For our 131st Session, I’m the host so I suppose it seems like a bit of a cheat for me since I made up the questions. Anyway, here are my three “simple” questions, with my own answers, which — for the record — I did not know in advance. The questions came first, then I had to come up with the answers the same way as anyone else. Still, I think, and hope, my questions will be fun and make everyone think about it a little bit. Plus, as many have pointed out, it was a Session emergency and I had to think fast.
Question No. 1
For our first question of the new year, what one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink. Craft beer seems to be the most agreed upon currently used term, but many people think it’s losing its usefulness or accuracy in describing it. What should we call it, do you think?
Short Answer: Beer
Long Answer: For a while now, I’ve been thinking that trying to divide up beer into two or more camps — big beer vs. craft beer, et al. — has become a fool’s errand. It just doesn’t work anymore, if indeed it ever really did. As the size of the brewery, ownership issues and other factors complicate how we define what constitutes a craft brewery, that’s pretty much all inside baseball. Consumers, of which I’m still one, don’t really care about most of these so long as the beer tastes good. There are reasons to care about ownership. I get that. And I certainly understand why the Brewers Association needs to define a craft brewery, but for almost everyone else it’s not terribly important. And since the term is increasingly meaningless to a majority of people, I think it’s time to ditch it and go back to calling it all beer. There’s just beer I’ll drink, and beer I don’t really want to drink. That’s how it’s always been, and that’s how it will always be.
Question No. 2
For our second question of the new year, what two breweries do you think are very underrated? Name any two places that don’t get much attention but are quietly brewing great beer day in and day out. And not just one shining example, but everything they brew should be spot on. And ideally, they have a great tap room, good food, or other stellar amenities of some kind. But for whatever reason, they’ve been mostly overlooked. Maybe 2018 should be the year they hit it big. Who are they?
Answer 1: Stan mentioned Chuckanut in his session post, and I have to heartily agree. Every beer Will Kemper makes is just fantastic. His lagers are second to none, just spot on. He’s the Matt Brynildsohn of lagers, or maybe Matt’s the Will Kemper of hoppy beers (although Pivo doesn’t suck). The point is his lagers are just amazing
Answer 2: My second has to be Moonlight Brewing, the tiny self-distributing brewery tucked into Santa Rosa. It doesn’t hurt that owner/brewer Brian Hunt is one of my favorite people on Planet Beer, but he’s also the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of. I feel fortunate to live when you can find his beer, because it doesn’t exactly have wide distribution — only as far as Brian’s van can go.
For our third question of the new year, name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of. It’s clear hoppy beers, IPAs and all of the other hop-forward beers they’ve spawned, are here to say. There seems to be a few other styles that are popular, too, like saisons, barrel-aged beers, anything imperial and also sour beers of all kinds. But lots of other previously popular beers seem sidelined these days. What three types of beer do you think deserve more attention or at least should be more available for you to enjoy? They can be anything except IPAs, or the other extreme beers. I mean, they could be, I suppose, but I’m hoping for beers that we don’t hear much about or that fewer and fewer breweries are making. What styles should return, re-emerge or be resurrected in 2018?
Answer 1: Milds. It’s baffling to me that people are trying to make sessionable versions of other beers, when there are already milds out there. Even more mystifying is that American brewers consistently have found that if they call their beer a “mild,” no one will buy it. If they give it a name without mild in it, people will order it. But I love milds, if only more people made them.
Answer 2: Rye beers. Really any beer with some rye in the grain bill I generally like. I just love that spicy note that rye adds. It doesn’t need much rye to give it that extra oomph, although I’ll drink it no matter how much rye is used. Bear Republic once brewer a 100% rye beer as an experiment, finally making it work, and I was privileged to be there when they tapped the first keg. I thought it was delicious.
Answer 3: Dunkelweizens. I already like German hefeiweizens but dunkleweizens just add a welcome additional element. The ones with chocolate notes are especially good to my taste, but the dark malt is great regardless and I find just that much more delicious than the regular weizens with malted wheat and pilsner malt.