02 Sep 2010 @ 10:15 PM 

This month’s Session is being hosted by The Beer Babe and is a topic of particular interest to me. It is, New Kids on the Block. Her summary:

With the astounding growth of the number of craft breweries this year, chances are there’s a new one in development, or has just started out in your area. My challenge to you is to seek out a new brewery and think about ways in which they could be welcomed into the existing beer community. How does their beer compare to the craft beer scene in your area? Are they doing anything in a new/exciting way? What advice, as a beer consumer, would you give to these new breweries?

I’m going to take a little bit of a different tack on this because I am, myself, a New Kid on the Block. In fact, I’ll be cross-posting this post on my brewery’s website and so, in a most amazingly selfish manner, I’m going to write about me.

I want to tell you about my crazy plans to make only seasonal beers. I want to tell you about how I’m never going to make the same beer twice and that consistency only needs to be in quality not in flavor. I want to detail how I’m going to offer a food pairing with every single brew I make. About how I want to steal marketing ideas from the wine industry and how I never want to sell a 6-pack. I want to tell you about how I plan to market to nerds with literature references and appeal to history buffs because I’m tired of beer pong and tit jokes. I want to go on about how I want to use the web and social media to engage customers in ways that I don’t see anybody doing right now. I think that I’ve got some groundbreaking new stuff in mind that could change a lot of people’s minds about how beer exists in the marketplace and how it gets in to restaurants and bars.

But I’m not going to.

Instead, I want to talk about how awesome everybody else has been using two aphorisms that you tend to hear in and around the industry.

Beer People Are Good People

You hear this a lot. Hell. I say it a lot. Beer people are good people. Let me show you what I mean. Click on this link. What you see there are the results of 243 people who appreciate good beer enough to help some lucky bastard (ermm.. me) chase his dream. That is nothing short of absolutely phenomenal. (I should also note that 1 of those 243 people is the host of this month’s Session. Thank you, Carla!) I have received support from local beer people that is beyond anything I could have hoped for. I received offers for help with everything from construction to design to manual labor. Sure, maybe there’s the hope that some free beer might change hands here or there, but I haven’t heard much about it. Instead, I’ve heard, “I’d just like to help.” As a new brewery coming onto the scene it’s heartwarming. It’s great to run into people in bars and hear their excitement. It’s humbling and ridiculously exciting.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Let me tell you a starry-eyed plan that I have for my brewery. No! Let me tell you first about North Carolina beer. Here in North Carolina, we have a great beer scene. There are breweries up and down this state that are making world class beer. There are ground-breaking new breweries, veteran award-winning breweries, brewpubs, nano-breweries, Reinheitsgebot-following breweries, and everything in-between. The past year has seen 5 new breweries open in the state, 3 within an hour drive of me. On top of that? I have received nothing but kind words, support, and help from the local industry. Instead of competition, I am being treated like.. well.. a new kid on the block, a new friend. So that starry-eyed plan?

I have a clause written into my business plan that says that, whenever possible, I would like to avoid taking another North Carolina beer off tap in a location where I go on. Is it always going to be possible? Probably not. It’s not my decision, after all. But I would rather go in next to a great local beer – and have the establishment that I’m in sell the local option than replace a local beer and go in next to … whatever. Sam Adams Seasonal. Hell – keep the Boston Lager tap, but let the locals roll together because a rising tide does lift all boats. What helps one of us, helps all of us. We’re all riding this wave together, and we’ll get there a lot better if we act in unison against the forces of bland sameness instead of individually. United we drink, divided we sink.

Maybe I’m going into this with rampant naivety. Maybe all this support is merely a facade of good will, warm-fuzzies, and glowing elf hugs and it will all be whisked away by the cold light of The Need For Sales and Revenue, but I think that, as the topic of this Session suggests, there is a groundswell of support for new breweries, even in the wake of so many new openings in the past few years.

The question has been posed in the past: Are there too many breweries? I still contend that the answer is a resounding, firm no. Rather, there are still too many people in this country settling for less. There’s room in the marketplace for all of us new breweries and many more. Beer people – good people – are making that clear with their vociferous support.

Thanks to all of you good beer people. I look forward to reading the advice posted for new breweries in response to this Session.

À votre santé,
Erik

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Last Edit: 02 Sep 2010 @ 10 15 PM

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 05 Jun 2010 @ 5:59 PM 

Thank to everyone who took part in this month’s session. We had a lot of great response. It was great to see such a breadth of posts, and I was happy to see some people contribute who haven’t in a while. Here for your reading pleasure:

Mario at Brewed For Thought defines the “California Session Beer”, made with umph, but not too much.

The Beer Nut takes us on a small tour of two session beers: Hopback Entire Stout and Breconshire Night Beacon.

John/Devoid of Beertaster.ca talks about his favorite lawnmower beers.

Steph Weber, one of the many talented bloggers of the Hop Press posits that session beer is a personal definition, and tells us hers: easy to enjoy while chatting with friends.

Chris at Notch Session Ales gives us a look at his recent article for Beer Advocate magazine in which he says he wants to take the definition for session beer back from the 6% crowd.

Derrick at Bay Area Beer Runner likens session beer “great background music during an evening out with friends.”

Jay at A Beer in Hand (is worth two in the fridge) tells us about returning to his session stout after an affair with IPAs.

Lew Bryson goes to town at The Session Beer Project, puts some old demons to bed, and reiterates his definition a session beer in the face of the bigger burrito. You’ll never think of a ball-washer at the golf course the same way again.

Steve at All Good Beer hopes that craft breweries will continue to expand the session beer market, even though they’re not necessarily headline-grabbing beers.

Brian Yaeger, author of Red, White, and Brew says that if he had a lawn, he’d mow it with Anchor Steam. Well, no. He’d mow it with a riding lawnmower, but he’d drink Anchor Steam. He also waxes eloquent about the low ABV brews at this local hangouts.

Sean at Beer Search Party suggests that the reason that the Session Beer Train has not yet pulled into the station is because of America’s hypocritical self-view of over-consumption, or perhaps that many craft beer drinkers see session beers as “too macro.”

Tom at Lug Wrench Brewing asks you to be a rebel and go drink a session beer.

Someone at Beer Made Clear (there so many of you guys), who apparently has family neighboring mine in Northern Maine (yeah Fort Kent!) and tells a story of discovering Shipyard Fuggles IPA in during a session which he describes as “all-encompassing conversations which start with beers but end with opinions; on politics, culture or the nature of good and evil.”

Jon at The Brew Site gets back to the review and gives us a one of Gone Fishin Mild Ale, from Beer Valley Brewing.

Peter at A Better Beer Blog notes that session drinking is “essentially the guts of the craft beer movement” and hopes that craft brewers will start to “sessionize” everything instead of “imperialize” everything in the future.

Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer tells that old joke about the Englishman, the Belgian, and the Czech, notes that session beers are different for everyone and wonders whether the appellation “session” needs definition at all.

Seabass, from Natty Greene’s, posts from inside aussenhaus where he compares craft beer to coffee and wine, and notes that session beers are the greatest delight and the hardest to make, and defines session beer as “deliciously non-intrusive, self-explanatory, [and] a good companion in life.”

Alan at A Good Beer Blog notes that what is probably stopping craft beer from growing is the industry’s inability to take advantage of the session market.

Jim at Two Parts Rye approves.

Jay Brooks of the tells us not of session beers, but of the sessions themselves, and shares the story of the founding of his own regular session, The Philopotes Society.

And finally, my own post where I note that session beer, to me, is one that can be enjoyed without effort and that, yes, please, I would like some more.

À votre santé,
Erik

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 07 Jun 2010 @ 07 09 AM

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 04 Jun 2010 @ 9:16 PM 

This post is a contribution to The Session, aka Beer Blogging Friday. This month’s topic is session beers hosted – hooray – here, by me.

Ever since I suggested the topic, I’ve been struggling with what I was going to write about it. I’ve noticed, with interest, bloggers from other countries noting that Americans are particularly worked up about the concept of session beers, which is interesting. To many other beer cultures, it’s probably a ridiculous concept that MOST of the beer available isn’t a session beer. Even in America that isn’t the case, though we do have a particularly large market for high-gravity and low attenuation.

So, I’ve been thinking about it. What is a session beer?

It’s not about low alcohol. After all, if that were the only criteria, BMC has session beer in spades and, sorry to say (or maybe happy to say), Bud Light is not a session beer for me.

It’s not the “more” factor that I’ve heard bandied about. Session beer, to me, is not about binge drinking. It’s not about the ability to over-consume.

No, to me I think what defines a session beer is a beer that I can enjoy without effort. It’s not a particular style of beer, or even a particular alcohol content, so much as it is accessibility. It is a beer that I can drink without having to think about – “What is that flavor?” “How is this made?” “What’s going on in this beer?”

My best example of this might be gueuze. It’s a low alcohol beer, it’s light, and it’s easy drinking, but it is not a session beer. It’s challenging and complex, and when I drink one I want to linger over it and examine it. I want to roll it around my mouth and look for more flavor. I want to savor it and drink it with food. I want to keep discovering more things about it, and while I think it’s delicious, that challenging complexity is what stops it from being a session beer to me.

It’s the same experience I have with most high-gravity selections. There’s a lot going on in each sip, and I want to enjoy it. Even when they’re deceptively easy drinking, they’re still a challenge. They still require thought and time to enjoy and savor.

And so I submit my definition for a session beer: it’s not about the strength, or the ability to drink a lot of it. It’s not bland beer or boring beer. It’s beer that can be enjoyed without effort, one that I can keep by my side during an evening with friends and still thoroughly enjoy every sip, even if I’m not paying attention to it.

And, in my opinion, that is what our current craft beer market could use more of.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 04 Jun 2010 @ 09 16 PM

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 01 Jun 2010 @ 9:16 AM 

Just a quick reminder that this week is the week for Beer Blogging Friday or, The Session.

This month’s topic is session beers. I’ll be posting my contribution to the Session on Friday, as well. Feel free to submit a link to your contribution in the comments here, on the announcement, or on my column on Friday or over the weekend. I’ll collect them all and post the round up Monday morning.

I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say!

Cheers,
Erik

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Jun 2010 @ 09 16 AM

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 07 May 2010 @ 9:18 PM 

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.

I am the host of June’s Session, Session #40. Because it is one of my absolute favorite topics, and because it seems appropriate for both the forum and the time of year, I give you this topic:

Session Beer

There are a thousand ways to approach this.

What is your definition of a session beer? Is it, as Dr. Lewis suggested at the Craft Brewers Conference this year, “a pint of British wallop” or is your idea of a session beer a crisp Eastern European lager, a light smoky porter, a dry witbier, or even a dry Flemish sour?

Is it merely enough for a beer to be low alcohol to be considered a session beer, or is there some other ineffable quality that a beer must hold in order to merit the term? And if so, what is that quality? Is it “drinkability”? Or something else?

What about the place of session beer in the craft beer industry? Does session beer risk being washed away in the deluge of extreme beers, special releases, and country-wide collaborations? Or is it the future of the industry, the inevitable palate-saving backlash against a shelf full of Imperial Imperials?

What are some of your favorite session beers? When and where do you drink them? If you’d like, drink one and review it.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 07 May 2010 @ 09 18 PM

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