The Session #105: Double Feature

Oregon BeerIt’s the first Friday of the month once again so that means I’m drinking and writing for another round of The Session! You know the drill: collaborative beer blogging, we write on a common theme suggested by this month’s host, who will then roundup all the entries so we can see what everyone else wrote (and thought). And for this month, our host is Mark at Kaedrin Beer Blog, who has suggested Double Feature:

For this installment, I’d like to revisit that glorious time of beer drinking when I was just starting to realize what I was getting into. One of my favorite ways to learn about beer was to do comparative tastings. Drink two beers (usually of the same style) with a critical eye, compare and contrast. Because I’m also a movie nerd, this would often be accompanied by a film pairing. It was fun, and I still enjoy doing such things to this day!

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to drink two beers, compare and contrast. No need for slavish tasting notes, but if you want to, that’s fine too. The important part is to highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature. Now, I’m a big tent kinda guy, so feel free to stretch this premise to its breaking point. The possibilities are endless!

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a Session that consists primarily of reviewing beer of a given style, or following a certain theme; many of the Sessions of recent months have been higher-concept, or about tangentials or incidentals around beer—not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’ll be honest, I’ve missed the “review” Sessions. So this month is a nice homecoming (of a sort).

The Session - Double Feature beers

Tonight it’s a session beer kind of night, and accordingly I’ve got two canned beers to match up: Flat Tail Brewing’s Little Green Dry Hop Session Saison, and Crux Fermentation Project’s collaboration Session IPA with Sierra Nevada Brewing, Paddle Trail Ale. There just seems to be something appropriate about easy-drinking beers that come in a can.

I started with the Little Green, and right off I have to say that this is my favorite beer from Corvallis, Oregon’s Flat Tail Brewing, and pretty much has been since I first tasted it at the Oregon Garden Brewfest two years ago. At the time, this is what I wrote:

Instead of the Maple Nut Porter which was listed, they brought instead a beer named “Little Green” that was, aptly enough, 4.20% abv… and it smelled like it too, probably more than any other beer I’ve yet come across. It was also incredibly fresh and tasty and drinkable, and ultimately garnered my vote for the People’s Choice award. Of course being a Flat Tail beer it was interesting: a Saison-IPA hybrid dry-hopped with 3 pounds of Mosaic hops per barrel. Really, really good.

It then went on to win a bronze medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival—well deserved, in my opinion. And it’s definitely not your usual beer—a dry-hopped, “session Saison” that plays as a blend between Saison and IPA. It was recently released year-round in cans, and yes, on the can they list the alcohol by volume as 4.20% and it’s definitely not an accident. The hops in this beer are redolent of cannabis, and that predates this year’s legalization of marijuana in Oregon, and Flat Tail definitely plays that up with the name and all.

Flat Tail Brewing Little Green

It pours a pale gold with a fizzy white head, presenting with a dank, ganja aroma that’s also very green, with slight resin character, slightly catty, maybe even a touch sweaty, finishing with a hop candy sweetness. Drinking, it’s just a beautiful blend of Saison spiciness with pungently green, peppery, and slightly sweaty hops, finishing dry. It’s got a crisp body and is super drinkable and balanced. I’m glad they released this in cans because it’s such a crushable beer. (And I kind of hate that adjective, “crushable.”)

On to the Paddle Trail Ale. Bend, Oregon’s Crux Fermentation Project teamed up with giant Sierra Nevada Brewing to brew up this Session IPA, which will benefit the Whitewater Park project here in Bend—ostensibly “to help provide safe passageways along the Deschutes River for people and wildlife.” As such, $2 of every four-pack sold went to the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance which helped the construction of a river bypass project which was completed this past September.

This beer is 4.7% abv, which doesn’t quite fit the session beer definition set forth by Lew, but it’s a darn sight closer than the 5.5-plus percent “session” IPAs out there. You know the ones. Anyway, this one presents in a 16-ounce “pounder” can (the Little Green, like most, is 12-ounces), and there’s just something satisfying about that larger can size.

This one is orange, with an ample, nicely lacy head that’s off-white in color. The hops here are noticeable Mosaic-like to me (the label simply says, “experimental”), with that slight onion character that you can get from that hop, and there’s also a bit of pepper and dandelion greens. It’s a nice drinker, but I will say I think the hops here, for me, are an overreach with the bite, with the light malts not really supporting and meshing with them as I’d like. (I find a lot of Session IPAs have this problem—the hops are heavy-handed and throw everything off.) Perhaps that’s accentuated by the Mosaic-like hops, which are reminding me of chives and garlic greens; I’m not sure.

Crux/Sierra Paddle Trail Ale

Two easy-drinking, canned, Mosaic hoppy-ish session ales; definitely makes for a nice night, and the bonus—not too affected from the lower alcohol levels. That makes for the right kind of “double feature” in my book.