Next Session: Getting SMaSHed

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For our 125th Session, our host will be Mark Lindner‏, who writes By the Barrel: Bend Beer Librarian. For his topic, he’s chosen SMaSH Beers, or single malt and single hop beers, which he was reminded of by his local Bend, Oregon, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, which happened a few weekends ago. Between that, and brewing his first batch a beer — yes, it will be a SMaSH beer — he “jokingly asked [him]self if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; [he has] not seen them yet though.”

2016-SMaSh-Fest

But here’s Mark’s full description of his topc:

Here are some potential directions you could consider:

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

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

Resources

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

BREWING

Keeping it Simple with SMaSH Brewing [AHA]

Single-Malt Brewing [All About Beer]

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

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

STYLE GUIDELINES

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

FOR GENERAL BEER DRINKER (NON-BREWER)

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

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

hulk-smash

To participate in the July Session, on or before Friday, July 7, 2017, write a post and either leave a comment to the original announcement, e-mail your post’s link to mark . r . lindner @gmail . com or tweet him at @bythebbl.

smash-brewing-hop-evaluation

Next Session: Looking For Late, Lamented Loves

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For our 124th Session, our host will be David Bardallis‏, who writes All the Brews Fit to Pint, which focuses on Ann Arbor, and Michigan more generally. For his topic, he’s chosen Late, Lamented Loves, and while he confesses that the “late” part of that title is, at least in part, due to accidentally forgetting to post his announcement sooner (though to be fair, I forgot to remind him, which I usually try to do, so it’s not all on him) the result is that we all have one day to come up with a topic for tomorrow’s Session. Think of this month’s Session as a “speed session,” and shoot from the hip. And for his topic, that actually works. So what’s the topic? What’s a beer that’s no longer being brewed that you really miss, and wish was still available? Quick, top of your head? I can think of a few beers no longer around that I’d happily crack open if I could. I bet you can think of some, too, off the top of your head. “So… what are your late, lamented beer loves?” But here’s David’s full description:

Nevertheless, I think the chosen subject, “Late, Lamented Loves,” is still worth talking about. I mean a beer you remember fondly but which is no longer in production.

It needn’t be an objectively “great” beer, though it could be. It could also be a nostalgic or youthful memory. It could be a “go-to” you still reflexively want to reach for. It could be all of these things.

Maybe the brewery and the beer are both long gone. Maybe the brewery is still around but just decided for whatever reason not to continue producing the glorious nectar you still pine for.

Whatever the case, there’s probably at least one beer that’s already leapt to your mind that fits into this description. Maybe even more than one, and, if so, feel free to go there.

sorry-im-late
To participate in the June Session, on or before Friday, June 2, 2017 — which is tomorrow — write a post as soon as you can and either e-mail your post’s link to annarborbeer@gmail.com or tweet him at @allthebrews. If that’s not quite enough time, don’t worry, if you “need more time than a day, hit [him] up anyway. [he]’ll continuously update in the days and weeks ahead as necessary.” Get cracking.

IRISH_TREX_BLACK

Next Session: Pros & Cons Of Beer Online

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For our 123rd Session, our host will be Josh Weikert, who writes Beer Simple. For his topic, he’s chosen CyberBrew — Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer? Thankfully, he elaborates on his thinking:

This month, we’re taking on the internet and craft beer: is it a help, a hinderance, an annoyance, or all of the above? How is beer drinking/brewing different in the internet age, and how is the internet changing the way brewers and craft beer drinkers do business?

Topics might include:

  • Marketing beer in the internet age
  • The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what’s the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)
  • How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?
  • Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-“gamifying” beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?
  • Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

And, of course, I’m sure that you’re all more creative than me and there’s a lot I’m missing.

beer-from-laptop

To participate in the May Session, on or before Friday, May 5, 2017 — which is this Friday, just a few days away — write a post about your views about beer online, what Josh refers to as CyberBrew. “Leave a comment with a link to your post in the comment section” of the original post, “preferably by May 5th (the first Friday of the month, also known as ‘next Friday’). Even if you’re running a little late, leave your comment and I’ll catch it. The roundup will publish in mid-late May (I’d say that the 15th is a likely target), and we’ll see what everyone came up with.” Easy as 1-2-3.

internet communication

Your Views On Imported Beer

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For our 122th Session, our host will be Christopher Barnes, who writes I Think About Beer. For his topic, he’s chosen to elicit everyone’s Views on Imported Beer, which he explains more fully:

I love imported beer, specifically Belgian and German beer. They’re what I drink. My cellar is made up of Belgian beers, my fridge is full of them, and there a few stashed around in a closet or two as well. Imported beer is my life. I drink them. I write about them. I travel to experience them. In fact, my career involves working with Imported Beer. I manage several prominent import portfolios for a Oregon craft focused wholesaler. And while I have a vested interest in the success of Imported Beer, it doesn’t lessen my passion for the traditional beers of Europe. As craft beer sales have surged across America, sales of imported beers have suffered. I’m going to ask a couple of questions.

For American and Canadians: What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?

For Non North Americans: How are American beers (imported into YOUR country) viewed? What is their place in your market?

top-20-imported-beers-in-america-social

So what’s your take on imports, or as some people say disparagingly, foreign beer? How do they fit into the craft movement, or the beer landscape in its entirety? Are they useful, out-dated, a necessary evil, a valid category, what? I need to know, dammit. SO please let us know your “Vues sur la bière importée,” or your “Ansichten über importiertes Bier,” or even your “Bekeken op geïmporteerd bier.” Personally I’d like to know your “Opinie na temat piwa importowanego” and your “Synspunkter om importeret øl.” But don’t forget your 輸入ビールの眺め or your Просмотры на импортированном пиве.

To participate in the April Session, on or before Friday, April 7, 2017 — which is this Friday, just a few days away — write a post about your views on imported beer. “Leave a comment with a link to your post in the comment section” of the original announcement, and “have fun and please do participate.”

beers-of-the-world-lg

Bock To Basics

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For our 121st Session, our host will be Jon Abernathy, who writes The Brew Site. For his topic, he’s chosen Bock!, which again sounds simple enough, but I’ll just let Jon explain what he means:

The month of March heralds the start of spring, and March 20 is even National Bock Beer Day. So Bockbiers seemed like a natural fit for the month!

Oshkosh-Bock-Beer

Don’t feel constrained to simply write a review of a Bock beer, though I’m certainly interested to read any reviews that come it. Some other ideas to consider:

  • Dig into into the history of the style—their ties to Einbeck, the differences in the development of Bocks and Doppelbocks, and so on.
  • Do any of your local breweries brew a Bock-styled beer? Seek it out and write about it.
  • Alternatively, interview your local brewer who brewed that beer; get their take on the style and why/how they brewed it the way they did.
  • Have you ever attended Bockfest in Cincinnati, Ohio? It just so happens to take place the first weekend of March—write a review for The Session!
  • There are already the styles of traditional Bock, Doppelbock, Maibock, Eisbock, Weizenbock (and Helles Bock and Dunkles Bock in the BJCP) guidelines. Just for fun, invent a new style of Bock and describe it.
  • Have you homebrewed a Bock or similar style? Tell us about it, and anything you learned brewing this lager style at home.
  • Bock puns!

bock-roman-goddess-Ohio

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 the March Session, on or before Friday, March 3, 2017, post your thoughts on Bock beer. Either comment on the original announcement or via Twitter or Facebook. Jon’s Twitter handle is @brewsite.

Eckert-and-Winters-Bock-1877

What Can Brown Do For You?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.