The Session 131: Emergency 1-2-3!!!

One of my favourite things about The Session is a good crisis edition of… The Session.

Let’s be honest. The ball has been dropped about three times in the decade and more of this monthly beer blogging session on a common topic leaving thousands and thousands world wide distraught at the idea that there would not be any single thing to read on the topic of beer… well, posted by a beer blogger… in unison with other beer bloggers… you remember beer bloggers?

Fortunately, the world’s first beer blogger noticed and this beer blogger, the world’s second, is not going to let down the side. Jay whipped together a splendid topic entitled “New Session: Three Things In 2018“:

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?
For our second question of the new year, what two breweries do you think are very underrated? 
For our third question of the new year, name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of. 

Hmm. Let’s see.  Well, you can tell it is a crisis topic as the three questions require five answers. What are my answers?

Word? Clear. It’s very fashionable to suggest no one has a right to note that a bad fad is a bad fad but 96% of all the nouveau cloudy beer is, as one would expect, bad cloudy beer. It takes a semi-pro PR specialist to suggest otherwise but, really, if you stuck to clearer beer would the world be worse off? No.

Under rated? In the 10,000 brewery universe that is an impossible question as they are not subject to any rating system which reflects their actual quality. No one knows them all. So, classes might be the next thing I can rely upon. Regionally, I would suggest Quebec breweries are under rated. In North America, La Belle Province is an enclave of another language, another culture. The beers reflect that culture. And it’s under explored. A second class? Corn based craft beer. Really? Grow up.

Three kinds I want to see more of? I like the word “kind” when it refers to a category, a class. A kind of beer is better when it gives comfort. So – maybe mild, dubbel and… 1700s porter. Made with diastatic malted Battledore barley. Yum.

Crisis averted. Again.

Ontario: Grand River Brewing, Cambridge, RMW

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If Canada has a hub of microbrewing, a very good argument could be made that it is in the cluster of smaller cities around Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph about an hour west of Toronto. Off the top of my head I can think of seven or eight breweries in the area. Maybe there are more but however many there are the newest is Grand River Brewing in Cambridge’s old Galt district.

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We stopped in on a two day weekend zip across the Province and were very happy we did. Although they have not been open long, they already have ten draught accounts including some with the finer beer bars of Toronto – and apparently a brisk trade in growlers if our short time at the place was any indication. The brewery is housed in an old knife factory, a long and narrow building lit by sunlight. Even on the largely grey day when we were there, there was plenty to see in the large reception hall and the adjoining brewing rooms and plenty to sample, too.

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I heard about Grand River from the discussion on The Bar Towel, like this thread discussing Grand River’s Mill Race Mild. Hearing there was a mild out there to be had was reason enough to stop to check it out given all the interest in session beers as well as my own home brewing interest in milds. But when I got there I found out from one of the owners, Bob Hanenberg, that all of their four beers are under 4.7% and that these sorts of beers was to be their focus. We tried them all and, honestly, all were among the best Canadian micros I have ever tried. Even with the area’s natural hard water, the two lagers and two ales were all rich and more-ish with the mild being the favorite. At 3.5%, it had plenty of grainy and nutty texture and, frankly, it was as big in body than most micros made in Ontario of any style. I took away a number of 15.75 CND (including 5 buck deposit so a good deal) growlers of the mild as well as their rich and hoppy Plowman’s ale, a green hoppy pale ale that was also nicely rich.

I will give a more detailed review of the two brews that I brought home soon but suffice it to say that this is a brewery that is trying and achieving something new – lower alcohol, full flavoured beers with no compromise. Go find them.

Lee’s Mild, 8th Anniversary Ale, Stone, California

What can you say about a beer that says so much about itself. I picked this one out of the stash, $5.99 USD last time I was south. It is a one off brew made in August 2004 from Stone of a previous standard of theirs called Lee’s Mild…which makes it more of a revival than a one off. At 7.8% I am wondering where I will find the mild in it but these things do happen sometimes.

Mild is generally the lightest of the dark ales – below porter, sub-dark and under brown. Big in, say, Wales circa 1910, milds are now rare. They also were a bit of an innovation when they came out as they were a break from stales or beers that had attractive sour tang to them. The idea of an actually sterile and fresh to the consumer beer was very 19th century
industrial revolution. I think the only true one I have had – other than those I brewed myself – was at C’est What in Toronto last winter. The perfect session ale. But that one was only 3.3%…or 42% the strength of this one of Lee’s. So what will this bottle provide when opened. The BAers give great hope. More in a moment when I get the danged thing open.

It pours a really attractive reddish mahogany with a rich and lace leaving tan head. Good and black rummy – sweetness worked through and dried. Masses of malt with notes of fig, date and pumpernickle with a good swath of green and twiggy hops cutting but not severing betwixt and between. It is just a notch below an old ale or something that might come out for Christmas but not by much. A long long finish. Another impressive big ale from one of the great US brewers.