Monday, February 7, 2011

Extreme Session Beer, Part II

After that last post about the Alström's Extreme Session Beer Project, it was interesting to see this post on The Notch blog. Chris Lohring is brewing a grodziskie, a mostly extinct Polish style of beer he described as "a beer made from 100% smoked wheat malt, very low ABV, very high hop character, fermented with an ale yeast, and served unfiltered yet with out yeast turbidity...True Grodziskie involves oak smoking green wheat (steeped and germinated wheat) while being dried and kilned."

I've had a shot at a (I guess non-traditional) grodziskie made at Yards, and it was really interesting and bold -- bacony, really, but refreshing.When I read that Chris was brewing one for The Notch, well, that's kind of exciting.

I was let down to read this, though:

"...the email came regarding Extreme Beer Fest. I was not on the invite list for participating brewers, as invites go to “brewers known for brewing extreme beers.” And it didn’t surprise me, as I understand I am the new kid on the block (at the same time being from the old school). We built our reputation at the Tremont Brewery on well balanced beers and were quick to call out extreme beers as gimmicks. So I had this coming to me.
Quite phlegmatic, Chris; tip of the hat to you for being mature about it. Why invites wouldn't go to both brewers known for extreme beers and session beers, I'm not so sure, but it is the Extreme Beer Festival, and the "Extreme Session Beer Project" is a subset within that, so... Anyway, the cool thing is Chris's reaction to suddenly not having an automatically appreciative audience for this quirky beer:
"I was too far down the path to Grodziskie to turn back."
Atta boy! He got the smoked green wheat malt (at Valley Malt, in Hadley, Mass., a very small husband-and-wife-run custom maltings) and went ahead and brewed a pilot batch. And now he's waiting on, as he put it, maybe the most important question:

how does Grodziskie taste? Is it in the dustbin of history for a reason? Well, it’s been one week in the fermenter, and I should have some sense of what this beer tastes like in another week. And then I can make the decision if this beer can scale to a commercial brewery, with commercial potential. With no captive audience to rely on at EBF, this beer will need to be sold to bars, and willingly purchased by craft beer fans. Something to ponder while I  gear up for the bottle release of Session Ale and Pils later this month. Sleepless nights are becoming common.
That's ballsy. Session beers are not for the faint of heart when it comes to brewing and selling them; at least, not yet. Tom Baker tells me that the session beers are a tough sell at Earth + Bread and Brewery (and they don't have one on, currently), only Victory seems to have no problem selling bitter at their pub (or maybe they just always have Uncle Teddy's on because Ron likes it, I dunno). All I ask: if you see a session-strength beer on at your local brewpub or bar, try it. And if it's good, tell me -- and I'll help get the word out, here, on Twitter, and on Facebook -- and most importantly, have another. 



  1. Thanks Lew. Not pouring at EBF certainly would have been a good excuse to say screw it and throw in the Grodziskie towel. But I love the challenge. I also love the fact that other brewers are looking at styles such as Grodziskie. I'm certainly not alone in my interest of this style, and it's good to see exploration beyond the more fashionable sipping beers. Chris

  2. Good on you Chris! The Grätzer is a really fun one to do and amazingly refreshing if done right. I've done a ton of them but most people don't bother with smoke and bitter unless you can stand a spoon up in it...


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