Session 127: Autumn’s Here, What To Drink?

Alistair has asked us to write about Oktoberfest beers for this edition of The Session but, like others, I like in a fairly sparsely serviced area. Boak and Bailey faced a similar problem and tried to see if there was a modern British equivalent. Sadly, they concluded not. But if we look back perhaps there was. This passage below is from a book titled Art and Nature at Home and Abroad From 1856:

September ale. Hmm. What was this stuff? The slaves to style will no doubt tell us that because it hasn’t been listed in the BJCP guide now it never really existed then. But as we have learned from archival brewings like Taunton ale, mid-1850s New York brewed IPA or cream beer we see again and again that the people of the past weren’t stupid and that sorts of beer labeled as this or that met the expectations of those drinking them.

The problem is not so much determining if it was as what it was. I have to admit a few things. I am writing this on an iPad mini and, while I co-wrote two books on it between laptop deaths, it is slow going. Plus I am in the middle of moving the kid into college. Perhaps another has already unpacked it. Dunno yet. So with the promise of a future exploration – let me suggest that what it tastes like, if the passage above is to be believed, is what Keats described in his poem. Autumn.

 

Session 124: That Old Beer I Loved, Where Have You Gone?

I have been away.* Again, as it turns out. In the last weeks of winter, I drove home alone to Nova Scotia for the funeral of a close pal. I drove the sixteen hours there and sixteen back to think about what he meant to me as I headed east and to decompress on the return. It was a heavy time but the fabulous views of the lower St Lawrence River at Kamouraska and passing by rural high schools where he and I played on the sports fields put things in their place. But it was heavy.

So, last weekend I did it again. College reunion. And a couple of pals getting married. The same views got me there and back. The same round domed worn volcano cores pretending to be islands and near shore hills near the corner, the point where the drive north up through northern New Brunswick and across Gaspe becomes the drive southwest from the mouth to the source of the river that made Canada. The sun was out for long stretches. This time the stereo wasn’t as loud. I didn’t need the Foo Fighters’ anger as much. As Friday morning drizzled, I took time to listen to the old guys at the gas station coffee shop explain how the St.John valley had been in drought, so the rain was good. I even thought on the way home to try out mumbling in half French to the waitress at the Exit 177 chicken BBQ place. 690 AM sports radio taught me about the Montreal Canadiens from Edmundston to Brockville. I drove as you do on long familiar roads, slightly glazed.

When I got to my small university at the sea and checked into the dorm I had lived in 35 years before, there were friends – all in makeup, pretending to be themselves in middle age. Within minutes I had been called old, fat, and an idiot in a bunch of ways by a bunch of pals. I was back home. I jumped in someone’s new red SUV and headed to a hotel with a gang to meet up with another gang. We laughed, told each other about our jobs and our hobbies, our kids, our spouses past and present. We talked about our dead friends. Not too much but enough.

One pal walked in the room with a case of Oland Ex, a plain old Nova Scotian pale ale. Undergrad beer made by a regional brewery generations old. Now owned by a company owned by a company but still brewed in town. Hadn’t had one in decades. Bread crusty, not quite as light as a macro lager. A little sweet and a jag of rough hop hinting at nothing German, British, Belgian or American. A perfectly fine Maritimer pale ale. I actually said “God, that’s good” out loud. A friend asked, given I was a beer nerd, what made it so good. I said the bread crust malt but I meant the company as much as anything.

*This month’s edition of The Session is hosted by All the Brews Fit to Pint.

Session 123: The Internet And Craft Beer

The trouble with the considering how the Internet and craft beer have interacted is that any old fool can stake a claim to knowing something, spend years rabidly building a personal brand and then – with no accreditation backing you but plenty of beer porn – hold yourself out as some sort of expert… and then expect folk to pay you and even (get this) come out to hear you speak as if in the presence of a special moment.

Me. That’s me right there. I’ve done all that. Fourteen years of it. Been quoted by The New York Times, too. All because of the Internet. In the January 2007 issue of Great Lakes Brewing News I got on the front cover with my article “Crafting the Internet: Beer On Line” which I am sure now springs immediately to your mind’s eye now that I mention it. (I used to do that sort of thing before I learned about the starvation wages of a freelancer.) It goes on for three whole pages and I take the time to generously discuss my beer blog, those of my friends as well as mentioning all the paying sponsors of the time that I could shoehorn in. What a corrupt wee jerk I was. What is it with this internet thing? Some things never change.

The interesting thing about the article is how essentially the structures of today are still the ones we use. BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are discussed as are pro writers like Lew as well as Mr. Rubin of the Toronto (Red) Star. Beers had started to be offered on line for delivery to your door. I complained that most “craft breweries” (look at me using the term that early) were behind the times, offering only an “email us” feedback loop for their customers – though I mentioned that Flossmoor in Illinois and Beaus here in Ontario had started up their own blogs.

2007. Framed. That serves as a reasonable benchmark for the question posed by this month’s hosts for The Session at Beer Simple:

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?  

The odd thing about the question is the shortsightedness of the questions. Good beer in the sense of the micro brewing has been around for over three decades and, really, at least four if we understand the role of Peter Austin and the era of import bars. Similarly, as Boak and Bailey point out in their response to the question, alt.beer was founded around  July 1991. I would add BeerAdvocate was founded just five years after that. Plus, before use.net, the beer discussions of obsessives occurred in personal ‘zines and local newsletters whether published by CAMRA branches or that guy in New York whose name I can’t recall. Yankee Brew News was founded in 1989.

So, if we think about it, is the question really about how social media (post-2007) has affected craft beer (also pretty much post-2007)? If so, isn’t it a question about how social media has affected pop culture? I would think the effect on a craft brewery would be much the same as it might be in relation to a sports team or a pop singer. But the question as posed seems to include a unspoken bias or at least a foundation in unhappiness:

Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

What an odd concept. As a third party observer why would one care if “aleholes” are turning off “prospective craft beer enthusiasts”? There is a word for both classes of person – strangers. Which is the problem social media has brought into all parts of the discourse. The presumption… no, the illusion of nearness. Brewers, bloggers, other fans and storytellers are all in the double bubble of the alcohol-laced social media construct. Associating what you find there with commonality or, worse, friendship is rife with peril. Some fools actually consider creaky big craft brewers heroes. Good Lord.

All beer is, as a result, properly understood as local and personal. The ecology is small and getting smaller with the return to more naturally scaled micro and happy tap rooms – and the slow collapse of big craft dreams much to its own surprise.

Should we be surprised? Has the internet lied? Or have we all lied to the internet?

Session 121: Bock – Unloved And Sorta Local

Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site (the great-grandfather of beer blogging to my great-uncle of beer blogging role) is hosting this month’s version of The Session and he askes about bock. As M. Noix Biereois d’Irelande pointed out excellently today, bock-style beers aren’t as common on the shelves as they were seven or eight years ago. As true in northeastern North America as it is in Ireland. Bock does not demand respect and it no longer attracts many of the inquisitive. Yet, I asked in 2009 whether Mahr’s Weisse Bock was the greatest smelling beer of all time. I must have once had an interest. A year later I tweeted my admiration for Koningshoeven Bock. Indeed, as recently as just three years ago, I posted about two Canadian craft takes on bock that I had received as samples.

Yet I do not hunt them out. Well, I hunt out fewer and fewer beers as enough good beer to satisfy anyone short of a case of dipsomania comes to me care of (i) the new wave of local small scale brewers and (ii) the slump of the Canadian dollar to US dollar exchange rate. Who in their right mind would? It’s fun actually, given that reality, to watch the last gasps of globalism inspiring the junketeers to still – just in this one week – witness them trundling up to the groaning buffet spreads of Asheville, New Zealand and even Peru! Oh, how I do need that report on the craft replicants of Peru. Please hurry.

Bock, however, is not that at all. Not a flog is being offered for bock. It is fusty. Maybe even owly. Bock, however, has a venerable North American heritage. It is a traditional local beer if we are talking about the Great Lakes watershed and environs. As Craig posted on Facebook, it stood amongst the greats – if the Free Press of Waverly, New York from 1886 is to be believed. In the New York Herald of 30 April 1860 there is something of a primer on the nature of bock in a column from “Our Berlin Correspondent” which might indicate that bock came here to our shores after that date, much later than lager in the 1840s or that earlier shadowy thing, cream beer. Bock is described by OBC in slightly harrowing terms:

The stronger more heady sort is termed bock beer, from the German word bock, which means a billy goat, the person who drinks it being excited to such a pitch of exhilaration that he capers like a goat… the above mentioned bock as hitherto kept up its reputation. Recently, however, a company has been formed on shares with a handsome capital, for the avowed purpose of opposing it…. They have built a large brewery, with extensive cellars, saloons and other accommodations, on the same hill, and propose to brew a lighter and milder beer than bock., selling it at a lower price, and the mania for imbibing vast quantities of the cerevisian fluid being still on the increase, they are very likely to succeed… 

Terrifying stuff. If I can find me some on the way home I might buy a bottle if I can find one in these times of IPA driven hegemony and homogeneity. So I can, you know, imbibe a vast quantity… and caper like a goat.

Session 119: My Discomfort Beer

This month’s version of The Session is being hosted at the English blog  Mostly About Beer…… where this question was posed:

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.

This is an interesting question – even with this head cold. No need to pull out a beer as part of the challenge. The question reminds me how we are told we need to learn to appreciate all styles within the construct of the brewer’s intention. But that is the path of the dweeb – but not one without at least a lesson or two to share. I was taunted over a decade ago into teaching myself more about sour beers before they were really showing up from anywhere other than Belgium. Cantillon’s Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru struck me as gak:

Quite plainly watery at the outset then acid and more acid…then one note of poo. Not refreshing to slightly sub-Cromwellian stridency.

I still like that review as the only think I would change is that I now like that taste which I described so accurately. Yet I would not hunt it out. Same with most gose, most smoked beers and any number of the other experimental or niche styles that depend heavily on a quirk. Once one has moved past the chase for novelty, you find that you come back to favourites. For me these are still varied: gueuze, real saison, brown ales all fit the bill when they fill the glass. I could happily drink gueuze most days though I can’t buy it here regularly. My studies of sour opened my world. I am glad I took them on.

If something could be a style that makes me uncomfortable I suppose it might be contemporary IPA where you need to pack a hop directory to figure out what’s in your mouth. They are today’s darling but I’ve never caught the fever.  Again a decade ago, I even sat down with eleven of them to try a wide range of them. I discovered… there was a wide range. Their many many siblings before and since then hasn’t altered my creeping suspicion that while the three letters are a brilliant marketing trick they are also a tool for obfuscation. You never know what you are going to get in your glass. So I tend to stick with a familiar quality IPA like Nickle Brook’s Headstock with feel the urge but if I am out and about I am more likely to hunt out a beer more daring – yet more reliable – than whatever they are serving that’s called an IPA.

Does that answer the question? It’ll have to. Cold meds a’callin’!

Session 118: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session sees host Stan Hieronymus of asking everyone to write about their doomed dream dinner plans:

If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?

Elephant in the room: I have been to one beer dinner and never ever plan to ever go to one again. I wouldn’t do that to any guest. So, let’s swap that out and think about four folk I would invite to a pub, to sit around and drink and snack with. No pairings. Not in my doomed dream dinner.

Other than that, this is a great topic for where I am in my life as a beer blogger. I have migrated 565 posts from the old platform to this new one and in doing so have revived some old friendships by revisiting some posts long forgotten. Based on that, my first guest to the pub is Pete Brown. Pete won the big prizes and a few others at last evening’s British Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Like may of the other beer writers I have met over the internets, Pete and I never have been in same the physical space even though he did participate in a ship to shore Morse code discussion with me back in 2007 as well as an interview with Knut and me back in 2006 upon the release of his second book. The beer I would serve Pete would be Double Double, the lost style that lasted from about 1520 to 1820. Its Elizabethan roots would, I hope, inspire him as a topic for his next book.

Next, I would build upon the Elizabethan theme by asking Martyn Frobisher to join us to explain what it was like to put in an order for 80.5 tons of beer as part of his preparations for his 1577 iron ore mining expedition to the high Arctic of what is now Canada. One of the more fascinating topics I have been able to research has been the unexpected presence of beer and brewing in Canada’s eastern Arctic well before the creation of the nation, during the great and grand first wave of northern exploration. I would serve him a gallon of whatever it was he requisitioned and let him explain it to the table. In the 1660s we have seen beer brewed in the Arctic and in the 1670s at least two sorts of beer being brought along  for the trip.

Two more? I would invite Sarah (alias Jenny) who was in the 1730s a runaway slave, the legal property of the brewer Hendrick Rutgers. And I would also invite the unnamed twenty year old woman from Barbados whose own brewing skills were included in the 1760 notice offering her for sale.  The notice said Sarah ran south with a white man while her Barbadian dinner mate was turned down at market, her advertisement running again a few month later. When I wrote about them I thought it was the saddest corner of the story of brewing I had ever encountered. I’d serve them whatever they wanted as they came to the table but I would be very interested in knowing what beer meant to them.

I am going to cheat… twice. I am adding another guest and one who was never ever dead or alive. I can’t think of anyone who might bridge the odd set of table mates than Piers the Ploughman, the hero/everyman of the 1370s morality epic. As we are told, Piers would get his halfpenny ale as he would think fit. He would hammer at Frobisher, himself a knight, on the order good government demanded. He would in turn comfort the enslaved and then round upon Brown, lecturing him on the rumours of everything from junketry to Putinesque vote rigging, saying with the wagging finger:

Then would Waster not work · but wandered about,
Nor no beggar eat bread · that had beans therein
But asked for the best · white, made of clean wheat;
Nor none halfpenny ale · in no wise would drink,
But of the best and the brownest · for sale in the borough.

Then, once the moral order was established, I would have them served the best and the brownest ale of the borough – especially for the ladies. They’ve earned it.

Session 117: I Predict More Predictions Ahead

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session finds us being asked by Beer Means Business to think to the future:

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.

Forecasting is a pretty tedious affair. What we will “see more of” is all a lot of folk are writing about these days. The last year has seen the rise self-appointed seers unaccountably yapping about fascinating topics like “a bubble is coming” to “there is no bubble coming.” Oh… and the brewery who brought me, fed me and watered me is going to be important to you. Personally. Soon. Count on it. You know, this sort of forecasting appears to be largely a matter of explaining how what ever is happening today will continue. My favourite one is how ABInBev is, again, in peril of imminent collapse. As it dismantles big craft. Wow. We need a word for that. Beforecasting? Borecasting?

None of this sort of writing matters – but I expect to see more of it.  It’s the packing styrofoam of beer writing. The filler between the interesting bits. I wish it weren’t so. I wish folk would be a bit braver in putting their own ideas into the discussion. I wish publications were a bit more risk taking and independent. I wish the actual business of beer were explored like any other industry of comparable impact. There are a lot of big brains out there. Good brains. And not just moaning negs like me. Folk who can create the better next thing.

I am not holding my breath. Because I need to breathe. But I have hope. I am a hopeful person. As I move blog posts from the old blog system to this one I am reminded how much richer the discussion was from, say 2007 to 2013. So I know it can be done.

Session 116: As Gose Goes So Goes It All

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session sees host Derrick Peterman ofRamblings of a Beer Runner asking everyone to write about the “German” sour beer style Gose:

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.

You will see that I put German in quotation marks. Gose isn’t really a German style any more than Black IPA has anything to do with India. One of the most telling things about gose was set out in a recent tweet by Ron Pattinson:

Changing times. I used to wish more Goses were brewed.

Ron pretty much reintroduced at least the English-speaking world to gose with his 2007 post “Gose” but what he described as gose in that post is not really what is called gose today. Does it matter? I live in a town, a region without regular access to Gose. When I think of comparables, I have always ensured I have backup gueuze in the stash but I have never hoarded gose. Not because gose is not interesting. It’s just that most gose is not gose. It’s a Gatorade alcopop. In just 2010, I could describe gose as “now lost” in my review of a book by Stan – though it was beginning to make craft brewery appearances in a truer form months later. In 2011, it was noted by Pete and Stan that the Oxford Companion to Beer missed, among many things, any reference to gose, though Garrett explained. Then the word “gose” – if not the beer – took off. It was already worth ridicule in 2012. By 2014, I was being offered low alcohol, salty Sunny D in one of the best beer bars in Toronto. Infantiled fruity gak. By 2015, it is the sign of the end times.

I have had lovely light, tangy, sea pinched gose. When it is done with respect, it is singular. Sadly, as with too much with craft beer, the low path is too often taken. The easy option selected. In the hands of a thoughtful brewer with a sense of tradition there is a memorable play of wheat, salt and herb that satisfies. It is fulfilling in a way that never attracts the idea of moreish. If I could I would put a small clay jug of cool real gose on the Thanksgiving* table this weekend to drink along with the turkey and cranberry. If I dared trust the word on the label. Which I don’t. So I likely won’t. If I could find it.

*Of which the New York Times is suddenly obsessed.

Session 115: Don’t Judge A Book By Its Topic

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session sees Joan of Birraire asking us all to consider this:

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.

These are good things to think about. I have co-written three books about beer and also written, imagine if you can, 3,421 posts on just this one beer blog. That is a nutty amount of writing. Which means I must value writing about beer. I must, right? Over 13 years ago in May 2003 my first beer blog post was actually titled “Books About Beer” and it was about the 27 books on my bedside table. I copied the post over from my earlier blog, the one about everything else I thought about. Because in those days that was what I was thinking about, looking to figure stuff out about my interest in home brewing and how this internet thing might help me out.

I do not read that many books about beer any more even though I have many times as many at hand. Books suffer from a lot of challenges when it comes to a topic like beer. It is difficult to hit on a new universal topic that holds up its interest from first draft to publication. Plus publishers want something plenty will want to buy. So we have a glut of samey style guides as well as yawn inducing food and pairing guides. “Shrimp and avocado wrap? Brilliant!” These sorts of challenges were discussed in a comment placed by Martyn Cornell under a post I wrote later in 2003, my review of his book Beer: The Story of the Pint. It is jam-packed with so many good thoughts I thought I would lift it from the archives for reconsideration here:

Thank you for giving me the luxury to respond at length to some well-meant criticism, a privilege authors almost never get.

First, I would say that the two Peters and I were trying to do rather different jobs in our takes on the history of British beer brewing and drinking: mine was meant to be much more specifically about the brewers and the beers they brewed, rather than a concentration on the social context in which beer was made and drunk. That is why you will find plenty of stuff in my book not only about the beers of the past, their likely strengths and tastes, but stuff on the rise and fall of the pub brewer, the crises that hit the family brewers in the 20th century and so on that you won’t find in Haydon or Brown, and much less in my book about pubs. Theirs (particularly Haydon) are histories of pubs and drinking rather than beers, brewers and brewing. Both Haydon and Brown use their books for polemics about the state of the British beer and pub scene today: I wanted a pure history book. (I do the current analysis thing in another place, as editor of a yearly guide called Key Issues in the UK Pub and Bar Market.)

Second, I set out deliberately to ensure an accurate account, to destroy the dozens of myths that have encrusted the history of beer, with one chapter devoted to some of the worst errors. If I couldn’t verify a story from original sources I wouldn’t print it. You will see my version of the Great Meux Brewery Beer Flood of 1814 and Pete Brown’s are rather different. He took his more spectacular account from Alan Eames’s Secret Life of Beer, an American book that came out in 1995 (which, curiously, gives the wrong date for the flood, October 16 – it was October 17.) My facts came from contemporary issues of The Times newspaper and the Gentleman’s Magazine. Where Eames got his version from I don’t know, but none of the stuff about people being crushed in the rush for free beer, riots in a nearby hospital and the collapse of the floor at a temporary morgue appear in any British sources that I have been able to trace, either contemporary or more recent. There’s an old journalistic joke about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story – unfortunately, a history book can’t take that line.

Third I am proud that there is a mass of genuine, verifiable material in Beer: The Story of the Pint that has simply never appeared before in any book about brewing history (and certainly doesn’t appear in Haydon or Brown): to mention just a few, Atrectus the brewer and the Vindolanda tablets; Henry VIII and his mobile breweries; John Leeson, the first brewer to rise to the aristocracy; street porters; the true nature of the beers exported to India from Britain (which included, contrary to popular belief, masses of porter alongside the pale ale); and the first histories of two important British beer styles, Burton Ale and AK.

Incidentally, I was aware of the Wind in the Willows reference to Burton Ale. In my original draft (cut from the final edition) I pointed out that in Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s tale, his drawing of the Christmas homecoming scene shows the bottles that Ratty found in Mole’s cellar bear labels that carried the red diamond of Bass Burton ale (as opposed to the red triangle of the pale ale labels). Bass No 1 barley wine still carries the same red diamond?

Let’s unpack it, shall we? Setting aside the idea of anyone thanking me for my criticism, that first paragraph identifies a very important point. There are no books about beer. There are books about topics related to beer. Beer is too big a thing to have a book written about it all. Anyone who calls themselves a beer expert is, by any sensible measurement, not a beer expert. There are rhetorical polemics as well as beer histories. There are many other sorts of opportunities for books addressing particular topics within beer and brewing. As mentioned in the second paragraph, there are also good stories which are immune from very much rigor. We learned about that when infamously undertaking the careful reading of the Oxford Companion to Beer and then stopped when the obvious level of error got too depressing. In the third paragraph, Martyn makes his best point. He felt in that book he had recorded some things which were simply not written about before: “…Henry VIII and his mobile breweries; John Leeson, the first brewer to rise to the aristocracy; street porters…”

This is the glory of good beer writing and, sadly, one reason it is so rarely found in books. Or magazines for that matter. The process of writing a book contains too many gates: self censorship, uninterested editors, sales focused publishers. Pete Brown somewhere wrote about the glum day when his publisher let him know that another beer book would simply not be welcome – soon after publishing another winner. So, that being the way it is, we get the style guides as well as the beer and food pairing books. Yet more than a few good ones get through the system. Boak and Bailey’s Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer was shockingly good. In fact so good that I am all pins and needles waiting for the promised follow up. And Alistair is entirely correct in pointing Evan Rail’s way for a trove of good reading. And I named Pete Brown beer writer of the first half decade last Christmas. It can be done. There are more. Go find them.

Is reading books about beer important? The worthy ones are. You have to judge which those are from your point of view. For a few years now, I have been focusing my writing on pre-1825 history and happy to do so. So I hunt out histories even though I will often find myself disappointed. I myself even have a 10,000 word summary for a book entitled Beer in North America before 1700 – which I appreciate will never be published. Too few care. But what does that matter? Some do. For all I know there are folk out there who day after day find fulfillment in eating their dinner with a beer matched up for them by a stranger. “Shrimp and avocado wrap? Brilliant!” The world is a weird and varied place. Exploring it through books will help guide you even if your decisions will likely be based on your own variety of personal weirdness.

Session 114: I Know Nothing About Pilsner

sessionlogosmThis month’s edition of The Session sees Allistair Reece asking us about pilsners.

I know zippo about pilsners. I never went on one of those five-day long weekend holidays to Prague that made me a drive-by insta-expert. I never lived there spreading the cultural imperialism of English as a Second Language either. When I was teaching overseas after university standing before a group of sweaty ignorant teens in 1991-92, I went to northern Poland and drank Gdanski. So I can tell you all you might want to know about tripe soup and how to say bad words in another Slavic language. When I worked in Aalsmeer in the Netherlands in 1986 I drank a lot of the local big named stuff – Grolsch, Amstel and Heinekin – and even learned how to pronounce the first one “[hork]-rols-[hork]”… but I am not sure that is what Alistair is thinking about. It’s not like I pretended. When I needed Czech-based pilsner content, Evan wrote a post. Why pretend? It’s not that I haven’t experienced beers branded as pilsner. But I’ve never heard the mermaids sing about it. Is it maybe that pilsner gets lost in the shuffle of the more generic “lager” thing now and in the past? It has suffered indignities at the hands of craft even when others make honest efforts.

You know, in 2006 I made something of an admission when I wrote “I just can’t imagine when I am supposed to crave steely stoney dry grassiness.” Is that it? It’s just not my thing?