The Session #38: Cult Beer

The SessionWelcome to the first Friday of April, and another edition of The Session! You all know the drill by now, right? If not, pop on over to Jay’s site and read his most excellent summary. In the meantime, I’m going to dive right into it.

This month’s Session is being hosted by Sean Inman over at Beer Search Party:

With Kate the Great Day a recent memory and the day of the Dark Lord fast approaching, I started thinking about what beer or beers that I would get up at 4:00 in the morning, drive across state lines, stand in a long unmoving line in the cold and rain for the chance to taste with a crowd the size of Woodstock.

There’s more to it than that: Sean presents several questions in this vein of “cult beer” and I thought I’d mix it up a bit from my usual style of writing for the Session and answer them as if it were an interview. Off we go!

What beers have you tasted recently (say, the last six months or so) that is worthy of their own day in the media sun?

That’s a tough question because a) there have been a lot of good beers and b) it’s hard to get past the notion that for a beer to get its “day in the media sun” it needs to be a big boisterous beer like a Dark Lord or an Abyss. But the reality is that those big beers are more expensive and time-consuming to make and by necessity are released on a limited basis, and this lends to the cachet of these cult beers. I’d love to see more lighter, session beers get this kind of attention, but if those beers are available year-round and easy to acquire, it’s not a story.

In the past six months, some beers I’d pick as “worthy” would be Pelican Brewery’s Kiwanda Cream Ale, Coronado Brewing’s Orange Ave Wit, and Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine. Yes, I know I threw a big beer in that list, but Bigfoot is one of the best American Barleywines around (in fact, I’m drinking one as I write this), and I think it deserves much more attention.

In general, I’d love to see my local Bend Brewing Company get a ton of cult beer attention—they are producing some fantastic beers (yes, HopHead, but more importantly, Desert Rose) that should absolutely be sought out by beer geeks.

And to add a little extra to it, how does “great” expectations affect your beer drinking enjoyment?

That’s a loaded question; if I have great expectations for a beer and it doesn’t deliver, then the disappointment is bigger. I know I’ll catch some heat for this one, but I recently had The Bruery‘s Two Turtle Doves, which beer geeks online have uniformly been raving about, and I really wasn’t too impressed (I haven’t posted a review yet, but will soon). I suspect a build-up of expectations played a part in that.

On the other hand, approaching a beer with little or no expectations and having it turn out great is a better experience, I think. I’ll (once again) point to Widmer’s Cherry Oak Doppelbock as a prime example of this. I had no real expectations, and it was a fantastic beer. I think not expecting that definitely added to my enjoyment.

Would my expectations be high if I attended a big beer release, like Dark Lord Day or this year’s Pliny the Younger release? Damn straight, and as such the beer had better be absolutely fabulous to match. Or the experience itself (regardless of the beer) had better be worth it. Or both.

AND If you have attended one of these release parties, stories and anecdotes of your experience will be welcomed too.

I really haven’t attended anything like that; the closest I’ve come is attending a Deschutes Brewery release from time to time, and those are always low-key events: a release party at their downtown Bend pub, where the only line you’ll have to wait in is to get a seat in the restaurant. Oh, and I’ve waited in line for the Deschutes Brewery annual garage sale—but never for very long.

Of course, if someone offered me airline tickets to Indiana to attend Dark Lord Day, I sure wouldn’t turn them down.

What beer have you tasted recently (say, the last six months or so) that is worthy of their own day in the media sun?

And to add a little extra to it, how does “great” expectations affect your beer drinking enjoyment?

AND If you have attended one of these release parties, stories and anecdotes of your experience will be welcomed too.

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