Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Philly Homebrewers: time to show off your session chops

I heard from Mat Falco at Philly Beer Scene magazine that they're running a homebrew competition specifically for session beers! Check the details here; it's actually a bit more complicated -- and interesting! -- than that. It's a two-round competition, run through the area's homebrew shops; homebrewers affiliate with a shop and enter their first beers by March 3. (Update: there's a session competition in Pittsburgh, too: see below!)

The first round is the session beer one. Competitors may brew any 'style' of beer, as long as it is 4.5% ABV or under: "Anything over will not be considered. There are no other restrictions for this round." Furthermore, no style guidelines are imposed. "Good beer is good beer no matter how close or far off it is from the style it’s categorized as. We are looking for a well-brewed, flavorful interpretation of a session beer." I'm all for that; part of the impetus for the Project is to engender innovation in flavorful lower-alcohol beers.

Here's where it changes, and gets really interesting. For the second round, the top two brewers from each of the homebrew shops then brew another beer, using a pound of beans from One Village coffee roasters (supplied by the homebrew shops; not all the beans must be used in the beer)...and just to make it fun, there is a stylistic restriction on this one: no stouts or porters, the usual suspects in coffee beers. (Not to make a suggestion, but I recall a coffee-infused dark mild Gordon Grubb made at Nodding Head that was quite tasty; called it Up All Night, I think, and it was definitely not a porter.) Winners will be announced during Philly Beer Week.

Great to see this kind of interest and love for session beers!

Got word that TRASH, the Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers, is also doing a homebrew competition with a session component -- and also using the 4.5% limit, thanks! Details are here; the winner will be scaled up and brewed on commercial scale at East End Brewing, where Scott has been a friend of The Session Beer Project for years.


  1. Didn't Up All Night just have a shot of espresso mixed into it? It's been a long time since I've had it but I remember being told that. Regardless, a coffee dark mild is a really good suggestion. I know St. Benjamin Brewing made a coffee Kolsch that he thought turned out well too.

  2. That is neat. Both of my taps at home are currently pouring homebrewed session beers: a 3.5% bitter and a 4.5% west coast style red ale. Good times.

  3. Don't know how it worked, Rich; do you mean by the glass? Gordon brought a pin of it to an event, so I assumed it was blended in the batch. In any case, that would be perfectly legal by these rules. Most brewers I know do a cold-brew, and then introduce it in the tank. That's pretty much what Pernod Ricard does with Kahlua, too.

  4. Yeah, I thought it was a shot of espresso mixed right into each glass. However, this was years and years ago so I easily could be wrong.

    Added coffee to beer is an interesting science. I've heard it being introduced in all sorts of different ways. I know when Weyerbacher brewed November, their coffee brown, they had their employees homebrew different coffee beers introducing the coffee and they finally settled on the steeping the finished beer in their fermentation tank I think.

  5. Thanks for giving the TRASH competition's Sessionable Award a mention!

  6. That Nodding Head beer was called All Night Ale. It was indeed a dark mild and the espresso (3.5 gallons) was blended into the batch (7 bbl).

    Another idea (not that homebrewers need any help in that department) that has been bouncing around inside my head is "dry-hopping' something blonde or amber with whole beans.

    I have no way to sign with a linkable name and cute little picture but I assure you I am...
    Gordon Grubb


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