went into Toronado and saw Bony Fingers and Publication on the list, and wanted those two. I had a little trepidation looking at the two beers, since I was not sure which one should go first. Both are complex and unusual treats.

Bony Fingers from Moonlight Brewing, one of the very special small breweries in our area, is a Halloween seasonal that has some of the delicious dark French-roast coffee-like malt character of Moonlight’s Death and Taxes, their popular innovative robust dark lager, with added spooky hop complexity. Publication, from Russian River Brewing Company, is a delicate Brettanomyces-fermented beer, dry but with creamy impressions of malt sweetness, not sour or funky, but with layers of earthy aged leather character from that unusual yeast, with a hop presence, but nothing like that of Bony Fingers. Flavors from a whole other universe! Which one to taste first? Turns out it didn’t matter! For us, those two seemed to each set up the other one by a fortuitous contrast that worked better than a clean slate. Like picture frames for sensory painting.

Last winter after trying some barleywines, (the big boozy malty sweet granddaddy of beers from the British and American brewing tradition), we ordered two sour beers at a bar in the LA area, and the milder one was blown away by the more intensely sour beer. We knew the milder sour beer we had ordered — La Folie — was one we’d liked before, so we sat waiting to get the busy bartender’s attention for some water. No luck, but there was the rest of that sweet, malty barleywine still sitting in the glass from our prior sampling. Sure enough, that barleywine reset our tastebuds so we could experience the milder of the sour beers and enjoy it. Again, beers were preparing our palates for other beers though contrast. Sometimes an unusual sequence is not odd, but inspiring.

One of our favorite local festivals offers great chances for fortuitous contrasts. The Bistro, easy walking from the Hayward BART station, has slated their much-anticipated Barrel Aged Festival for November 14, 2009. They promise 70 beers, some of which you will never see anywhere else, along with live music and BBQ from 11am to 7pm. For us, this annual festival is one of the joys of living in the Bay Area. Savoring so many contrasts of beer in bourbon barrels, in wine barrels with tart sourness, in clean vanilla flavored oak barrels and more is a rare treat.

That moment of discovering contrasting beers that pair to frame one another perfectly is even more fun than beer and cheese pairing.

Bistro wet hop festival

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

The Session: Will Travel For Beer (Roundup #29)

00-thesession150This time around The Session was all about charting uncharted territory.

We gave a very general call, asking for either travel stories, practical tips, or dream beer vacations… plus a beer description if it fits in anyplace, and we got a lot of delicious variety. Beer reviews were sprinkled thoughout. Quite a few bloggers did a little of each option, but here’s a rough attempt at classifying the tasty posts that emerged:

Tales of beer expeditions. What really happened on the road:

Rob writes about a Montana brewery visit – but his post is more on the craft of blogging and on reviewing a place based on only one visit, a pretty important insight.

Ray talks about going to the source for the brewpub-only offerings from Dogfish Head in Delaware.

Beer Odyssey Brian gives an example from Sun Valley, Idaho, of when travel plans go awry

The gun-totin’ New Mexico history is the star in this brew pub visit story by Derrick.

Beer Sagas gives general travel tips, specifics on Prague as a destination, and a lovely bit of international beer vocabulary – a Czech tradition, the dzban. Something like the American “growler” for take-home beer.

Touring the Texas Hill Country with its German beer heritage gives plenty for Don the Beer Brotha to work with.

Jay Brooks gives a quick overview of a life with a lot of beer travel, and singles out one special destination, in Scotland.

Peter of Better Beer Blog recaps a trip to San Diego, California he and Sam took last year.

Hey, wait a minute: We wrote about San Diego travels too, along with fleeting remembrances of the beers of the English countryside and Bavaria years before.

Ted remembers his hurricane evacuation beercation that ends with sumptuous notes on a bottle of Lost Abbey’s Judgement Day. Yes, San Diego again.

The Beer Nut posted, appropriately, from a pub in a foreign country, with tales of a mouthwatering tale of a trip to Copenhagen complete with notes on “Brewers United Belgian Stout” a Mikkeller-Xbeeriment collaboration.

Tips on how (and a little bit of where and why) to go:

Stan Hieronymus, founder of The Session (Beer Blogging Fridays), lists five specific great beer destinations you may not have thought about, and also encourages you to travel happily by seeking out national parks and always braking for good pie.

Jimmy of Hop Wild lays out some solid tips on preparation and beer hunting strategy.

Mario tells about a trip to Mt. Shasta and the seeking out of a small town brewpub as an act of familiarity and comfort.

Andreea gives practical, useful tips on making your beer trip to Belgium glorious.

Alan gives tips on the practicalities and challenges, including getting your beers over the US/Canada border.

Jon from the Brew Site suggests San Diego (imagine that!) and Portland as destinations and lists breweries to support his claim

Matt, the GISBrewmaster, adds some tips and endorses Portland as a worthy destination.

Stephen includes travel tips, a description of entering an establishment in Belgium, and then throws in an evocative beer enjoyed in a Toronto pub.

Knut Albert gives useful tips for European beer holidays from a Norwegian point of view.

Dreaming of the perfect beercation:

Steph Weber was the only blogger to write in this mode, with a carefully planned trip to North Carolina with both beer and childhood-memory destinations, and she closes with a beach sunset photo, the classic vacation keepsake.

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This was a lot of fun. The most mentioned destinations are San Diego, Belgium and Portland. The most mentioned tip was to do your homework – get going on that research ahead of time. (Of course, some advocated the pleasures of serendipity or leaving time to take suggestions on the fly from locals.)

The Session is a “blog carnival” group writing event originated by Stan Hieronymus. For an index of the Sessions see Jay Brooks’ handy guide. You can contact him to volunteer to anchor a future month. On twitter look for posts marked with the #thesession hashtag.

Next up will be “Beer Desserts” for the first Friday of August, hosted by David Jensen at Beer47.com . Sweet!

Will Travel for Beer

One of the great attributes of craft beer is that it continues to be primarily a local phenomenon. Travel for beer – or even just travel with hunting beer as a major component – is a pastime that won’t quit.
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Our earlier travel adventures that were not primarily for beer, but with good beer quite available and appreciated, included England and Bavaria, both in the 1980s. We didn’t know enough about what we were enjoying to make any notes or seek out anything that didn’t just fall in our laps, but we knew enough to try a variety of offerings and pay attention. It was all part of our gradual beer education, in the context of some walking-centric vacations.

Fragments we remember: While walking on the Coast-to-Coast trail through Northern England, coming off a ridge in the Lake District into some tiny village to the cozy B&B we had booked by phone the day before, we got out of our muddy boots and went over to the town’s only pub for the evening meal and a pint of the invariably delicious local bitter. What the hell was it? Who knows. All we knew was that after the next day’s walk that brew was no longer available and we had another offering in another village. All part of the sense of place.

Another year, we enjoyed a similar experience sight-seeing in several ancient walled towns, while going by rental car from Frankfurt to Munich. Each night we’d have delicious fresh lagers with our meals wherever we were staying, only to learn that the same beers were not available again the next evening in a new town. We quickly learned to revel in the expectation of sampling new and interesting beer each evening, served by publicans who were proud to offer them as their own.

It was on this trip to Germany that we enjoyed our first Monastic beer. Our research told us that a short train ride from Munich would leave us with a nice afternoon’s walk from the the train station to Andechs Monastery and Brewery. After a longer-than-anticipated, hot afternoon walk on country roads we arrived at the Holy Mountain less than one hour before last call. On a summer afternoon, the beer was a minor miracle, to be remembered vividly for years. In fact, Steve would not wait years. He arranged for his train connections 2 weeks later from Prague to leave him with a four-hour layover in Munich which he eagerly used to re-ascend Andechs Mountain and enjoy a more leisurely drinking session. He met a German high school teacher there who was grading papers whilst enjoying some “holy lagers.” The teacher treated Steve to several rounds and bought him a six-pack to take as a house gift for the next stop on his journey.

Almost nine years ago we became acutely aware of the West Coast American IPA revolution, thanks to festivals hosted by The Bistro, one of the East Bay establishments that inspired the creation of our Beer By BART transit guide. The Bistro does an IPA festival in August and Double IPA in February. That year the two of us scouted hoppy beers and compared them intently, trying to cover the major Northern California producers we knew, and some unknowns, too. We took a regional approach, confident that the beers from our area are excellent. They are.

Then the report came back from the judges. The three competition winners that year were all from San Diego county. Huh, what? We scrambled to taste the offerings from some brewery improbably called Pizza Port. This then-new San Diego style was a dry citrus slap in the face — and an elixir of pleasure. Who knew back then? We were fast learners, and immediately started planning a long weekend on the southern border.

San Diego in January
Magic Hour Frolic: San Diego in January

When the time came we checked into a hotel on Pacific Beach — unintentionally but fortuitously setting up only a few blocks from a little tavern called The Liars Club. It turned out that The Liars Club was THE local pub for San Diego craft beer. We made many a return visit in subsequent years. They moved from PB out to the small town of Alpine in 2008 and unfortunately closed earlier this year. We still miss it.

We reveled in the joy of discovering Alesmith, Ballast Point and each of the Pizza Ports one at a time, getting leads from people in each brewery or bar about where to go next. Our first time in San Diego for beer was like no other expedition.

San Diego County is difficult to tour because the good beer places are so spread out, and a designated driver (or a group that can hire a driver and split costs) may be the only good solution. In recent years the two of us have stayed in a different hotel each night to be walking distance from the final round at that night’s brewpub or beer bar. Winter is our favorite time for this excursion, when slightly warmer temperatures than San Francisco means more to us. Jeans and a hoodie on the beach, a January treat.

Brewery tour, at Stone, San Diego county.
Brewery tour, at Stone, San Diego county.

We also brought back great treasures. San Diego beers were a rarity in the Bay Area so we always had unique offerings to bring to dinners and sessions with friends. It was easier to do this, pre-9/11, since carry-on luggage could include bottles of liquid. Now, even though many of those fine breweries distribute at least some of their beers around the state, the trip is still worth it. There are always special releases to try and fellow beer fanatics to meet. The hop shortage helped encourage breweries like Stone, Green Flash and Lost Abbey to experiment more with sour beers just as we are learning to love them courtesy of Russian River, Marin, Drakes, Valley, Moonlight, Schooners and such in our region. A little bit of this new microbial magic makes it to the best bottle shops north of their county, but often a special batch is only poured locally, or at a festival. Something hoppy, puckering or richly malty will warrant wrapping and packing. Bubble wrap never sleeps.

On the San Diego county beer trail
Remote outpost on the San Diego county beer trail


The Session #29 compilation page is now ready, to find more travel posts. Thanks, and happy trails!

Gail & Steve