The guys over at Hop Talk are hosting this month’s The Session, so check out their recap to see how we all view the same animal: beer and the atmosphere in which we enjoy it. I’m sure we’re all going to be hitting this from a bunch of different directions. I’m sure that there are going to be multiple answers for many of us too. I also think that there will most definitely be common themes throughout the posts.
For some Session writers, it will be the place that makes their ultimate beer drinking experience. For others – the people and interactions. Some will have a more-subtle, abstract set of criteria for their setting.
To me, it boils down to any setting that allows for the full appreciation of and focus on the beer. In preparation for writing this entry, I found myself thinking about those memorable times in the past that involved drinking beer: my first beer bong, the time when I was knocked on my ass by a 64 oz OE (Olde English 800 … that’s Old with an ‘e’ people … pinkies up when drinking from the jug), driving to Oklahoma after Texas quit serving to get lower alcohol beer, my first kegger, my first blackout … these are not unique experiences. They are rights of passage for many of us that result in cherished memories, but not because of the beer itself. The beer was simply fuel for bonding or something more chunderous.
There are, however, other memories that more properly reflect and respect what I believe this Session is all about: the atmosphere in which I fully enjoy drinking a beer. Where better to start than when I was first in that “atmosphere”. I grew up in Texas, and had the great fortune of being there when Celis White was brewed in Austin. The first time I had that beer was perfection. Hot Texas sun beating down on a group of people used to drinking cheap beer. I do not recall how it ended up in my hand, but I do recall the first sip. That prick of the carbonation, the spice, the citrus aroma and flavor, that beautiful color. I couldn’t believe that this was beer. Amazing.
Another good example of that atmosphere involved a Hefe Weizen. My buddy had recently returned from Austria, and had been raving about Edelweiss beer. I had since developed an idea about what might make this beer special. I had been drinking Shiner Bock by now (and Celis White up until it was discontinued by Miller). On a typical night out, we ended up at The Gingerman. I walked in with my buddies, saw rows and rows of tap handles, didn’t recognize any of them, and was immediately intimidated. I deferred to my well-traveled friend. After speaking with the bartender, he picked out a Tucher Hefe Weizen. We were told to pour almost all the bottle out, and then swish the remaining amount to dislodge the yeast at the bottom of the bottle. We obeyed, and my eyes opened up a little wider. We talked about the beer, its flavor, color, cloudiness, and why the yeast was important. We tried the Dunkel Hefe Weizen as well, and it was equally delicious.
Yet another time was when my wife and I went camping by a river in Central Washington on a 100+ degree day. We had packed a Witbier my buddy brewed for his wedding. We were hanging out, just the two of us, and the beer was finally cold enough to pop open. It was epic … the orange peel, the yeast, the time spent just hanging out together without anything or anytone else around. It was a great beer.
The final example was during one of the times when my friend, Chris, and I were brewing together. We had established a pattern of drinking as many new beers as we could while brewing (without messing up the hopping schedule). Among the beers was a Bell’s Expedition Stout, a sour Flemish Ale, and one of our previous home brews. Each was discussed, dissected, and thoroughly enjoyed. All were excellent.
Each of these experiences shared one thing in common: they’re all social settings that fully integrate the appreciation of the above-average beers being consumed. In each example, I was able to focus on the beer without forcing it. It was effortless. So in short, that’s it … effortless, seamless integration of great beer and social situations that further my understanding the topic. May we all spend more time in that Atmosphere.