The Session 104: I Am Awake Now

After a late night rambling session and passing out moments within hitting the submit button, I came into realization that I may have started going somewhere, but did not finish what I started. Or really even have recollection of where I was going. But one thing still stands.TheSession

But with open eyes, ones thirsts for knowledge; with knowledge one seeks experience; and with experience, one realizes how little they really know… and to some, that is a problem that they must reconcile. – Me

During my time in Los Angeles, actually when I was leaving the city, is when I started my blog. It was something I did to learn more about beer and share my adventures. All of my post still sit over at the old url but the images that I think made them special all went away one day. It kind of broke my heart. Not that they were great post or great pictures but a piece of what connected me to the beer world was forever taken away.

When I first heard about the session, I was honestly really excited about it. It introduced me to a lot of new writers and friends. It showed me there was a lot more out there that I had to learn. It is kind of what grounded me from the never-ending spiral of badge and whale hunting. Many others that have come after me had similar experiences in both participating and reading. Would it do those of the future a disservice to discontinue The Session? Quite possibly.

There are many new groups of writers out there. I wonder if they have noticed The Session or if they thought it was an exclusive club on a quick glance just based on the names involved. I know some do not realize but if you know a name or two of the beer world; writers, brewers, drinkers, enthusiast. Not going to lie, I knew about The Session a few months before I first contributed. It was kind of that feeling that kept me from posting earlier. Not that the club seemed intimidating, it was always very welcoming, but trying to find out how I could fit into it. Or maybe they just aren’t interested.

There is no way to really tell. If it were to end, would another group pick up where it left off? Is it a matter of the topics becoming too deep? Do we just need a break? A lot of people went on without posting for a long time and picked up where they left off like nothing happened… I guess that is the freedom of not being paid to do something.

So what should happen? I feel we should keep it going. It was a while before I last contributed when I saw there was no host just a few months ago and made something up on the fly. This last month, the host was not even sure she was capable of hosting until she got some annoying little bug in her ear, and this month. Well, it could not die just yet. A lot of people look to blogs for entertainment, news, ideas, learning, and various other reasons. Let us all breathe life back into this project.

Cheers!

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The Session 104: I Am Awake Now

The Session 104: Goodbye American Beer

No, this is not my suicide letter. It is also not me swearing off of beer. That would just be stupid. What this is, is a reflection of myself over the past 6 years; when I started drinking beer.

I do not remember the exact date but sometime within the next 21 days, 6 years ago, is when a friend I had in college took me into his home and opened up my eyes to a world that exist outside of the cheap spirits that my college self was drinking… as well as the PBR. It wasn’t too long after that when I received a Mr. Beer kit and my life was changed forevTheSessioner. Though, Mr. Beer did not last long in my life. On Thanksgiving-morrow 2009, I brewed my first all grain batch of homebrew… and the next day I brewed another.

This may open up your eyes to more of the person I am today. Explain my views of the beer world and where I see myself. I once was the person that I hate today. But with open eyes, ones thirsts for knowledge; with knowledge one seeks experience; and with experience, one realizes how little they really know… and to some, that is a problem that they must reconcile.

When I started homebrewing I may have only tasted 20 different beers at a maximum. I went to Fred Meyer and looked at the selection. It was a great one, and it has only gotten better. But I was completely overwhelmed by the selection. My way of combating that was to buy variety packs of beer… and there weren’t many. The first pack I bought was a New Belgium Folly Pack, and for anyone who pays attention to me online, this should be a red flag to the origins of my Passionate and dedicated self.

I wish I remembered all 4 of the beers that were in that pack but 3 of the 4 were Fat Tire, 1554, & Hoptober. Fat Tire was my first look into the world that we call malt. I loved it. It touched me in a way that a spirit never had before. On my fist sip of 1554, I could not contain myself; it was the best beer I have ever had… Ok, at this point I have not had many, but today it is still my favorite beer. I will drink it anywhere, anytime, anyplace. When it came to Hoptober… I hated it. Honestly, I hated all hoppy beers that I had. I would tell everyone about how horrible IPAs were and that they never should have been made… this is quite funny looking forward in my life. One thing I am actually happy about, this year New Belgium re-released Hoptober and I was able to actually assess it with a more mature palate.

Sometime around the AHA Learn To Homebrew Day 2009, I received a Mr. Beer kit. I had a lot of fun with that process but it was by far the worst beer I have ever tasted… to that point. *Now, I highly endorse Mr. Beer. You just need to know what you are doing in order to use it. There are a few out there that can give great tips.* Something made me want to continue to make beer, but I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to do it the way it was meant to be done. I did some pretty crappy research and bought a Coleman cooler-red-, a turkey fryer, and a couple of kits that I thought would fit my taste; World Wide Lager – Heineken Clone- & an American Wheat Beer. And catch this, I was not sure what the difference between “milled” and “un-milled” was, so I bought one kit one way and the other, well, the other.20141010_153004

One thing I was happy about is that I found out the grain had to be milled before I brewed with it… great, right? Well… I had a rolling pin and a gallon zip lock bag… for over 10 pounds of grain! That was the worst ever… but the beer didn’t turn out all bad… even though I knew nothing about lagering or using lager yeast. Pretty sure it fermented in the mid-60’s under my kitchen sink. The American Wheat Beer came out horrible. I had no idea what happened with that kit. Probably everything. But it did not discourage me. I bought two more kits and brewed those just over a week later. I hardly had the results back from my first beers… which, well… I would never try to turn around beers that fast today.

As time went on, I bragged to everyone that I made beer and shaved the 13 hairs on my face with a straight razor. A co-worker wanted to come over and see me brew. I showed him what I knew, playing it up like I was some kind of expert, and eventually went on to teach him how to make beer. My first year I probably brewed around 40 batches… Let’s not talk about how many of them were good. I stopped using kits about 6 beers in and decided I would write my own recipes because I knew all that there was to know about beer. Looking at old log books… I have no idea why I am telling anyone about this.

The next year I graduated from college and moved down to Los Angeles. I met a lot of cool people and this is where I lost complete control of myself. There was this cool new app called Untappd. I saw a lot of people using it and I created an account. If we were to talk about the capabilities of it back then vs now, your head would spin. Most users today have no idea how hard life was. I thought I was cooler than I was, so my account went unused for several months. But once I did start using it, I met so many more people and so many more venues. I would travel across and outside of the city to go to specific places to drink as many beers as I could and earn as many badges as possible. Multiple events, rare beers for the sake of saying I had them, and places just because my Untappd “friends” were going to be there. This was a chapter in my life that I am glad that happened, but looking back… I am glad something snapped me out of that path.

Remember how I hated all hoppy beers and verbally destroyed all IPA’s, etc? Well… in this time, there was also a period where I drank nothing but IPA’s for 2-3 months. And I mean A LOT of IPA’s. The IPA that set me down this course? Dogfish Head 120. I was given this beer on a set of a film I was working on and it opened my eyes to what an IPA could be. Not all IPA’s were the initial spitfire and palate wrecking bitterness that gave me the bitter beer face in all of those Keystone Light commercials.2014-05-12 20.38.54

I snapped out of this phase right before the Inaugural IPA Day. I realized that a majority of the IPA’s I guzzled didn’t stand out at all. There was no deciding factor between them all. I talked about how much I loved them, but if it wasn’t for Untappd, I would not have known what I had. Very few stuck out and to this day they are still classics and renowned by drinkers everywhere. Because of my hatred of what this style had done to me, I opposed everything IPA day was about. It was not the style that got me into beer and the fact that they were using it to try to convert the masses, which I was so about back then, I thought it was unfair to force their ideals on potential new beer drinkers. Drink What You Damn Well Please Day was born… Though, I probably wasn’t the first to use that phrase… and I still checked into Untappd to make sure I got the badge. I could not pass that up.

A few more years past and I was still fighting the good fight converting macro lager drinkers into craft beer drinkers of all kinds, when I realized I knew quite a bit but I did not know a lot. This is when I started looking into the Beer Judge Certification Program. Not seriously at this point but a few of my friends became judges so I partly looked to them to learn and did a lot of my own research. This is also when my homebrewing took a turn for the better. I was making some good beers before this but after the number of batches I have done, if I didn’t improve, that would have been ridiculous. At this time I was learning about other styles. What made them, defined them, the characteristics of each. That is what changed my brewing. I made subtle changes or focused in beers that I liked, and were good before, in order to make them moreso fit into a guideline.

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That quickly led into me doing some serious studying for the exam and with a little forceful encouragement from a friend, I took the online entrance exam and the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam. The Cicerone program was not something I intended on doing but somehow I passed that on my first attempt. Even the BJCP online entrance exam I knocked out the first time. Kind of made me regret paying the extra money for three attempts at the exam. A major jump in studying and judging competitions took place. Almost as much so as my crazy LA drinking adventures. I traveled city to city, state to state to judge. Though, this seemed way different from before. I was able to experience every cities beers and also their local homebrew scene. I guess it paid off due to my decent score on both the BJCP Tasting Exam and the Certified Cicerone Exam… though, I messed up a bit too much on the Tasting portion, so that is coming up for me again.

I am not sure when the urge to not take beer so seriously hit me. I don’t mean beer as a whole, because that is very important. But maybe it was in the craze of all the selling and buying I realized business is business and those decisions do not affect me or the quality of the beer I drink and brew. At this time, there were only a couple that have broken the hearts of the nation. Others would follow after me. Some never cared to begin with. But everyone had to make the journey they made on their own.

With everything above, we haven’t even started getting into my purchasing and trading history… I could spare you the details because I am sure you have an idea, but I went from buying cases of $20 a piece bombers and trading for beers that are nearly unattainable to now focusing on the enjoyment of beer and those you are with. There are many great beers that beer geeks/nerds/snobs/whatever pass over due to their accessibility, lack of sex appeal, and probably their low, low price. It is unfortunate that these beers are not purchased and drank more by segments of our community but I think it is a good thing I hit this point before I open the next chapter of my beer life. Which kind of brings this rambling back to why I started.

I am greatly looking forward to the beers of Germany and all of Europe. Living/working over there will give me an opportunity to take my knowledge to another level. For a lot of styles, I only really know what was written in a book or a set of guidelines. I will finally be able to taste them for myself. One thing I was going back and forth on was my brewing. Do I focus on perfecting styles while I have such great examples of them? Or do I brew what I get homesick for and want to drink. I am sure it will be a combination of both but I hope that when I return to the US in 3 years, I can be more of the expert that I thought I was when I really knew nothing. Actual experience drinking these beers around the world, the ability to talk about, describe and give a rough recipe without looking back over notes. You know, for real be that guy… but we will see. There is still a long journey to go and besides these generalities, I honestly have no idea where I am going.

Cheers!

The Session 104: Goodbye American Beer

The Session: The Landscape Of Beer

A few weeks ago I asked a question to the followers of The Session. A question that I could not fully answer myself; not because I didn’t know the answer or because the TheSessionanswer was as simple as the question implied, but because the question left many possible inferences and I was not sure where I would take it.

So what does The Landscape Of Beer look like? If you ask me, I’ll tell you to just take a look around. We are both the face and the landscape of beer.

While the beer world is huge, there are only a small percentage of consumers actually using social media, blogs, applications, and similar avenues to appreciate and share the love of the craft and their hobby. The faces we see online, at festivals, or just hanging out in breweries are what the landscape of beer is all about.

Writers make the news and break the stories, pub goers experience ounces of love one glass at a time and share it with their compatriots. Social media connects individuals that are worlds apart around a similar interest. Without that connection, what would the industry be?

Take a look to the past; before it seemed like only a few breweries owned the marketplace, back when there were only a few brands obtainable far and wide, most neighborhoods supplied their patrons with their beverage of choice. Each neighborhood or region had beer that was uniquely their own. This is far from the case now where familiar styles are readily available, but local consumption is undoubtedly on the rise with craft brewers popping up in many local communities.

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This growth would not be possible without people like you and I. We are shaping The Landscape of Beer. The world of Macro and Micro beer is quickly vanishing. While there are breweries that focus only on their immediate area, a good number of them are looking into international distribution, expanding into new states, and further reaching in their current areas. This expansion is only possible because we are demanding their products. When we share them with our friends or talk and write about the love we have for any producer, our voices are being heard and echoed across the world. Everyone wants to savor a mouthful of the beer that makes our hearts sing.

What does this mean for the future? We are currently in a world of expansion and “predicted” buyouts. Will we return to a time that was similar to the pre-prohibition era, with a few minor changes? Will greater things be in store? Will we see no real change to the growth and quality of beer that is available now?

One vision of the future holds a handful of national breweries. This could be a possibility within the next 5 years. If the number of smaller, local brewpubs and breweries continues to keep pace, many neighborhoods will be able to have a constant supply of beer available to them without travel or worrying about breweries from outside the area, much like before prohibition.

I have been on the scene for about 6 years now and have learned a substantial amount. When I dove into the world of beer, I knew nothing. My eyes were open to an endless abyss of flavor and new friends. Some were fresh faced and over enthusiastic, just like myself. Others were slightly more experienced, and beyond that I even ran into a multitude of enthusiasts who knew what beer was even before I was born. I looked to them for guidance and I am now at a point where others are looking to me and my peers.

We can create educated, well informed consumers, or monsters who take after the likes of those INSATIABLE ANIMALS! While both are needed to keep the industry afloat, the quality of beer that flows depends upon the ones who pay attention and filter flaws from the system.

Take a look around and consider where you want beer to go. The shape of the landscape is up to us. When it is time to hand over the reins, let’s do it in a manner that shows we welcome the change; and not like an old curmudgeon who wants the kids to GET OFF OUR LAWN!

Cheers!

The Session: The Landscape Of Beer

The Session 102 Announcement: The Landscape Of Beer

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

TheSession

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The Landscape of Beer in America is changing. It has even begun influencing beer in countries all around the world. Everyone has their opinion on Local vs Global, Craft vs Macro, and Love vs Business. Those who were at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville this past weekend had a brief talk about how “Small and Independent Matters”. Something that quite a few people say matters to them, but where is the upper limit? Does a purchase of another brewery still allow a brewery to fall into the Small and Independent camp?

Our topic this month is, “The Landscape of Beer“. How do you see that landscape now? What about in 5, 10, or even 20 years? A current goal in the American Craft Beer Industry is 20% market share by the year 2020. How can we get there? Can we get there?

Whether your view is realistic or whimsical, what do you see in our future? Is it something you want or something that is happening? Let us know and maybe we can help paint the future together.

Please post your response here on or before August 7th with the round-up to follow.

Cheers!

The Session 102 Announcement: The Landscape Of Beer