What Can Brown Do For You?

session-the
For our 120th Session, our host will be Joe Tindall, who writes The Fatal Glass of Beer. For his topic, he’s chosen Brown Beer, which sounds simple enough, but I’ll just let Joe explain what he means:

The colour brown has certain connotations, some of which I won’t dwell on. But used in reference to beer, it can signify a kind of depressing old fashioned-ness – to refer to a traditional bitter as ‘brown’ seems to suggest it belongs to a bygone corduroy-trousered era. As breweries who pride themselves on their modernity focus on beers that are either decidedly pale or unmistakably black, the unglamorous brown middle ground is consistently neglected.

So for Session 120, let’s buck the trend and contemplate brown beer. This might be brown ale, or the aforementioned English bitter; it could be a malty Belgian brune, a dubbel or a tart oud bruin; even a German dunkel might qualify.

color5-brown

In mid-2015, I was Thinking About Beer Color, so it could be fun to restrict that to just one family of color, the browns. There certainly are a lot of beers that fit into that range. What’s your take on the narrow band on the beer color rainbow. To participate in February’s Session, on or before Friday, February 3, 2017, post your thoughts on what brown has done for you. Just comment on the original announcement or via Twitter. Joe’s Twitter handle is @FatalGlass.

brown-beer-glass

Session #119: The Discomfort Of Burning Mouth Beer

chili-pepper
For our 119th Session, our host is Alec Latham, who writes Mostly About Beer …. For his topic, he’s chosen Discomfort Beer, by which he means a beer which initially tasted funny, or odd, or off, or something, but which later became a favorite. Or maybe it didn’t. I’m not sure if I’m explaining that very well, so I’ll just let Alec take over and describe what he means:

What was your first ever taste of beer like? For me, it was like chilled copper coins mixed with tonic water and was disgusting. This is a process us committed beer drinkers can revisit every time we try something new.

A few years ago, I visited a pub in Pimlico called the Cask and Kitchen. There was a beer called Wild Raven by Thornbridge Brewery. Making assumptions based on the title, I ordered a pint as I love stout. I remember opening the sluices and then seizing up. Something wasn’t right. It had the chocolatey flavour of a stout but there was an intruder – lemon rind hissed in my nostrils and tainted my palate. Citrus grappled with the roast malt. Was it supposed to taste like this? Was it infection? Detergent? I spent some time staring at the floor in a suspended double-take.

That was my first ever Black IPA and at the time I wasn’t sure. Initially, I didn’t like it but whilst deciding whether or not to return it to the bar I kept giving it the benefit of the doubt. The dislike diminished. The acceptance grew. The pint gradually drained.

Black IPA is now one of my favourite styles but it could have gone the other way.

And does a Black IPA still get me blinking at the floor in a state of disquiet? No. Neither does the astringent character of Brett nor the dry bite of Lambic. All styles have been comprehensively “locked in”. Ultimately, familiarity devours discomfort.

For Session 119 I’d like you to write about which/what kind of beers took you out of your comfort zones. Beers you weren’t sure whether you didn’t like, or whether you just needed to adjust to. Also, this can’t include beers that were compromised, defective, flat, off etc because this is about deliberate styles. It would be interesting to see if these experiences are similar in different countries.

I think this could be a good archive for people researching fads, the origins of styles and the dearths of others – but especially how new ones were initially perceived.

Over the past year I’ve had a black barley wine, a braggot, a rye wine, a seaweed and cloudberry Gose, a beer made with Saki yeast and several made with Champagne yeast. I’ve sipped stout with Tonka beans, drank mulled lager and many tea beers – some with the tea complementing the hops – others completely replacing them. This has also been a year where 9 ABV hop-forward beers have become standard (from the UK perspective).

Some of the above I loved, others I liked and some I hated. What remains to be seen is which will catch on and which are just brief social media cameos.

session_logo_all_text_200

The beer that brings me the most discomfort I first tried in the mid-1990s. It was Ed’s Cave Creek Chili. Every bottle has a whole chili pepper inside of it. Why? Besides being novel, and eye-catching, some people — many people — like hot and spicy food. I am not one of those people, which immediately puts me at a disadvantage. It came across my desk as the chain beer buyer for Beverages & more. And so I tried it, and instantly regretted it. And still do to this day. Besides the pain of the barrage of hot and spicy flavors, these beers completely ruin me for any other beer I might want to drink, or really anything I might to eat too. Basically, it makes me unable to taste anything else for a period of time, and not just a few seconds; more like minutes, sometimes well over an hour.

3-chili-beers

Of course, we brought it in. Just because I don’t like something shouldn’t mean others wouldn’t want to try it. And there was some obvious appeal for people who like that sort of thing, and it sold reasonably well, probably to just the sort of person who loves four-alarm (or is it five-alarm now?) chili or ghost peppers. People who must go to the extremes, who never met a challenge they wouldn’t try.

The beer is still around, though it’s now called Cave Creek Chili Beer, and is brewed in Mexico. As far as I know, it was the first modern chili beer. It was certainly the first one I ever tried. And they appear to even be growing in popularity. Chili Beer was in a subgroup for GABF and World Beer Cup judging, but recently were broken out into their own category. That only happens if they’re getting a growing number of entries each year. I always bow out of judging that category.

To be fair, I don’t like hot or spices in anything, food or liquid. I am unabashedly a spice wuss. I grew up in rural Amish country Pennsylvania, and like to joke that my family only used two spices: salt and lard. But that’s not far off, as most of the dishes I remember eating were fairly bland; corn pie, meatloaf, casseroles, stews, potato soup, stuff with very few spices. Maybe it was just my Mom, but most of her recipes came from other family members, so I don’t think so. Anyway, to this day I don’t even eat mustard or mayonnaise, no pepper, never touch any Indian food, and will eat only the plainest Mexican fare. After over twenty years, my wife will still hand me something, saying it’s not too hot, and I’ll gag from the spiciness. Of course, this usually makes her laugh, so maybe she’s been doing it on purpose all this time.

But that aside, I don’t think that beer should compete with my food, or even my tongue, for attention. It can wash down and compliment or even contrast my food, but if it renders me unable to taste the next bite, then to my way of thinking it’s not doing its job. It should also be pleasant and ultimately enjoyable. And burning the inside of my mouth has never accomplished that, even though I realize that is actually a goal for some people.

But using any more than the barest amount of chili peppers usually results in it overpowering whatever the base style of beer is, effectively removing its beeriness. I have the same issue with many barrel-aged beers, when they take on so much of the barrel character, or whatever had been in the barrel previously, that its essence is gone, having lost its beeriness in the process. If I want bourbon, I’ll just drink bourbon. In any flavored beer, the adjunct or wood should add to the beer, but not mask, remove or overpower its essential beeriness, otherwise it becomes something else entirely. And for almost every chili pepper beer that’s what happens. I have had one or two examples where it was subtle enough that it did just add to the flavors and not overwhelm your senses, but that’s rare enough that it’s an exception rather than a degree of that type of beer. The majority, I feel, want to hurt me, and wear that goal like a badge of honor, daring me to try it. I don’t think of drinking beer as an endurance test, something to make it through, or a challenge to meet.

cave-creek-chili-beer-steaming

So unlike Alec’s experience with Black IPAs, or many people, including myself, warming to a new type of beer, chili beer seems like a love it or hate it kind of beer, with little ground in the middle. And you won’t be surprised to learn I hate them. How could there be any middle ground? Maybe your tolerance for spiciness increases over time, but that has not been my personal experience. My wife has been trying for over twenty years, as did many girlfriends before that. And while I do, believe it or not, eat many more foods today than I did when I was a child and in the intervening years, many people are still shocked at how picky I am and usually chuckle at what I consider to be too spicy. C’est la vie.

So maybe I could, through a concerted effort, patent sampling, building up a tolerance over time, learn to better appreciate chili beers. Then what? They’d still be too much for everyday consumption. I can’t imagine a scenario or situation where that’s a beer I’d ever reach for willingly. What occasion would be appropriate to drink something that will burn my mouth and cause me to be unable to taste anything else? Maybe it’s pure hedonism on my part, but I don’t want to have to work at enjoying a beer. A good beer should, at the very least, just be enjoyable on its own, part and parcel of its beeriness. That is, and rightly should be what beeriness means: something delicious that you want to drink, and is enjoyable during and afterwards, or something that does not cause any discomfort.

napalm

Getting Comfortable With Discomfort

session-the
For our 119th Session, our host will be Alec Latham, who writes Mostly About Beer …. For his topic, he’s chosen Discomfort Beer, by which he means a beer which initially tasted funny, or odd, or off, or something, but which later became a favorite. Or maybe it didn’t. I’m not sure if I’m explaining that very well, so I’ll just let Alec take over and describe what he means:

What was your first ever taste of beer like? For me, it was like chilled copper coins mixed with tonic water and was disgusting. This is a process us committed beer drinkers can revisit every time we try something new.

A few years ago, I visited a pub in Pimlico called the Cask and Kitchen. There was a beer called Wild Raven by Thornbridge Brewery. Making assumptions based on the title, I ordered a pint as I love stout. I remember opening the sluices and then seizing up. Something wasn’t right. It had the chocolatey flavour of a stout but there was an intruder – lemon rind hissed in my nostrils and tainted my palate. Citrus grappled with the roast malt. Was it supposed to taste like this? Was it infection? Detergent? I spent some time staring at the floor in a suspended double-take.

That was my first ever Black IPA and at the time I wasn’t sure. Initially, I didn’t like it but whilst deciding whether or not to return it to the bar I kept giving it the benefit of the doubt. The dislike diminished. The acceptance grew. The pint gradually drained.

Black IPA is now one of my favourite styles but it could have gone the other way.

And does a Black IPA still get me blinking at the floor in a state of disquiet? No. Neither does the astringent character of Brett nor the dry bite of Lambic. All styles have been comprehensively “locked in”. Ultimately, familiarity devours discomfort.

For Session 119 I’d like you to write about which/what kind of beers took you out of your comfort zones. Beers you weren’t sure whether you didn’t like, or whether you just needed to adjust to. Also, this can’t include beers that were compromised, defective, flat, off etc because this is about deliberate styles. It would be interesting to see if these experiences are similar in different countries.

I think this could be a good archive for people researching fads, the origins of styles and the dearths of others – but especially how new ones were initially perceived.

Over the past year I’ve had a black barley wine, a braggot, a rye wine, a seaweed and cloudberry Gose, a beer made with Saki yeast and several made with Champagne yeast. I’ve sipped stout with Tonka beans, drank mulled lager and many tea beers – some with the tea complementing the hops – others completely replacing them. This has also been a year where 9 ABV hop-forward beers have become standard (from the UK perspective).

Some of the above I loved, others I liked and some I hated. What remains to be seen is which will catch on and which are just brief social media cameos.

we-prefer-discomfort

So start thinking about that new beer or new take on a familiar beer that made you wonder. Did you come around to it? Or did it stay as questionable as the first sip and never seemed like a good idea in the end? Did you react the same as others or is just something that you never came around on?

To participate in January’s Session, on or before January 6, 2017, post your comforting thoughts about discomfort beer and leave your URL to the link at the original announcement. Now that won’t cause any discomfort, will it? The only way you can be wrong, is to not participate.

chosen-poorly

Session #118: Guess Who’s Coming To The Beer Dinner

famous-dinner
For our 118th Session, our host will be Stan Hieronymus, who started the Session writes Appellation Beer, among much else. For his topic, he’s chosen to give us an interesting exercise, more like a game called Who You Gonna Invite?, which asks this simple question. “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?” So maybe not so simple when you start to really think about it, but here’s what else he has to add about our assignment.

If the questions look familiar it might be because we played the game here nine years ago. It was fun, so let’s take the show on the road. To participate, answer these questions Dec. 2 in a blog post (or, what the heck, in a series of tweets). Post the url in the comments here or email me a link. I’ll post a roundup with links some time the following week.

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It seems like such a simple task. Just pick four people and four beers. But of course, there’s nothing easy about it at all. First, the people. Choosing four also means leaving out innumerable others, so that has to be factored into the decision. Whoever you pick, dozens (hundreds, maybe) more have to be left off the guest list. I like a lot of people, and have, I like to think, wide tastes so there are a lot of people I would like to include. But then there’s also the mix of people. You want the group to have good chemistry, to get along, or at least respect one another enough to keep the conversation enjoyable even if there are disagreements.

Then there’s the “dead or alive” part of the equation. That ups the ante, I think. Because while I think it would be a great dinner with just some of my favorite beer writers. I would happily pass an evening dining with Stan, Stephen Beaumont, Lew Bryson and Emily Sauter (with apologies to my fellow writers I didn’t choose). But if I could invite Michael Jackson or Fred Eckhardt, what then? That would certainly change the guest list. Should you choose Pliny the Elder or Pliny the Younger (the man, not the beer)?

Or would I choose four of my favorite celebrities? Maybe Elvis Costello, Phoebe Cates, Harrison Ford and John Cleese. And not necessarily a celebrity in the conventional sense, but Noam Chomsky would be high on my list. I’d also like to invite the reclusive Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, although he probably wouldn’t come. But add the deceased to the mix and I might go with Bill Hicks, Katherine Hepburn, Maynard Ferguson or John Updike. Or I might go more obscure, with people like William Gruber, who invented View-Master, or Jay Ward, who created Rocky & Bullwinkle. If we could choose fictional people to invite it would be pretty easy: Indiana Jones, James Bond, Simon Templar and Captain Malcolm Reynolds, from Firefly.

What about family? There are certainly unanswered questions I have for both of my parents and the grandfather who died when I was still an infant. And I would love to pick the brain of Johann Stamm, my ancestor on my Mom’s side who first emigrated to Pennsylvania from Berne, Switzerland in 1745. I know almost nothing about him, apart from where he was born, and the fact that he was an anabaptist and a farmer. And I would love another chance to talk to my Uncle Wilbur. He wasn’t really my uncle, but was my grandmother’s second husband, who she divorced before I was even born. He was an alcoholic, and when he was trying to get sober, he lived in our basement for months, maybe a little over a year, I’m not sure how long it was. But when no one else would have anything to do with Wilbur, my mother took him in. He was kind to me; he encouraged me to try new things, and we became close. Then one day he got better, I guess, and left. I rarely saw him after that, and I would love to know more about his life. When my mother died, he came to the funeral, and because my grandmother did not want him there, he paid his respects from a distance, and I can still see him clearly standing beside a tall tree, remote and separated from the rest of the people at the gravesite, openly weeping. I still get choked up at the memory of seeing him there, and I wish I’d had an opportunity to know him better.

Or what about some of history’s most famous. Who wouldn’t want to share a beer with Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle or Albert Einstein. For conversation, who wouldn’t want to sit at a table with Oscar Wilde, Samuel Johnson, William Shakespeare and Ben Franklin. I’ve always had a thing for U.S. history during the time of American Independence — and I make my family watch the musical 1776 every 4th of July — so I would love to raise a tankard with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and James Madison. I’m also an inveterate art lover, so I’d love to sit down with Rene Magritte, and my daughter was named for suffragist Alice Paul, so it might be interesting to include her, too.

So thinking through the available options and opportunities, I don’t feel any closer to choosing my four guests, but I guess I have to make up my mind. Since there’s a chance, however remote, that I might be invited to have a drink with someone who’s still alive, the chance to spend time with someone previously deceased is just too good to not take advantage of.

dinner-party-1

So here’s my guest list:

  1. Bill Hicks. Besides being my favorite comedian, I wrote a novel in which he becomes a central character in the story, so I would love the opportunity to spend more time talking with him and sharing a meal.
  2. Benjamin Franklin. I want some wit at the table, and arguably there were wittier people to choose, but Franklin is from Philadelphia, and was part of my local history growing up. So he has to be my historical choice.
  3. John Updike. Updike grew up in my hometown of Shillington, Pennsylvania, and wrote about it and the surrounding area fictionally throughout his career. I read a lot of his novels, short stories and poetry since I was a kid. He was a great writer, and it would be great to have him at my table.
  4. Johann Stamm. It could be a disaster since I know almost nothing about my earliest American ancestor. He may not drink at all. He may be dull. But the chance to extend what I know about my family history before America is too tantalizing to pass up.

Four glasses with different beers

The same holds true for the beers you choose, too. I’m assuming, since the people you invite can be alive or dead, that the beer can be, too. Which would mean you could choose any beer, fresh or centuries old. How amazing would that be? Amazing, maybe, but no less difficult. So which four beers?

Since according to Stan’s instructions this is meant to be a “beer dinner,” and there’s no word on what the food might be, we have to assume it can be anything, and possibly would be dictated by the beers chosen. So like the exercise of choosing guests, the beers are tough to pick, too. You want something special, I think, something worthy of the guest list. I think you’d want a mix of beers, not all the same, and a progression from first to last, from appetizer to dessert.

But while the beer is important to a successful beer dinner, it may not be the most important aspect of it. Beer is in the title, of course, but I also think that it really doesn’t matter too much. The fact is that what makes a beer dinner great has as much to do with the company as the chef’s skill, the brewer’s magic and whoever paired the two together for each dish. I’ve had great food and beer at dinners but sat alone or with people I hardly knew and would have been just as happy at home. I’ve also had so-so food and beer choices but because I was with people I loved, respected or both, it was an amazing evening. The point is, while it may seem counterintuitive, I don’t think the beer is the most important ingredient in a beer dinner. The people are what elevate a good beer dinner to a great one.

So for that reason, I didn’t put nearly as much thought into the beer as I did the guest list. I think it’s enough to choose four beers I love, and would like to share with my friends at the table. And that’s true at this fancy exercise of a beer dinner or a simple get together with a few friends.

There are pleny of beers I’d like to include, such as Anchor Spruce Beer, which they made one time in 1991 for GABF’s 10th anniversary. I was one of the few people to really love it — even Fritz Maytag thought it had too much spruce character — but since I’m almost alone on revering it, I won’t do that to my guests. But I will pick just four beers that I do really love. Are they my favorite beers of all-time? Nah, I don’t think I have a list like that. Beers are too much of a time and a place for that kind of list making. So I think it’s best to pick four I’d like to drink right now, and want to share with my guests.

Here’s the beers to be served:

  1. Anchor Liberty Ale. This was the first hoppy beer I fell in love with, and I still love it. It’s always the first beer I order whenever I visit the taproom at Anchor.
  2. Orval. Still my favorite all-purpose Belgian beer, and my favorite Trappist beer.
  3. Cantillon Gueuze, from an older vintage, but aged just a few years.
  4. Bass No. 1 Barley Wine, aged one year, fresh from around 1880 or so. It’s probably just its mystic, but I’d love to try this historic beer.

Who Would You Invite To A Fantasy Beer Dinner?

session-the
For our 118th Session, our host will be Stan Hieronymus, who started the Session way back in 2007. He writes at several places, most notably at Appellation Beer. For his topic, he’s chosen to give us an interesting exercise, more like a game called Who You Gonna Invite?, which asks this simple question. “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?” So maybe not so simple when you start to really think about it, but here’s what else he has to add about our assignment.

If the questions look familiar it might be because we played the game here nine years ago. It was fun, so let’s take the show on the road. To participate, answer these questions Dec. 2 in a blog post (or, what the heck, in a series of tweets). Post the url in the comments here or email me a link. I’ll post a roundup with links some time the following week.

beer-dinner-blk-white

So start thinking about who you might want to join you at the table. Choosing four also means leaving out innumerable others, so that has to be sort of the decision. The same holds true for the beers you choose, too. I’m assuming, since the people you invite can be alive or dead, that the beer can be, too. Which would mean you could choose any beer, fresh or centuries old. How amazing would that be?

I’ll get you started:

Guests:

Beers to be Served:

Easy, right. Just fill it in.

the-toast-by-johnny-automatic-man-making-a-toast-at-a-dinner-party

Stan’s instructions on how to participate in December’s Session are simple. You can either “[p]ost the url in the comments [of his announcement] or email [him] a link” to your post. Or you could even put it in a “series of tweets.”

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If it were up to me, my table would have a few more people than four.

Session #117: Predicting The Future Of Beer

crystal-ball
The 117th Session, is hosted this month by Csaba Babak, who writes the British beer blog Beer Means Business. For his topic, he’s chosen More, More, More, by which he’s asking us all to “paint a collective picture of what the future related to beer will be like.”

Here’s his full description of the topic:

I have always been obsessed with asking what happens next or what is still ahead instead of simply embracing what is in the present. Ever since I heard about Beer Blogging Fridays, I have been toying with the idea of hosting a Session to paint a collective picture of what the future related to beer will be like.

This month, Beer Means Business has the honour to host The Session and to make this happen. The final picture of Beer Future will be based on what you think we will see MORE of.

Over the last 10 years, numerous topics have been presented and the bloggers who discussed them expressed a rich diversity of perspectives or specific areas of interest. Therefore, I refrain from giving you further ideas or examples. There are no limits in time, space or nature either. I would like you to let your imagination free, and capture ONE thing you think we will see MORE of with an explanation of the idea.

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So this month’s Session will be short, both by necessity and because I think the answer to this month’s question has a relatively short answer.

beer-in-your-future

So, looking into my crystal ball, I have two observations.

1. Predictions are a fool’s errand. None of us can really say what the future will hold. Oh, we can make educated guesses, even back them up with charts, history or trend indicators. And I’ll even admit it can be fun to try. But in the end, the future rarely ever looks anything close to what think it will. To wit: where is my flying car that folds into a briefcase? A great quote that illustrates how off predictions can be comes from Joe Owades. Owades, in addition to creating low-calorie diet beer (a.k.a. light beer), helped several early small brewers with their recipes. In April of 1987 he said. “No microbrewer in his right mind should make wheat beer. Five years from now it will be dead (as a commercial product).” Wheat beers of all kinds seem to be doing very nicely, thank you very much. Though not beer-related, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once quipped that “no one will ever need more than 64K RAM.” And these were both smart people who were well-respected members of their industries, knew a lot about their subject matter, yet failed utterly to grasp where the future was heading. I also happen to think (a hunch really) that even most predictions that turned out to be correct were the result of blind luck. So lots of predictions continue to fail, and will continue to fail, and maybe a few will turn out to be correct, but not enough to know who you should listen to and who to ignore. So I think it’s best to ignore them all and follow what you personally like, what speaks to you. At least that way you’ll be happy. There is, however, one thing I believe I can safely predict for the near future, and even the distant future. Then again, maybe I’m wrong.

2. People will still be drinking beer, and with a little luck, more of it will be beer with flavor.

Schlitz-1951-crystal-ball

More, More, More … How Do You Like it? The Future Of Beer

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For our 117th Session, our host will be Csaba Babak, who writes the British beer blog Beer Means Business. For his topic, he’s chosen More, More, More, by which he’s asking us all to “paint a collective picture of what the future related to beer will be like.” To explain more fully what that means, I recommend pushing play on the song below, “More, More, More,” by the Andrea True Connection, and then reading what he has to say.

Here’s his full description of the topic:

I have always been obsessed with asking what happens next or what is still ahead instead of simply embracing what is in the present. Ever since I heard about Beer Blogging Fridays, I have been toying with the idea of hosting a Session to paint a collective picture of what the future related to beer will be like.

This month, Beer Means Business has the honour to host The Session and to make this happen. The final picture of Beer Future will be based on what you think we will see MORE of.

Over the last 10 years, numerous topics have been presented and the bloggers who discussed them expressed a rich diversity of perspectives or specific areas of interest. Therefore, I refrain from giving you further ideas or examples. There are no limits in time, space or nature either. I would like you to let your imagination free, and capture ONE thing you think we will see MORE of with an explanation of the idea.

andrea-true-connection-more-more-more

So grab your crystal ball, and start pondering on your prognostication, so next week you can begin pontificating.

beer-in-your-future

Here’s Csaba’s instructions on how to participate in November’s Session. “To participate and leave your stroke of brush in the painting of Beer Future, please publish a post with your contribution on Friday, 4th November [or before] and comment on [his announcement] post with the permalink to it.”

future-duff

But Now, God Knows, Anything Gose

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For our 116th Session, our host will be Derrick Peterman, who writes Ramblings of a Beer Runner. For his topic, he’s chosen Anything Gose, asking everyone to write about the German sour beer style Gose.

Rittergute Gose Labels

Here’s his full description of the topic:

I choose the Gose style in particular since it can be approached in so many different ways. Want to talk about the history of the Gose? How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions? How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland? Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity? (OK, that might not be your opinion of the Black IPA, but you get the idea.) Of course, we’re all on the look-out for a good Gose, so if there are any you particularly like, we’d love to hear about them.

AnythingGose_HalfBBLKegCap

We know “Times have changed, and “Good authors too who once knew better words, Now only use four-letter words Writing prose. Anything goes.” Or rather, Anything Gose. So on or before Friday, October 7, let’s wax lyrically about gose. Music optional. Post your contribution at the original announcement or e-mail your link to Derrick at photon.dpeterman[at]gmail(dot)com. And remember. “If driving fast cars you like, If low bars you like, If old hymns you like, If bare limbs you like, If Mae West you like, Or me undressed you like, Why, nobody will oppose. When ev’ry night the set that’s smart is in-Truding in nudist parties in Studios. Anything goes.”

broadway_anything_goes_650X370

Apropos of nothing, I love the title because it’s play on the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes,” a personal favorite, and the only show I’ve done twice in my theatre geek days.

Here’s a great performance of the song “Anything Goes,” although only really just part of it, from the 2011 Tony Awards.

Session #115: Beer Bookish

book
The 115th Session, is hosted this month by Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Blog Birraire. For his topic, he’s chosen The Role of Beer Books, to sum up the topic says. “I believe the importance of books for the beer culture makes them worthy of another Session.”

Here’s his full description of the topic:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

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My two primary beer bookshelves today.

For me, I have to go back before I thought about beer books, and thought about just books. I loved books for as long as I can remember. I read voraciously as a child. They were a great escape from issues I had with my home life, and particularly a psychotic, alcoholic stepfather. I loved classic adventure stories — like the Howard Pyle Robin Hood, the Swiss Family Robinson and Around the World in 80 Days — but really would read just about anything. My favorite aunt (a great aunt, actually) was very encouraging about reading. She was an unusual woman, and had a degree in chemistry from Syracuse University, which was not common in the late 1910s or early 20s. She sadly never really put it too good use, but she read constantly, and usually had several books she would be reading simultaneously. She would leave them bookmarked in each room, and would read the book left in whatever room she happened to be in. I don’t know how she did it, but it was her pattern my whole life, so she had obviously worked it out so it was easy for her. About once a month, our school handed out a flier from the Scholastic Book Club, and she had graciously agreed to buy any books I wanted. To be fair they were almost always under a buck, but it was an amazing gift.

One of the last things my biological father gave me before he was out of the picture was a multivolume children’s illustrated encyclopedia. That was my introduction to the world of reference books. And I’m still obsessed with them to this day. As much as I love stories, I love non-fiction even more. There was a quote I always loved, by Desiderius Erasmus. “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” When I joined the military, and was on my own for the first time as a young adult, that was how I lived my life. After basic training and then my MOS school in Virginia, my permanent duty station was in New York City, where I played in an Army Band from 1978 through the fall of 1980. We got paid on the 1st and 15th of each month. Since I had no rent, no utilities to pay, no insurance premiums and my used car was paid for, my paycheck was almost all disposable. After setting some aside for college each month, the rest went to books, music and video games. Every paycheck, we’d pick a new Atari 2600 cartridge and then the rest was spent on interesting books and albums (remember this was before the age of the CD or digital music).

It was during this period of time I bought a bartender’s book of cocktails. In the back of the book there was an appendix that included four reasons to drink for each day of the year. It was that book that piqued my interest in collecting dates. It’s what led to there being a Brookston Almanac (http://brookstonalmanac.tumblr.com/), though it was actually first online as The Daily Globe around 1995. And until recently, I had more books on calendar systems, almanacs, timelines and collections of dates than I did beer books.

But the first true beer book I bought was detailed in an earlier Session, Session #46: An Unexpected Discovery, and it was Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer. I first arrived in New York City in the spring of that year, and began exploring the city, especially jazz clubs, museums and the theater. There was a great USO office in Times Square, and we could usually pick up leftover theater or movie tickets there for free.

We also visited bars, lots of them. Somebody told us to go to McSorley’s, and it was certainly fun. But what emerged as a favorite was a bar in the East Village, Brewsky’s Beer Bar. It was a little hole-in-the-wall on 7th Avenue, but it had, for its day, a great selection of imported beers. I think the owner was Ukranian, or something like that, and there were a lot of beers from central and eastern Europe. There were dozens of similar-tasting lagers and pilsners with enchanting labels I couldn’t read. But it was the darker beers that really stood out, simply because they were so different from what I’d grown up drinking. For example, I recall Dortmunder Union vividly as a beer with distinct flavors unlike any other I’d ever tried.

I liked most of what I tried, though at the time I was drawn to the few English ales I tried, I think because they tasted so much different to me than what I was used to drinking. I was certainly hooked. I already had a somewhat obsessive love affair going with beer, but to find out that it was so much richer and more varied than I’d realized was something of an epiphany.

I longed to know more about what I was tasting, but there was scant little information available. Happily, that changed one day during one of my post-payday trips to a bookstore, I happened upon Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer, which had been recently published. I almost didn’t pick it up, because the garish gold and green cover had a large Miller ad in the center. But then I spied the red triangle from Bass and flipped through it. Needless to say, I bought it on the spot. Finally, I had some context to what I’d been drinking lately and was able to organize my head around the various tastes I’d been trying so chaotically.

Looking back, it seems odd that there was so little available information on beer and, compared with today, how truly ignorant I was. And it wasn’t just me. Practically everybody I knew had little or no idea about beer. The regional and national breweries at the time made no effort to educate consumers. The other beer books I was able to find at the time made little attempt to codify or explain anything. There were plenty of breweriana books, books on collecting cans, things like that. Or trivia-themed, Abel’s Book of Beer (which has been mentioned online recently), a few by Will Anderson, etc. But Jackson’s book talked about the beer itself, what was in the bottle rather than what was on the label. That was pretty cool at the time.

Since then, of course, I’ve amassed quite a few more beer books, which I started picking up while working on my first book in 1991. Below is the original shelf I set aside for beer books.

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And outgrew that one and added another next to it, but that’s now too full and place for a third will have to be found soon.

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And here’s some stragglers, and a few often-consulted books, piling up until a third shelf can be found.

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Crack A Book For The Next Session

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For our 115th Session, our host will be Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Blog Birraire. For his topic, he’s chosen The Role of Beer Books, to sum up the topic says. “I believe the importance of books for the beer culture makes them worthy of another Session.”

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Here’s his full description of the topic:

The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the bad role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.

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So before Friday, September 2, crack open some beer books, and some beer, and write about the intersection between the two. Prose seems to be the preferred vehicle, but I don’t see why you couldn’t resort to iambic pentameter or some other poetic form. Rhyming optional. Publish your findings, and then post a comment with a link to your post at the original announcement. Happy reading.

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