Today would have been Bert Grant’s 85th birthday, and he is definitely missed. Bert opened the country’s first brewpub in 1982 in Yakima, Washington and was a fixture in the industry until his death in late July of 2001. Join me tonight in lifting a pint to Bert’s memory.
Back in February, during SF Beer Week, it hit me that we needed a Session Beer Festival in the Bay Area. California is already known for big, hoppy beers but I was convinced that not everybody wants an extreme beer all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love a hop bomb IPA or an Imperial Stout as much as the next beer geek, but not every day of the week. So I started talking it up, mentioning the idea here and there. I spoke to the San Francisco Brewers Guild, called Joe Tucker from RateBeer, and brought it up with several brewers. Everybody liked the concept.
Somehow word reached John Martin and Drake’s/Triple Rock. Their wonderful marketing director, Kelsey Williams, picked up the ball and has been running with it ever since. After discussions with all of us, she’s set a juggernaut in motion. First, at least in the Bay Area, we’ve declared that May is “Session Beer Month,” and we’re calling on all breweries, bars, restaurants and beer stores to create some sort of event to create awareness of session beers. This is the first year, obviously, so we’re not expecting too much this time around, but are looking at the long haul, hoping to create momentum so that next year Session Beer Month will be huge, or at least will grow bigger each year.
To facilitate that, she’s also created a Facebook Page and Twitter account for SessionBeerMay. Check them out; “like us” and “follow us,” and most importantly, if you’re in a position to help, please consider creating a session beer event this month. If you’re not, please consider supporting the effort by drinking session beers throughout the month. If your favorite place doesn’t have any, ask them to carry at least one session beer. Although it may spark an unwinnable debate, we’re defining “session beers” as 4.5% a.b.v. or below. We accept that sometimes a 5% beer can be considered sessionable, but for our purposes — with tongue firmly in cheek — those we’ll consider “imperial session beer” or “extreme session beers.”
On the Facebook page, Kelsey’s drafted our mission statement.
Beer lovers, we are in the midst of a revolution. We have thrown off the fetters of the fizzy yellows and clamored for change. To supplant the sameness, we sought and found the EXTREME. We now have Triple IPAs and World Wide Stouts, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperials, Belgian Quads, and all manner of High Gravity beers stuffed with fruits, spices, malts, hops. We’ve reached for the outermost precipices of beer, and succeeded.
Yet, in our noble quest for more innovation and more experimentation we have flown past many classic, well-loved, craft beer styles that may have seemed, due to their modest alcohol contents, a little too close to the weak, yellow, fizz water we’d escaped.
We have left behind these beers of import, beers perfectly suited to a long conversation at the pub, a picnic at the park, a post-hike refreshment, or a mid-summer beach trip, and beers that one can happily imbibe over the course of a few hours and leave satisfied and still standing.
We call to you beer lovers. Do not disregard a well-made, flavorful Bitter, Mild, Scottish Ale, Dry Stout, or any other Session beer because you perceive a lower alcohol content as a sign of the weak and bland. Allow us to prove that these beers are worthy of consideration. They, just like the extreme beers, have their place in our fridges and on our local taps.
We declare the month of May for Session beers. Beers that need not be analyzed, dissected, sipped, or sniffed in abundance. Delicious beers that not only enhance a good conversation but can extend it through multiple rounds.
Raise a Pint. Raise a Few. Spread the word in May; Less is most certainly more.
Amen. That’s the idea, nailed up to the electronic doors of the church of extreme beer, in the hopes of sparking a session reformation.
The next step? That’s easy: A Session Beer Festival. This year the NorCal Session Fest, will be held modestly at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro on Saturday, May 25, 2013 from 12-4 PM. As befits session beers, the festival will benefit the East Bay Bike Coalition. Tickets to the event are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. You can buy tickets online at Brown Paper Tickets. In addition to the beer, local food trucks will be on-site with tasty food for sale. Please join us for the first beer festival celebrating session beers in the Bay Area. Let’s make this an annual event. I’ll see you there.
Today is Dave Buhler’s 54th birthday. Ironically, like Dick Cantwell, whose birthday was yesterday, Dave is also a co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.
Dave and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf (at right). Neither Tom or I could identify the fellow in the middle, sorry about that. Can anybody help me out and tell me who that is?
While I’m firmly in the “beer came before bread” camp in the anthropological debate about what sparked civilization, evidence has been mounting for that view since it was first proposed over a half-century ago. In a new opinion piece in the New York Times by Jeffrey P. Kahn, the CEO of WorkPsych Associates, entitled How Beer Gave Us Civilization, he lays out the case for why “we needed beer” and runs through an overview of early civilization’s introduction of alcohol and why it was so necessary to our development. He also brings into the debate a recent study from the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, What Was Brewing in the Natufian? An Archaeological Assessment of Brewing Technology in the Epipaleolithic, which adds new support for what I call the “beer first” theory.
He unfortunately ends with the long-discredited Benjamin Franklin beer quote, but apart from that gaffe, it’s a good read. Just stop short of the final two paragraphs, and it’s even better. He should have just finished with this sage observation. “Beer’s place in the development of civilization deserves at least a raising of the glass.” Hear, hear.
Illustration by Anders Nilsson.
During this year’s Pliny the Younger release day at Russian River Brewing last month, I met Ron and Rob, who have embarked on creating a video series of rare beer releases under the banner of Limited Release Beer. The idea is to go around the country documenting the brouhaha surrounding each rare beer’s release. So far they’ve done videos for Portsmouth’s Kate the Great, Three Floyd’s Dark Lord, Surly’s Darkness, and the Bruery’s Black Tuesday. The latest video, of course, was just released, and it was this year’s Pliny the Younger.
The video runs about 17 minutes, and includes some background history and information, the day itself, a nice interview with Vinnie Cilurzo talking about Pliny, a Mission Impossible-style animation of stealing some Pliny to take back to their “expert taster,” which turned out to be a trick. I assume that must be part of each episode, and they included it only because it’s in the other episodes, too. Then they finish up with their take on the event and some tips to help you survive the next one. All in all, a fun effort.
As you may be aware, today is International Women’s Day, and although I’m up to my eyeballs in work, I do want to pause and celebrate the many, many women in beer. Time was, beer was an all-boys club, and to a certain few it still is, but I couldn’t be happier to see an ever-increasing number of women attending beer events, writing about it and brewing it. There was a time when brewsters made almost all of the beer, but then men grabbed the reigns and kicked women to the curb. I, for one, think beer was all the poorer for that decision, but then it happened centuries before I had any say in the matter.
Because I don’t want to leave anybody out, I’m not going to even try to list all of the wonderful people I’ve met over the years I’ve been writing about beer who just happen to have been born female. To them, today and really on every day, I raise a toast to you.
Although I’m not naming names, here are a few others who have, and some organizations, too, that are also worth singling out. It’s not complete, of course, and I’m confident there are others I’m forgetting, but suffice it to say I mean to include everyone. To all of you, thanks for what you do, and making the world of beer a better place to work, to play and to enjoy life.
- 10 Amazing Women in Craft Beer You Should Know and Follow by the Beer Wench
- Barley’s Angels
- Brewess: The Blog for Women Who Brew Beer
- Ladies of Craft Beer [website currently down?]
- The Pink Boots Society
- Queens of the Beer Age by the Weekly Pint
- Real Women Drink Craft Beer
- Women Enjoying Beer
The Pink Boots Society, founded by Teri Fahrendorf, “created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the Beer Industry through Education.” Today there are nearly 900 members for all facets of the beer industry.
Barley’s Angels, co-founded (I think) by Lisa Morrison in Portland, Oregon. “Barley’s Angels is a growing collection of individual chapters around the world that work with craft beer focused breweries, brewpubs, restaurants, alehouses and other public beer establishments to advance the female consumer craft beer enthusiast, resulting in increased patronage and revenue from women, while encouraging education and interest in beer among this often under-recognized demographic group.” There are currently 25 chapters in 18 states, plus 12 international chapters in five countries.
Women Enjoying Beer, started by Ginger Johnson. “Women Enjoying Beer develops and serves the female beer enthusiast. We’re the only organization anywhere doing as much, from the consumer vantage point, to benefit the craft/beer industry.”
During last night’s Celebrator 25th Anniversary Party, Vic Kralj, from the Bistro, wrote a spoof of “Roll Out the Barrel” for our silver anniversary, entitled the Celebrator Silver Polka. Then he rehearsed it with regulars and friends from his beer bar, unveiling it as a special surprise for Tom Dalldorf during the party. Below is a video the evening’s performance.
The closing event for SF Beer Week was again hosted by the Celebrator Beer News, who held their 25th Anniversary Party at the Oakland Marriott Convention Center on Sunday. Over 600 people attended the festival, which had a Mardi Gras theme, and 50 breweries were pouring their beer.