Saturday, March 31, 2012

Session Beer Spotlight #3: Stone Levitation Ale

Just under the wire (with 10 minutes to spare till midnight)!

I would like to spotlight Stone Brewing Co's session ale, Levitation, which clocks in at 4.4%.  It's probably cheating to quote the brewer's website, but I like their philosophy here:
It's been said that "Gravity Sucks." Simple enough. Well, we at Stone have identified gravitational forces in the beer world. And we have come to the conclusion that they, well, see above. So we avoid these less-than-desirable gravitational forces. We avoid dumbed-down flavor profiles and the vigorous pursuit of the lowest common denominator. We avoid big dollar marketing mentalities. We avoid additives, cheap adjuncts, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. So in the defiance of gravity we bring you Stone Levitation Ale.
 I appreciate the acknowledgement of the challenge the market poses to creating a quality low-ABV beer.

Levitation has many characteristics of a standard American Pale Ale, with a slightly lighter body. It's hoppy and crisp, with great floral hop aroma-much more than one would think given the color and ABV. (Mmmm... Amarillo...) It's a damn fine beer at any ABV.

I was talking with someone in the industry last night about session beers, and she mentioned that one issue that folks ought to be aware of is the fact that session beers do not hold up well if stored improperly. So that's definitely something to keep in mind if you've had disappointing experiences with session beers- heat and light take much less time to turn a lower gravity beer funky (the bad kind of funky) than a beer with more alcohol (more booze=better preservation ability)

I love that Stone, a West Coast brewer that totally grooves on big beers with big flavors and big ABVs, has a well crafted, easy drinking, unapologetically sessionable beer. Because it's important to have that diversity. Because it's also a true test of brewing skill. With a low ABV beer, there's nowhere to hide (its fragility in bottles out in the market as discussed in the previous paragraph attests to that) -everything must be perfectly balanced. You can't hide your flaws behind the heat of higher alcohol content or crazy amounts of hop flavor and bitterness. I respect the hell out of brewers that recognize and embrace that challenge.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Session Beer Spotlight #2: Mikkeller's Drink'in the Sun

If NOLA Brown is Tom's favorite session beer, mine has to be the 2.4% dynamo brewed by gypsy brewer wunderkind Mikkeller. Called Drink'in the Sun, it's a hoppy wheat beer that has gorgeous citrus hop aroma, a light body that is pale gold, and the wheat style is heavily influenced by the bitterness of the hops, merging those characteristic tropical fruit notes of a wheat beer with the floral hop flavor very successfully.  The wheat/malt also balanced the bitterness of the hops beautifully. Dry finish. Could literally drink this all day. (and cannot wait to have the opportunity to do so once again.)

I mean, this beer is genius. To have such a light bodied, light colored, light ABV beer that is so complex yet simply easy to drink all day long. This is what can be done with session beers! Why don't more brewers do it?

One thing of note- the hop aroma and citrus flavors muted quite quickly after being tapped, so the second day on was not as transcendentally wonderful as the first.  Still really, really good though.

TWO POINT FOUR PERCENT.  That is CRAZY AWESOME beer at 2.4%. Bananas.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Session Beer Spotlight #1: NOLA Brewing Brown Ale

This brown ale is both the favorite of my husband Tom as well as NOLA Head Brewer Melanie Knepp. (Seriously- you want to make a friend for life, buy Melanie a Brown Ale.)

One of the first flagship ales when the brewery first opened, the Brown Ale is a flavorful but low-key brew that has a malt profile that is complex and low subtle hopping. And at 4%, it is definitely a session ale.

There was a time when all ales were brown to some degree or another; as pale ales and pale lagers proliferated, brown ales became associated with particular styles like mild, or nut brown ale. American craft brewers have put their own spin on brown ales, as usual, increasing the hop load and ABV. NOLA Brown is firmly in the English mild/nut brown tradition. Perfect for a southern climate. You'd never think it to look at the beautiful dark brown color, but this beer is very light in body and very quaffable.

Since the Brown is one of the two beers NOLA Brewing has in cans, it's easier than ever to enjoy the Brown Ale at home and at parties,

Remember, Session Beer Day is April 7! Please comment below with any of your favorite session beers locally available.I hope to be posting every day between now and April 7 with discussions of specific beers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

post Mardi Gras/St. Patrick's semi-fugue state

So, I've been taking it easier on my liver over the last couple weeks, with the exception of trying to drink some of the Mardi Gras beers before they disappear: Bayou Teche's Courir de Mardi Gras and Biere Joi at the Bulldog one fine Saturday afternoon and Pour Me Something Mistah on cask (very, very delicious).

One thing I'm pretty excited about is Lew Bryson's Session Beer Project's Session Day on April 7. I'm going to be trying to identify low (less than 4.5%) ABV beers that are refreshing and delicious to drink ALL DAY LONG over the next two weeks in New Orleans.

Stay tuned!