Stubbie Cerveza

I was a bit disappointed when Full Sail Brewing put their classic Session lager in 12oz cans. I understood from a business standpoint but the stubbie bottle was what made the beer an extra layer of cool.

Now to calm me they have unveiled more stubbies with a new style and bold color scheme…

…and once I see these in stores, I will be grabbing a handful of them.

Session Mash-Up

I haven’t been buying much in the way of six-packs. I like to make my own mixed-up versions with a can of saison here and a bottle of ESB next to it. Which is why the Session Mashup, from Full Sail Brewing is perfect. It is a new variety 12-pack with a rotating group of 4 stubbies from the Session brand.

The first pack will feature: “Session Premium Lager, the Session that started it all with its retro-cool red label, is a classic, all-malt lager that’s crisp, smooth and refreshing. Session Wheat Premium Hefeweizen is a medium-bodied, American-style Hefeweizen featuring aromas of malted wheat with a citrusy hop finish. Session IPA Premium Pale Ale is the just-right IPA – not too hoppy, not too bitter, not too malty. And Session Cream Premium Summer Ale is a golden ale with a creamy head and a smooth, sweet disposition.”

The Session # 109 – “Porter”


Mark Lindner has announced the topic for The Session #109 will be Porter. Before you say “That’s so 2007” hear him out.
Possibilities include:

•Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
•Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
•The history and development of the style
•Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
•Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
•Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
•Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
•Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
•Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock.
•Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

There is probably no way for me to write an interesting look at Porter. Sounds defeatist, I know, but that is the strength and weakness of the style. Much like its brethren in the style that I call “Sturdy” (amber ale, brown ale, ESB for example). This is a style that can be dressed up and fussed with but you still don’t forget who they are. And what they are is, well, boring and solid.

If I were to really bore you, I could review different porters. Boy would you love to read the same descriptors repeated like Marco Rubio in a debate. Or I could pair porters with hearty fare fit for a “sturdy” beer. That would stun a reader. Maybe delve into the weirdest ingredients put into a Porter. Followed by how it mostly still tasted like a Porter basically.

If I could work up enough rancor, I could write a scathing piece about my hatred of the style but even the most troll-y of trolls would be hard pressed to come up with insults against Porter. It is more Teflon than Donald Trump’s hair and poll numbers. You can hate some experimental chili pepper Shandy but a Porter? Nope.

On the flip side, I couldn’t work up much enthusiasm either. Like the inevitable coronation of Clinton come November, it doesn’t have the piss and vinegar of Bernie Sanders who would most certainly be a Single Hop Simcoe Sour IPA.

Others can talk at length about the history and others can compare recipe notes with education and practice backing up their thesis statements. As a craft beer fan, all I can do is say that if I had the top five porters on tap in front of me and an experimental beer from some unknown brewer, I would pick the experiment. The only reason that I bought the one porter in my ‘fridge is because it has former Trailblazer and eponymous namesake Terry Porter on it.

You can argue that American Craft brewers have changed the face of Porter and I would be hard pressed to filibuster that contention. But even the most obscure and near extinction beers have been put into the American brewing blender and come out the other side ready for their close-up. Porter isn’t special in this regard.

America likes its craft beer flashy and its politicians even flashier so let’s wrap up the political tie-in. John Kasich might be the Porter doppleganger. Low poll numbers, probably a good vice-presidential pick but seriously edged off of any stage by the flashier beers.

Session # 95 – The Next Great Beer Book


A Good Beer Blog is at the reins of the first blogging session of 2015 and has posed a very thought provoking topic for one, such as myself, that thinks bookstore gift cards are the best.

What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?

“What is the book you would want to write about good beer? What book would you want to read? Is there a dream team of authors your would want to see gathered to make that “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing”? Or is there one person you would like to see on a life long generous pension to assure that the volumes flow from his or her pen? Let us know. ”

There are times when it would be easier to make a list of often used and over used beer topics.

Be it invoking Ninkasi or Alewives in beer history, short summations of the brewing process, the 10-50-100 or 1,000 Beers you MUST try or how to start a brewery by an irreverent brewer.  Worthy topics all.  But they have been done and covered both badly and well.

Instead of broad histories or an inventory of a beer style, I would like to peek behind the curtain, so to speak, of the Humulus Lupulin.

I can hear the howls of hypocrite.  How dare you call some books re-hashes and then propose a book about the most hyped beer ingredient that fuels a hop boom that shows no sign of abating and crowds out other styles on tap and in bottles.

But I propose something more focused.  Specifically on the both the science and art of designing and growing a new hop from start to finish.  We hear code designations bandied about.  Then a fancy name gets attached like Mosaic or Mandarina.  But I want to know (in laymans terms) how the cross of Hop Parent # 1 with Hop Parent # 2, creates Equinox.  I want to see a hop family tree.  I want to hear from the farmers from Washington to New York states and the scientists at UC-Davis and Oregon State.

Since hops in brewing has been covered by Mitch Steele and hops in history and practice extensively covered by For the Love of Hops by Stan Hieronymus, with Pete Brown hitting the history of IPA angle, the narrative should hone in on one single hop.  The tension coming from will it be successful both from an agricultural standpoint and successful in a beer.  Akin to focusing on a bill becoming a law and then analyzing the impact of that law.

Side by side with this narrative could be digressions to see how some hops became name brands like Citra and why other hops labor in obscurity or become workhorses and not stars. Or a discussion of buying hop futures and how that affects the brewing schedules.  Maybe get a look into the world of HopUnion and finish off with plunge into tasting the winner of an Alpha King competition of the Great American Beer Festival.

The journey of hop from drawing board to pint glass.  It could be called, The Bitterness Project.

New Sessions in 2015

Looks like the Session stubbies from Full Sail are branching out for 2015. Currently there is the red labeled lager, alongside the other year-round Black lager. Then there will be a full-time Session IPA. Joining the Holiday Fest lager in the Session seasonals will be an Export lager and a second ale, Session Cream bringing the total ales to two and lagers to 4. All with distinctive colors to make for easy shopping. Of the coming arrivals the cream ale is the one that I would buy first. I prefer the less brewed styles obviously.

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Session # 89


This month the Pittsburgh Beer Snob is leading the Session and here is the topic for July….

“I love history. There’s just something about it. It’s fun. It’s interesting. It even gives me goosebumps. So, I only saw it to be fitting that I choose the topic of Beer in History.

Even better is the fact that the summer time is the main period of the calendar year that I absolutely delve into history. We just passed the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy (Many of you know it as D-Day or Operation Overlord). The latter portions of June mark the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign which culminates on July 3. The following date is obviously the Fourth of July here in the states.

At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate.”

Beer is embedded into history of all kinds, science with Pasteur, technology with modern behemoth breweries, women in the workforce with ale wives.  Monks aplenty as well.  And now as craft beer reaches 25 and 30 years of age in some breweries, there is a spate of books about how craft came to be.  Recent history, as it were.

But I want to talk about metal.  Not the music. More specifically aluminum.  It is why the industrial water lagers became so ubiquitous and it is also powering a growing trend in craft brewers who put most of their beer in cans. It has bridged two competing interests in history.

This metal was first identified in the 1780’s and took awhile to become used commonly because getting it out of the ground proved hard to do and too costly to do until advancements in the 19th century made aluminum cheaper to be made and easier as well.  Thus the price for it fell and more people could use it.

Even with that change, it wasn’t the metal of choice until after World War II (I know that World War I is chic right now but let’s talk WW2). Steel cans were sometimes used but bottles were the first choice for price and because that is what was used.   A plucky little brewery (Well, it might have been considered that then, but Coors certainly isn’t now)  in 1958, filled little 7oz cans.  The Hawaii Brewing Company used an all-aluminum can  that year as well. The innovation still wasn’t super popular but as the cone-top cans became less popular those who stuck with aluminum through the development process were justified in sticking with it.

R&D wise you then had the steel can with aluminum top.  Then the addition of the pull tab that involved a certain amount of digital dexterity which was better than the church key method of popping open a jagged opening for the beer to come out of.  (Precursor to WIDE mouth openings).  A man with the stylin’ name of Ermal Fraze created the first “zip top” can.  Then Schlitz proudly introduced the first “pop top” can in the year 1963.  Ancient for some beer fans.  But if you remember a world without remote controls or answering machines, you probably remember some cans without that simple and elegant design.

The next step was to create a tab that stayed with the can to avoid a littering of tear off tabs on the ground.  That finally happened in 1975.

And now nearly 100% of all beer and soda cans here in the U.S. are made fully of aluminum. Looking at that summation of hundreds of years it is really amazing to think that a metal found in the ground would become such a monopoly for holding fizzy drinks.  And it is even more amazing that it took craft brewers so long to wrest control of cans back to quality beer.

Makes me want to pop open a Wolf Among Weeds from Golden Road.

Kudos to for providing the research material.


Session # 86


The session for April is hosted by the Beer Hobo.  And it might be one of those that stirs up the pot a bit…..

“What role do beer writers play in the culture and growth of craft beer? Are we advocates, critics, or storytellers? What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again? What’s your beer media diet? i.e. what publications/blogs/sites do you read to learn about industry? Are all beer journalists subhumans? Is beer journalism a tepid affair and/or a moribund endeavor? And if so, what can be done about it?

In the spirit of tipping the hat when someone gets it right, please also share a piece of beer writing or media you love–it doesn’t have to be recent, and it could be an article, podcast, video, book or ebook–and explain a bit about what makes it great. I’ll include links to those articles as well in my roundup for easy access reading.”

You are such a brown-noser, homer, cheerleader.

I too have heard the jabs against beer bloggers in particular and pointedly and beer journalists in general though less frequently. That “everything” being written is too positive. There isn’t enough hard-nosed journalism out there. Examples being that there is not criticism to be read or investigative reporting or honest reviews of beers or beer culture.  Some of the “old school” go so far as to claim that actual discourse is gone and all we hear is PR twaddle.

Do you have to tear down a beer, brewer or brewery to be considered legit?

But my question is, what is wrong with positive? If you were on the sports beat covering the Miami Heat during their long winning streak last season, would you focus exclusively on the shots that were not made? I didn’t hear about anyone getting their press pass revoked for calling LeBron James MVP / as good as Jordan. But yet it seems that if a blogger writes a positive review of beer A, it makes you a mindless zombie in the eyes of some who seem to be suspicious of good news. Or you are in the pocket of the brewer because they gave you a hat and keychain.  It can’t possibly be that you like that particular beer.  Nope.  You are now cast as the reporter who does the puff piece about the water skiing squirrel and not the well-respected journalist who covers war and politics.

Does every fifth beer need to have a negative review to maintain your credentials?

All you have to do is tune in to any media outlet nowadays and there is enough palpable anger and car chases to provide inspiration for twenty more Fast & Furious movies. So how about making room for something that doesn’t involve negativity and sarcasm. A healthy distrust, be it of TV News, advertising or PR is useful but if you tar every marketing department as liars and by extension anyone who talks about that brewery as a panderer or hypnotized then you are just as bad as those who don’t question at all.  Just because Fox misuses the term “Fair and Balanced” doesn’t preclude one from writing something that has a little uplift under it. Why should I be restricted to focus on the beers that I don’t like at the expense of the ones that I do to give myself “cred”.  I think that I am allowed to write a glowing review or recommend a bar if that is my humble opinion.

Why is positive immediately equated with loss of journalistic integrity?

And a story can be both probingly honest as well as positive. Just as well as being funny and critical can be contained in a paragraph or a single word. But in 2014, it appears that we as beer writing consumers either want articles to verify our already made conclusions or to provide us with the opportunity to rant in the comments section. If you look (and not all that hard), you can find well-rounded pieces out there. I find gems from local writers like Sarah Bennett, Tomm Carroll and Randy Clemens quite frequently in brewspapers and online.

Instead of bemoaning the state of beer writing, promote the good ones.

And those articles shed light on a person, place or thing in or around the craft beer industry without resorting to hardball. Now I am not calling for a moratorium on criticism. There is certainly more that can be done instead of cut and paste regurgitation of PR releases and fawning over the latest brewing superstar but on the flip side, I can certainly do without more anonymous snarky reviews and/or people who roll their eyes if I so much as deign to take a beer seriously. Much like any leisure/food/fun category, craft beer needs all sorts of writers, editors, photographers and magazines, papers and forums. But I can’t help seeing the wisdom in the following words from Michael Jackson which applies equally to both sides of this debate,

“Please relax. Can’t you see we are drinking beer and telling stories here?”

And here is my choice for why I don’t subscribe to the “positive is bad” message that others talk of, from the aforementioned Randy Clemens about some cellar spelunking.

Session # 77


Justin’s Brew Review is the host for the July edition of The Session and he turns the focus to the India Pale Ale….

“For quite some time now, I’ve been wondering what makes the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer so popular. Don’t get me wrong–I thoroughly enjoy it and gladly participate in #IPADay. I’m just wondering, why all the hype? What is it about an IPA that makes craft beer enthusiasts (CBE) go wild? Is it because CBEs want to differentiate craft beer from crap beer? I don’t care if a watered-down pilsener is labeled as “triple-hops brewed”; it wouldn’t satisfy someone looking for an IPA.”

At a recent craft beer event that paired brewers with coffee roasters, I had the honor of pouring for Eagle Rock Brewery. Their special coffee tap was called Panama Pale Ale, a Panamanian coffee infused Rye IPA. Call it PPA for short.

By my standards it was not too bitter. More coffee and rye than hops and quite tasty with a lovely coffee bean aroma. And it was one of the more popular beers if the people I was pouring for were to be believed.

So, even at a coffee-centric beer event, an IPA took center stage.

I can see why amber beers were popular once upon a time when it was still called micro-brews.  They appealed to a bigger percentage of our small craft beer population.  They are usually not over the top in terms of ABV or IBU.  They showcase malt and thus have a little more sweetness (and we know Americans like their sweets).  They are certainly closer, taste-wise to the lagers that most people know than an IPA ever will be.

It is amazing how fast that the India Pale Ale has grabbed the spotlight in the world of craft beer despite what I would consider pretty major hindrances to that happening:

1.       Bitterness is considered by the palate as a bad sign.
2.       And even if that is not an impediment, some IPA’s still destroy seasoned hopheads palates
3.       Hops (especially popular varieties) can be hard to come by and expensive.
4.       The market for IPA’s is now extra crowded.
5.       May require extra equipment to dry hop.
6.       Really need to be drunk fresh.
7.       Sometimes confusing names like Black IPA or White IPA
8.       Sometimes confusing IBU levels.  A DIPA from one brewery may be a regular IPA to another.

Then add to the mix all the history behind how the IPA “style” became what it is today plus account for all the tiny to large regional American differences, and the rise of the IPA is even more amazing.

And I have no idea why it took off so much except for some half-baked theories:

1. I have heard from many brewery folk that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was a formative beer in their appreciation of craft beer. Maybe that is a root cause for the love of IPA’s.

2. IPA’s are the IBU opposite of the BMC industrial water lagers and doing the opposite of what the big 3 did is not to be underestimated as a reason.

3. America has developed a taste for different coffee’s (some quite bitter) so an appreciation of bitter IPA’s may be a side effect of that revolution.

My hope is that the brewers and drinkers don’t just lock onto mega hop bombs and search out XPA’s and dry hopped pilsners and pale ales that are actually hopped like a pale ale. Because a world with only arrogant palate wrecking bastards is only slightly better than a world with watery lagers.

Thankfully, barrel aged beers seem to be balancing out the craft beer scales amongst beer geeks, so I am not overly worried of an IPA take-over but I do wish there were more cask ales and Czech style pilsners out there and if I get a second wish, I certainly hope to see more non-IPA best sellers.  I will always see Fat Tire as the New Belgium flagship.  No matter how good Ranger is.

Session # 68

99 Pours is hosting the October Session and the theme: Novelty Beers

“With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.” We’ve even seen some novelty beers in our top-sellers. But beer traditionalists sometimes frown on these new and bizarre concoctions. And I can’t help but wonder if Martyn Cornell will participate, sharing bizarre but notable historic brews.

And what better time for novelty, than the month that holds Halloween?

What novelty beer comes to mind when you think: Is this beer just to strange to stay around? Why in the world would they choose ingredients most beer drinkers have never heard of …what the heck is a qatar fruit? If it’s okay for beer to taste like tea or coffee, why not pizza? If wild yeasts are allowed to ferment beer, then why not beard yeast? If oysters, why not bacon? If pumpkin’s good enough for pie, why not beer? Since hops are flowers, why not brew with actual flowers?”

I am all for stretching the box. Breaking through the box. Heck, even making the box a circle when it comes to beer. I have had beer that has organic fennel in it, L.A. Beer Week’s “Top Chef” style ingredient for 2012 was the prickly pear and I just read about an Oregon beer made with golden raspberries. I lived part of my life with only industrial water lagers to drink and I am certainly not going back to just corn as a base ingredient.

And if I think of the past, some of those beers that I thought were extra hoppy or too roasty would be considered XPA or a light porter in 2012. Today’s “weird” may be “boring” in a few years time but it could also just as easily be today’s fad that does not last until the keg is dry or tomorrow (whichever comes first). And I think that the truly great “novelty” beers should be called Beer from a novel approach because it must be about the beer first. The inspiration can come from Halloween and you can devise a way to add black licorice to a beer (Ladyface Ales did it this year) but if the beer is just black licorice roughly grafted onto any old beer then it won’t take. It has to be which beer would match with black licorice to add an extra dimension to the beer.

Another point to consider. If a consumer tastes a wacky beer and it goes down all wrong then what are the chances that the person picks up another beer from that brewery? Or on the flip side, if that same beer becomes the next “whale” that becomes the first thing that people think about when they think about the brewery and/or the beer is a mess to brew. Either way you need to have established a loyal consumer base that will still drink all the “other” beers in your portfolio.

The third wrinkle that novelty beers bring to the pint glass is that they take up valuable space in a fermenter. Is your local nano working overtime and then some to keep up with the demand for their flagship ale? Then they turn around and throw chipotle peppers into it? I am not saying that it is wrong or bad or an affront to the beer gods but it is something to consider.

Novelty beers to me are like a basketball player who launches an off kilter half-court shot when there is still 24 seconds on the shot clock. You know the coach will yank that player before seeing if the ball goes into the hoop. If it goes in, you get applauded and put on ESPN. If it doesn’t you end up riding the pine watching the game.

Session # 66

This month is hosted by DrinkDrank and here is the topic with apologies to Gollum.
“We all have our favorite brews—even if you say you don’t; deep,deep down we all do. From IPAs to Pilsners, Steam Beers to Steinbiers, something out there floats your boat. What if we look that to another level? What if you were to design the perfect brew—a Tolkien-esque One Beer to Rule Them All. The perfect beer for you, personally. Would it be hoppy and dark or strong and light? Is it augmented with exotic ingredients or traditionally crafted? Would your One Beer be a historic recreation or something never before dreamt of? The sky is the limit on this one. If you need to travel back in time to brew at Belgian farm during the 1870s, go right ahead—just say hi to Doc Brown and the Delorean for me. Maybe you’ll need to mount a expedition to the treacherous Amazonian rain forest to bring back some chicha, to spike your brew with; or perhaps, you’ll just dust off that old Brown Ale homebrew recipe, tweak it a bit, and call it an evening.

I’d suspect that most of you out there probably have a good understanding about the brewing process—but if you don’t, no sweat, just wing it. This exercise isn’t about making sure you’ve checked all the right boxes for the BJCP or some homebrew competition. This Session is all about imagining the possibilities—no matter how ridiculous! Feel free to create a recipe, right down to the aplha acid in your hops or conjure up a review just like you’d do for any other beer. However you want to come at this, it’s your ultimate beer, your One Beer to Rule Them All!

One small caveat, however, you do need to name your concoction—no imaginary super beer would be complete without some glorified moniker to seal the proverbial deal!”

The hardest part of this “mythic” beer challenge was the right sounding name. I wanted some history, I wanted to convey fun and I wanted to make sure the beer style was incorporated in there as well. I rejected more before I could finish typing them. But I guess I should go back to the beginning of this session.

What would be my perfect pint? I had to set parameters. I wanted something hoppy but not double or imperial. I wanted to pick up ingredients and elements of some of my favorite beers and re-jigger them into a brand new configuration. I also wanted something light (or dare I say, sessionable) because here in Los Angeles, there are more hot days than not and as good as Double IPA or Russian Imperial Stout can be, they are not easy to drink in the heat of August. (I know this is an imaginary beer that could be drunk anywhere at anytime but I want to stay somewhat tethered to reality.)

Without further ado, here is what I want in my glass. I want a hopped up Helles with a touch of sage in it. This fills my self-imposed parameters. I want this beer to be a bit fizzy but with a pronounced hop aroma from one of the hip New Zealand / Australian hops like Motueka with it’s lemon and lime burst followed by a background of tropical fruit or Rakau with it’s tropical fruit aromas of passionfruit and peach. Then just to add a secondary burst of flavor add some locally grown sage to add a bit more zing to the proceedings.

This recipe would hit a few more points of interest for me. I want to see more pilsners and helles’ on tap and it will showcase the diversity of hop styles and be a bit worldly and less West Coast-centric and the sage addition comes from my enjoyment of Farmer’s Markets that are all over the SoCal area.

This is also a nod to some beers that I have had that in the past like the Sand Dune Sage Pale Ale from El Segundo Brewing and the Saison du Buff from the collaborative efforts of Stone, Dogfish Head and Victory and to the excellent helles made by Hangar 24 in Redlands, California.

That being typed, the name of this lovely summer sipper is The Helles Reclamation Project # 1 – NZ Sage. That’s right. I am thinking about a whole series of new flavors for Helles. Now I just need to think of what I would add to # 2.

Since time machine’s were invoked, how about making sure it is in my hand before I finish this post?