I wouldn't normally interview fellow beer writers. I'd prefer to just drink with them. But when editors say "Jump!" I ask "How high?", do a couple armpit farts, and attempt a Triple Lindy.* So I'm writing an article about session beers, whatever those are, and my editor says I need to include the Session Beer Project. That would be the brainchild of beer writer Lew Bryson.
OK. Twist my arm.
So I was talking to Lew yesterday when he brought up this interview in the Atlantic with Sam Calagione. My first thought was, "Sam Calagione needs another piece in the Atlantic like he needs another nationally televised reality show." But I suppose the guy is as skilled an ambassador for craft beer as he is for his own brewery.
However, here are the question and quote that set Lew off:
What's a beer trend that you wish would go away?Lew's response: "Who in the world thinks that? I don't think that."
See ice-cold beer! Above. Also, that session beers and extreme beers cannot peacefully coexist on the same shelf or within a brewer's portfolio...
The implication would appear to be that there is some groundswell of support for session beers out there, rather than just a handful of wishful writers and brewers, and that we want those extreme beers to get the hell out of our bars and our shops.
But that can't be right. It doesn't make sense. Every pro-session-beer type to whom I've spoken also loves strong beers, and beers of all sorts, and usually takes great pains to point that out. Instead, the rather obvious problem is that there are too few low-strength beers available, if any. Go ahead: Scan the strengths of your favorite brewery's range and see how many you find below 5%. Scan the draft list of your favorite taphouse. Practically speaking, besides a few wonderful exceptions, they just ain't there.
Sam Calagione is a smart guy. Therefore I assume he knows that very well. Therefore I choose to assume he is making a totally different implication. He is implying that taphouses and craft breweries should stop loading up their ranges with extreme beers, and start serving a few session beers to go along with them. So that they can finally coexist!**
In that case: Well put, Sam. Well put.
*"Is that hard?"
**Damn it, does this mean everyone's on the same side after all? Boring.
***Pictured: Behind the bar at ChurchKey. Just for fun, a scan of yesterday's draft list finds five beers below 5% abv: two German lagers, an English cask ale, and two English ciders. All coexisting peacefully with Bell's gorgeous Expedition Stout at 10.5%.