Friday, September 2, 2011

Session Beer Event at the Farmer's Cabinet

You know, it's crazy that I haven't been to the Farmer's Cabinet yet; the beers are jaw-dropping, my buddy Terry Hawbaker is brewing for them (in Virginia, but that's another story), and the cocktails are supposed to be phenomenal...but Matt Scheller finally figured out how to get me to visit: >>>>>>>>>>>>>

That's right, he's throwing a bunch of session beers on and giving me a chance to talk about this passion of mine for great-tasting 'little beers.' Now, I do have to say: there are a few beers in the bunch that are over 4.5%. It ain't a perfect world. But it's a PAYG event, with pints and half pints, so if you don't want the 4.5+ beers, don't buy them. Or do, suit yourself. They'll also have specialty hot dogs, made by chef Jason Goodman, and I'm looking forward to that, too.

So, the deets: The fest will be at Farmer's Cabinet (1113 Walnut St., Philly) all day, on both Sept 9 and 10, Friday and Saturday. I'll be speaking about session beers at 1:30 on Saturday (I have an all-day meeting Friday, or I'd hike my butt in for that one, too); it's going to be a bit of a pep rally for session beers, but I'll talk about the hows and whys, like how they're made to taste so good, and why I set my limit at 4.5%. But mostly? We'll be drinking 26 tap beers and 2 gravity pours (one German, one English). Four of those 26 will be Terry's beers, some of the first brewed at the former Shenandoah brewery in Arlington, VA; if you know Terry's beers from the Bullfrog, you'll know why I'm excited about those.

Now, as Matt said: "Prices will vary, but European craft beer is not cheap - even when the ABV is low. I will try to keep them as low as possible, but the price point will not be $3 or $4 a pint, but probably around 6 or 7. Unfortunately,  just because a beer is lighter in color and lower in alcohol, doesn't mean it costs any less to buy. I certainly wish that was the case!"

I liked something else he told me:
To be frank, Lew, I am rarely in the mood these days for a boozy or remotely heavy beer.  I'd rather be able to have a "session" without feeling loaded or tired. Furthermore, there is something very special and sophisticated about a well made session beer, which is not an easy task for a brewer! I'm on a mini-mission to expose to people the beauty of a low abv, drinkable ale or lager. Bigger is not always better. I hope the american craft beer scene understands this in years to come and the philosophy of 'whiskey barrel aged 10% triple hopped continuously for 6 weeks and then aged in another barrel and wet hopped' is better" soon comes to a close and there is more emphasis put on balance and refinement! Hence good session beers. 
Yup. Sounds right to me. 


  1. What bar owner wouldn't want a low ABV beer that they can sell 4 or 5 at $7 each instead of a 9% beer that they can only sell 2 for $8.

  2.'re likely getting more beer for $7 with a lower alcohol one. But the more I hear and read about people opining that session beer should cost less, the more I come to the conclusion that it's not so much an issue of expensive session beer as it is of expensive beer. Prices vary widely, and it sure seems like prices are a lot higher on the East Coast. Tighter craft beer competition on the West Coast? More money on the East Coast? Are we just dumb enough to pay it?

  3. There is nothing wrong with a "whiskey barrel aged 10% triple hopped continuously for 6 weeks and then aged in another barrel and wet hopped" if it tastes good. Just like there is nothing wrong with a session beer that tastes good.

    It's not about ABV, it's about flavor.

  4. "It's not about ABV, it's about flavor."

    Actually, it's about both. What Matt's saying is not that there's something wrong with the "whiskey barrel aged 10% etc." beer, as there is something wrong with the prevailing philosophy that this is the best/only direction for great craft beer. I think that's already changing, broadening, and that's good. Because "balance" has been a bad word (literally, in some quarters) for too long; time for the pendulum to swing. Beer is broad; there's room for all kinds of things, and it looks like that breadth is beginning to be celebrated as it should.


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