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Session #130: Ron Pattinson’s dream festival is good enough for me

The SessionYour dream beer festival?

Free admission? Nothing but 100-point rarities you’ve never tasted before? Only local beers? Only brewers pouring? Only eight-ounce servings (or 1 or 4 or 16)? No lines?

Host Brian Yaeger has asked us to write about designing “your dream festival” for the 130th gathering of The Session, providing a list of criteria to consider (size, style, location, you get the idea). And he suggests that we conclude “with a note about why you can see trying to make this fantasy fest a reality or why you’ll never advance this idea of yours beyond the Session post!”

The thought occurs to me that if you dream big you should find somebody else to take charge of execution. Or to phrase that idea as a confession: Part of what makes it a dream beer festival is that somebody else organizes it.

Ron Pattinson has the right idea. He assembled a collection of historic lager recipes he’d like breweries to make and serve at a festival. He found somebody — Florian Kuplent, diploma brewmaster and co-founder of Urban Chestnut Brewing in St. Louis — who thinks this is a good idea. UCBC has recruited breweries from across the country to make beers from these recipes. Planning is ongoing, but 20 to 25 lagers will be poured March 3 at the brewery’s Grove location. Ron Pattinson will be there, and so will I.

This is a better festival than I could have dreamed up. It’s the one I am most looking forward to in 2018; closely followed by Fonta Flora Brewery’s State of Origin Festival in June in North Carolina (one I’ve wanted to get to the last couple of years, but didn’t fit into the schedule). The one I wish I could have attended this past year would have been the Norsk Kornøl Festival in Norway.

That these began as somebody else’s dream is fine with me. I prefer writing about other people’s dreams to revealing my own.

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Session #129: When local isn’t a style

The SessionGose. Check (at least in season).
Pale ale. Check.
Pumpkin beer. Check.
Cask pale ale. Check.
ESB. Check.
Brown ale. Check.
Rauchbier. Check.
Barley wine. Check.
Hefeweizen. Check.
Stout. Check.
Cask stout. Check.
American stout. Check.
Foreign stout. Check.
Imperial stout. Check.
Milk stout. Check.
Peanut butter milk stout. Check.
Barrel-aged imperial stout. Check.
Barrel-aged imperial stout you stand in line to buy. Check.
Saison. Check.
Mixed fermentation saison. Check.
Barrel-aged wild beer. Check. Check. Check.
American lager. Check.
American light lager. Check.
Zwickel. Check.
German pils. Check.
Czech pils. Czech.

This list, which could go on as long as the Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony because I haven’t even start in on IPAs, is brought to you by The Session #129. Host Eoghan Walsh has asked participants to write about “Missing local beer styles.” He suggested several variations, but still put this as the basic question: “What beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed?”

And the answer to that question is: Anything that exists in a style guideline somewhere that I can’t buy from a local brewery I probably will end up judging in a homebrew contest soon enough.

But when I think of “what next” and local beer I don’t think in terms of styles. I think about what brewers can do to give their beers “taste of place.” This is not new. I’ve quoted this 1854 story from Daily Missouri Republican about the “last days of lager” before, but it is constantly relevant.

‘The last days of Pompeii’ is a romance of Belwer [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], known to the world; but ‘the last days of Lager Beer in St. Louis,’ is a romance yet to be written. We certainly will not pretend to write it, for we claim no merit as a novelist; but we will give facts, plain facts, and if any one feels interest enough in them to use them for a theme of romantic literature, we most cordially allow him the privilege of doing so.

“With last Sunday, September 17th, the last drop of Lager Beer in St. Louis went down to – posterity. It was, and is no more. During the past extremely hot summer, it must have been some sort of gratification to our German population to have resorted to a good glass of Lager Beer, and freely did they make use of it. At places where, as we are told, the best of that article was kept, scarcely enough hands could be procured to serve the daily increasing number of consumers. But the extraordinary demand, occasioned by the extraordinary heat, soon exhausted the supply. One house after the other announced to its customers, that next day ‘the last barrel of Lager Beer’ would be tapped. This direful news brought grief unto many, and not a few were this person: stopped at street corners by inquisitive friend, with the often-repeated query ‘Where is good Lager Beer yet to be had?’ At last, two places only remained where the needful could be got – one, a spacious bar room, was the Mecca, during the day; the other, being a garden, in the evening. But days hurried on. The demand, having been concentrated to these two places, was too great for their supply, and finally, the bar room gave out. Matter now seemed to wear a gloomy appearance. ‘Mr. K. has shut his house,’ was sad tiding indeed. However, the consolation remained. The delicious fluid could yet be obtained at the garden, as so it went on for a few days. But, alas, only for a few days. One fine morning, as a social company were gathered under the beautiful acacia trees in that garden, the otherwise very kind and affable host, with one glass full of Lager Beer, in his left ‘fist,’ advanced toward the company, and handing, it to one of them, pronounced it to be positively, ‘the last drop of our last barrel!’ Great consternation followed this announcement, because it then became evident that the days of Lager Beer in St. Louis for this summer were numbered. But soon a report was spread, that a certain Mr. G. had two kegs of needful yet left for his particular friends. It did not take long for that report to make the round of the particular friends of this benevolent gentleman, numerous as they are, but it embraced even foes, and the two kegs had only a bare existence, for soon after they were tapped a deep, hollow sound, in answer to a nick at the bottom, gave satisfactory evidence that they were empty.

“In the afternoon of that very same day it was discovered – how we cannot tell – that at a certain brewery downtown, a few barrels were still left to satisfy the wishes of our German community; and, in pursuance of this information, a perfect migration of our German citizens took place to the popular spot. But there, as we are informed, the Lager Beer is also gone! and so we have recorded ‘the last days of Lager Beer in St. Louis.’”

I’d like to have a taste of that beer, because history and local and all that. Maybe I’d even end up missing it when it was gone. I suspect not.

Session #129 announced: Missing local beer styles

The SessionHost Eoghan Walsh has announced the topic for The Session #129 is Missing Local Beer Styles.

Which means?

Essentially: what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed?

Don’t everybody type “NEIPA” all at once.

(The Session #129 meets Nov. 3 – sends links to comments on the announcement page or share it on Twitter via #thesessions or @BruBeerCity.)

Session #128 topic announced: Bottle shops

The SessionHost Jack Perdue has announced the topic for The Session #128 is Bottle Shops: Good, Bad & The Ugly.

I find it vaguely reassuring that Argonaut Wine & Liquor remains an excellent stop in Denver, given that the Great American Beer Festival will be going on when The Session convenes Oct. 6. Like small breweries, small bottle shops catering to a niche crowd that cares little about beer from large breweries available in a nearby gas station have popped up seemingly everywhere. But there still something appealing about a warehouse setting, where there’s little danger of beer becoming too dang precious.

The fest makes Oktoberfest bier better

Stuttgart Oktoberfest

The SessionThe topic for the 127th gathering of The Session is Oktoberfest lagers. At the risk of having my beer geek credentials revoked I must confess we have not been to Oktoberfest in Munich. We have been to Cannstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart, which began in 1818 and occurs annually at about the same time as the Munich celebration, and attracts four million visitors over the course of two weeks. Three of the beer tents accommodate 5,000, and smaller ones pack in thousands. Outside food and crafts vendors share the midway with rides more impressive than those at the average U.S. state fair or seaside boardwalk; witness the photo above.

We saw young Germans — you know, the ones who no longer find beer relevant — standing on benches lining long beer tables, hoisting one-liter mugs, banging them together, singing along to songs like “YMCA” and “Take Me Home Country Roads,” boogying big time.

Earlier in the day we listened to brass bands like those you’d hear at Americanized Oktoberfest celebrations, playing traditional German tunes. After about every fourth song the afternoon bands stopped to sing “Ein Prosit” and lead thousands of revelers in a toast. Ohlala-Partyband, the group on the stage when the drinkers were on the benches, followed the same formula, but then quickly returned to belting out another pop song that doesn’t sound all that different in German.

Finding an excellent Oktoberfest beer — Urban Chestnut’s Oachkatzlschwoaf (O-Katz), Bob’s 47 from Boulevard, Sierra Nevada’s collaboration with Milternberger, or Ayinger Fest-Märzen for starters — is easy in our parts. And Urban Chestnut throws an excellent Oktoberfest party (every Oktoberfest should include the Bolzen Beer Band). But there’s just something about here German-speakers try to sing “West Virginia, mountain momma” in unison.

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