Session Beers

25 07 2007

PA Breweries
Last night, I attended a Tria Fermentation School session led by beer writer (and local beer, um, demi-god) Lew Bryson. Oh, and that’s also newbie beer blogger Lew Bryson. (See, it’s already in the blogroll.) Bryson’s topic was session beers, or relatively low-alcohol brews that can be enjoyed one after the other. That, of course, is an excellent topic for the middle of summer, when you’re probably not going to hole up, fireside, with a high-alcohol beverage to sip….

We sampled seven beers, and I’d have to say I enjoyed six of those.1 (I’m easy, let’s face it.) Two, in particular, I can highly recommend. The first is actually one of my all-time favorites, Lindemans Gueuze. A gueuze is created by mixing young and, er, more mature Lambic-style beers. It’s a Belgian thing, of course. I’ve previously mentioned my passion for another Lambic, also by Lindemans. In fact, I’ve previously mentioned my passion for all things Belgian; I’d have to move to Brussels if Philly weren’t so strangely filled with Belgian restaurants and beers and waffles and chocolates.

Anyway….gosh, was that a digression or what?…the Lindemans Gueuze is un-fruited but somehow comes across as fruity. It’s sweet and, like a good Lambic, also lightly sour. It’s pure genius. If, like me, you don’t demand significant bitterness from your beer, you should check out a good gueuze. I’m a fan of Cantillon’s gueuze, too, but I’m an even bigger fan of the Lindemans, I think. (Side-by-side taste test, anyone?)

I also particularly enjoyed Legacy Brewing’s Midnight Wit. And, again, that’s a predictably Belgian-friendly preference: Although Legacy is brewed in Reading, Pa., it’s done in the style of a Belgian witbier. It was cloudy, like many wheat beers, and it offered a pleasant lemony taste. There was one off-putting note in its bouquet, an almost sulfuric smell, but the brew’s taste more than made up for that.

I can also say fairly nice things about four other beers: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout, a pleasant stout; Orlio’s Organic Common Ale, which was malty and sweet; Dr. Fritz Briem’s ‘1809’ Berliner Style Weisse, a fairly plain but lightly sour brew; and Stone’s Pale Ale, a light(!) pale ale. I probably didn’t enjoy any of these four enough to go out and buy a case or anything, but I wouldn’t turn any of them away.

Tria served us a really interesting sheep’s milk Gouda, Ewephoria (ha!), from the Netherlands. It offered a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and it wasn’t at all sheep-y. It was firm and rather dry; I really enjoyed the feel of it in my mouth. It held up well against even the strong flavor of the Celtic Stout. I’m definitely keen to have some more.

So it was a good night. My only regret? That I absent-mindedly forgot to bring my copy of Pennsylvania Breweries for Bryson to sign.

1The exception? Sadly, it was a local-ish beer: Tröegs Sunshine Pils, which always just leaves me flat. On my palate, it’s almost flavorless, just watery and bitter. I’m sure this is about me, though, because so many people seem to enjoy it.

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