The Session #131: Three Things In 2018

The SessionHappy first Friday—of 2018! This month’s edition of The Session is hosted by Jay Brooks, who put it together quickly after we realized the holidays had thrown us off and nobody was lined up to host! Jay came up with the topic, which is Three Things for 2018:

For my topic, I’ve chosen Three Things, a quick session topic as we look ahead to what this year, and beyond, will bring to the world of beer. So here we go, three quick questions for you to ponder and answer extemporaneously as best you can from your perspective.

Going into this new year this is a great way to get people thinking about beer, and possibly act as a great entry point to new readers unfamiliar with our blogs and writing. So without further ado, here are Jay’s three questions, and my answers:

For our first question of the new year, what one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink. Craft beer seems to be the most agreed upon currently used term, but many people think it’s losing its usefulness or accuracy in describing it. What should we call it, do you think?

“Craft” has become an incredibly loaded term when it comes to beer, and while I like “independent,” that mostly describes the state of brewery businesses and really doesn’t cover the beer. In my day-to-day conversations, I simply tend to refer to such “beer I’d like to drink” as good beer.

And really, “good” as a descriptor is all we really need. With possibly a few exceptions, it really doesn’t matter who brews the beer, as long as it’s good—the quality of beer is and should be what matters, right? I know “good” can be subjective, but I try to approach any beer with an open mind and the question—“Is this good for its style, even if I don’t care for it personally?” If the answer is “yes,” then there you go.

Good beer.

For our second question of the new year, what two breweries do you think are very underrated? Name any two places that don’t get much attention but are quietly brewing great beer day in and day out. And not just one shining example, but everything they brew should be spot on. And ideally, they have a great tap room, good food, or other stellar amenities of some kind. But for whatever reason, they’ve been mostly overlooked. Maybe 2018 should be the year they hit it big. Who are they?

This is a tougher question, because I’m close enough to the industry and know enough obscure breweries and arcana that to call “underrated” might be out of touch with what the average beer drinker might consider underrated. Too inside baseball? Maybe. But I’ll take a stab at it.

In considering this question, I decided it needs to be about breweries that have been well-established for a number of years, because it’s easy to be “underrated” when you’re only a year old. Bearing that in mind, my first pick for underrated brewery is Caldera Brewing, from Ashland, Oregon.

Caldera celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2017, which I wrote about here; they were the first brewery in Oregon to put their beer in cans, they are a prolific brewery—they have a lot of beers—and I have found every one of their beers that I’ve experienced to be solid, well-brewed, and flavorful. Yet for some reason I just don’t see them well-represented in the marketplace, and their beers are almost never listed or highlighted in the usual type of lists that get published. I would love to see Caldera get some prominent recognition.

To be honest, I don’t have a #2 brewery in mind for being underrated, at least under the same criteria I have for selecting Caldera. If I think of one, I’ll update this post.

For our third question of the new year, name three kinds of beer you’d like to see more of. It’s clear hoppy beers, IPAs and all of the other hop-forward beers they’ve spawned, are here to stay. There seems to be a few other styles that are popular, too, like saisons, barrel-aged beers, anything imperial and also sour beers of all kinds. But lots of other previously popular beers seem sidelined these days. What three types of beer do you think deserve more attention or at least should be more available for you to enjoy? They can be anything except IPAs, or the other extreme beers. I mean, they could be, I suppose, but I’m hoping for beers that we don’t hear much about or that fewer and fewer breweries are making. What styles should return, re-emerge or be resurrected in 2018?

I was just thinking the other day, I would love to see and drink more malt-forward beers without any frills, because there’s a certain point of palate fatigue where you just don’t want another paint-stripping sour, or so-hoppy-it’s-gritty, or funky yeast, or crazy adjunct addition in a glass. I’m thinking Scottish ales, brown ales, bocks, and the like.

Give me some more good lagers too. They don’t need to be the latest craft Pilsner that everyone seems to want to take a crack at—unless it’s a really good version—but give me some dunkels and Munich-driven styles and, yes, bocks again. Clean, crisp, with a solid understanding of the underlying lager brewing process—I would definitely love to see more of these.

And finally for a third type, let’s see some crisp, tart, and non-frilly Belgian witbiers. Traditional spicing of coriander and orange peel is all we need, and a suitably dry snap in the finish, no soupy or thick versions please. To be fair, I just had a passionfruit infused witbier from Avery Brewery which was quite good—but also fairly Pog-y, and that’s not really what I’m looking for in a witbier, by and large. Classics are good!

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