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Session #118: Who’s coming to dinner and what are we drinking?

The SessionWelcome to The Session #118. I’ll be the host today, inviting a few guests and picking some beers. As you may recall the theme is pretty simple:

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

We played this game here in a slightly different way almost exactly nine years ago. I think the results made for some interesting, even educational, reading, which is one of the reasons The Session has been around for 118 months, right? The choices certainly were diverse, with more musicians picked than brewers. Only three guests were invited to more than one dinner — Michael Jackson, William Shakespeare, and Martin Luther.

Now that it’s a Session topic, and to be honest the Session doesn’t glow like it once did, who knows? Details about participating at the end, after I get the dinner invitations posted and we go beer shopping.


Mark Kurlansky, because he wrote 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, which we’ll soon be talking about because it will have been 50 years ago and we’ll surely be making comparisons between 1968 and 2018.

Katharine Hepburn. For many reasons — she’s Katharine Hepburn; that should be enough — although it turns out there is a 1968 connection. She was in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” And there’s another book I’m happy to return to that wraps up in 1968 (with the Oscars): Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. GWCtD was one of those movies.

Joseph Hartmann, who founded the Eagle Brewery in San Jose, California. Because if we are going to talk about 1968 we are going to drink maybe the most interesting beer brewed in America in 1968 — Anchor Steam. According to family history, Hartmann brewed steam beer from the get go, which would been 1853. This is not the time for me to ramble on about the topic, but one of my greatest frustrations in writing Brewing Local was not being able to nail down when steam beer became steam beer. I’m not disputing what you’ll find written pretty much everywhere — that brewers in California fermented their beer with lager yeast at warmer temperatures than elsewhere as early as 1850. But they didn’t call it steam beer, at least on any printed pages I’ve found. They called it lager. The term “steam beer” does appear in literature until the 1880s. So I’m bringing Hartmann back from the dead to tell us when they started to call the beer steam. And when they started using clarifiers (shallow tanks that looked like coolships but weren’t exactly). Sorry. Obsessed.

Brandy Clark. Because this song. It feels like it should be part of a conversation about 1968 and 2018. And there is this brilliant line, “She smokes a cigarette out by the loading dock/ And tries not to pick the polish off her nails.” Can you tell me something more about a person with so few words? It has been suggested “Brandy Clark is country music’s great lesbian hope” and she co-wrote Toby Keith’s “Drunk Americans.” At least one of those things seems important.


Louie Mueller's in Taylor, Texas

We’re here for the conversation, so let’s order some food, beer and get to it. Dinner will be at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, with beer they don’t actually serve there. Maybe the smoked meat is better at Franklin Barbecue in Austin or Snow’s in Lexington, but maybe not. Neither has the patina of Louis Mueller. Brisket and smoked sausage, please. And for sides? Those come from Sugarfire in St. Louis, the one on Olive. They post the daily choices on Facebook.

Today's sides at Sugarfire Barbecue

Here are today’s options. I think they’ll do.


(From San Francisco, St. Louis, St. Louis, and, wait for it, St. Louis.)

Anchor Steam. Representing 1968.

Urban Chestnut Stammtisch. Call me a broken record. A bright, properly hopped pilsner. Works with conversation, with smoked meat or fried okra.

Civil Life Brown. Another conversation friendly beer (I already said it would be at Louis Mueller, but ‘d be OK with hauling in the meat and sides and drinking right at Civil Life — no matter how conversation friendly you think this beer is it become more so at the pub).

Schlafly Oatmeal Stout. Dessert. This beer is substantial (5.7% ABV) but will leave you capable of conversation. We’ve got our share of stand-in-line-to-buy beers in St. Louis that also make a great dessert, but are, well, boozy. And I really want to hear what Joseph Hartmann and Brandy Clark have to say to each other.

The wrapup

If you choose to host a dinner of your own, please be sure I know about it, so I can include it in a roundup next week. Drop me an email with a link or post one in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to list four guests, four beers and a food menu in the comments here. Or entertain us with a series of tweets. Martin Luther is counting on you to cast the tie-breaking vote.


Time in a bottle

Joe Stange wrote about Baltic Porter and Poland last week at DRAFT. Which is a good enough excuse to show you a few photos from the Zywiec Brewery in Zywiec and Bracki Browar Zamkowy in nearby Cieszyn, which is owned by the Zywiec group (and therefore Heineken, which owns Zywiec — got it?).

Near the end of a tour at Zywiec visitors may sample Zywiec Porter and see how malt used in the beer is roasted. Zywiec actually buys most of its roasted barley because the old way is not particularly effecient. And its porter is made in the much smaller Cieszyn brewery because production is modest — about 30,000 hectoliters (25,500 barrels) a year.

Malt roaster at Zywiec Brewery in Zywiec, Poland

Roasting malt at Zywiec Brewery in Poland

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Meet me in Kansas City Saturday

We’re headed to Kansas City this weekend. We’ll be eating smoked meat, drinking beer, meeting up with friends, and I am told there might be some shopping.

I might miss most of that shopping stuff to hang out with brewing friends. Feel free to join us.

Stop No. 1 will be at Glass to Grain Grain to Glass at 1 p.m. I’ll talk a little bit about essential oils, including some new discoveries related to hops and how other plants may be used to create hop-like aromas and flavors (with an assist from yeast). Stop by, listen, ask questions, bring any books (preferably ones I’ve written) you’d like signed. There will be books for sale, but that part is strictly optional.

Round No. 2 begins at 3 p.m. at Crane Brewing in Raytown. The brewery was under construction when I was there in the summer of 2015, so I’m looking forward to a tour from Michael Crane.

Under construction - Crane Brewing Co., Raytown, Mo.

I think everybody will be welcome to join in. After that Michael and I will talk about foraging for yeast and brewing with local yeast. We should be around there until about 6 p.m. Once again, bring questions as well as books to be signed. And there will be books for sale — holiday shopping made fun.


Reminder: The Session #118 meets Friday

The SessionJusIt a reminder: The Session #118 is Friday. I’m the host, so I hope you have plans to contribute. I’ve done a book signing where nobody showed up and can tell you that isn’t pretty. In fact, when I think back I don’t feel so bad about Borders going out of business.

In case you missed the announcement, here is the plan.

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

If the questions look familiar it might be because we played the game here nine years ago. It was fun, so let’s take the show on the road. To participate, answer these questions Friday in a blog post (or, what the heck, in a series of tweets). Post the url in the comments here or email me a link. I’ll post a roundup with links some time the following week.


Monday beer links: Hop inspections, beer lists, BCS & ‘Hard Times’


Unhappy New York Hop Inspection: 1827 to 1835.
Alan McLeod trips happily from one discovery about hop inspecting to another. A couple of passages from the 1973 edition of Steiner’s Guide to American Hops add to the conversation.

(The annual sale of hops) was greatly stimulated by a law passed in Massachusetts in 1806 providing for compulsory inspection and grading of all hops packed for export. Strict standards were set for inspection and sternly enforced with the result that Massachusetts “first sort” brand became known as the finest hops in the United States. The effects of the law were salutary. European customers insisted upon hops which had passed the Massachusetts inspection, and in consequence, such approved hops commanded a premium price.” Production grew from annual sales of 304,377 pounds between 1806 to 1815 to 595,451 between 1825 and 1835. (From History of Agriculture in the Northern United States, 1620-1863.)”

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