Don't forget to check out my entry for this month's Session :)
Greetings fellow beer bloggers -- It was a pleasure hosting this month’s installment of The Session. By “pleasure” I mean it is rather stressful volunteering for something that is the brainchild of two great beer writers on the month of The Session’s third anniversary. This month marks the thirty-seventh iteration of the gathering of bloggers over a single topic. The Ferm’s chosen topic du mois (I don’t know French, but I do know online translators) was “The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff.”
First of all, we would like to thank all of you for participating in our little “question with no answer” (as one of you pointed out). While it may have been to some extent pointless or completely philosophical, it was certainly not rhetorical. I have often kicked myself (figuratively speaking, of course) for letting a drinking occasion pass without opening a particular bottle. The point of the topic was to reflect on your collection or even to encourage you to open something up and share the experience with us.
I enjoyed reading your tales of bottles saved, bottles drank, or bottles sadly passed over. Some of you made me particularly jealous of your cellared collection. Hopefully through this event, we have become friends... and you’ll have me over if I’m find my way to your town... and you’ll open up something good for me. On twitter, people call their friends tweeps. I’m surprised, since blogging has been around much longer, that there is not a complimentary term for a consortium of blogging buddies. Below is a round-up the contributions from The Ferm’s new found bleeps.
- Mario double fisted during this session with a post on his blog Brewed for Thought and one on the Santa Rosa Craft Beer Examiner. In the former he uses the analogy of a baseball card collection and how we take pride in showing off our cellared beer. I want to thank him particularly for the mental picture of eating a signed Nolan Ryan baseball card. His solution to drinking his cellared collection is to separate them into four categories. Make sure to check out his description of “Tuesday beers,” a designation I use myself for both beers and wines. In his Examiner post, Mario discusses aging barley wines and describes his experience drinking a 2008 Lagunitas Gnarly Wine.
- Our "brilliant topic" (his words, not mine) inspired The Beer Nut to open his treasured bottle of Fraoch 20th Anniversary Ale. For his post he “decided this [Session was] the perfect opportunity to throw hoarding to the wind and just drink the fecker.” You can read his intoxicating description in his post, "Geddit down yeh!” In the post, The Beer Nut also had a brilliant idea of his own by proposing the blogosphere designate “one day a year as Stash day: an occasion which acts as its own excuse to pour something special from your collection and tell everyone about it.”
- Peter from BetterBeerBlog describes a moment of display shelf envy in his offering. Showing off your collection is no doubt an underlying motive for us excessive hoarders. Despite being a self described “babe in the craft beer world” with only three years of experience, he boasts of his collection spanning an overfilled converted chest freezer, a kegerator, a dedicated shelf in his primary refrigerator, and several boxes stashed in his office, closet, and garage. He may need my twelve step program... or me to come over and help. For you old school Jim Henson fans, Peter also had a Dark Crystal reference in his post... nice! (just thought that was worth mentioning)
- The brothers of the blog Lug Wrench Brewing Company point out excessive cellarers may be more afraid to lose their prize then to actually enjoy it. Their advice: “Celebrate the event, not the bottle.” The brothers Wallace make a terrific analogy to Paul Giamatti’s character in the movie Sideways. A bottle of 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc valued over a grand played a significant part in the movie and Paul’s character eventually opened it in the end. But since there is a significant difference between Hollywood and real life, I’d like to someone open up his most cherished bottle, pour it in a disposable cup, and drink it over some Taco Bell. Just saying.
- Ray of The Barley Blog is using this month’s topic as motivation to reorganize his cellared beers for easier management. If anyone has suggestions, head over to his Session #37 blog post and leave a comment. My advice is to isolate your very best bottles, 1.) so that they are separate from the ones you may drink on an average occasion and 2.) so you know exactly where to grab one from when the right occasion to share a great beer comes around.
- Nemisis from BeerTaster.ca suggests a very important reason to make sure you are stashing some beer away. After an accident that left him laid up for nearly six weeks, he slowly started drinking his stash. “My advice is to always keep your stash somewhere you can get to in an emergency. Think I might move mine to under my bed or my favourite chair or someplace like that.” Amusing perspective.
- Fabulous seems to have keen awareness of his ego, and he acknowledges the “epic battle” in his post on Make Mine Potato. His post gives us a mouth watering look at some of the beers he has opened and photographed for blogging purposes. All I can say is that Fabulous has been drinking well.
- Reasons for storing beers to drink at a later date may be similar among our group, but Steve points out that many of the beers we save do not age well in his post on All Good Beer. He admits to setting a goal to start “savouring instead of saving,” but given that he has over 300 bottles (not counting homebrews or bottles purchased for immediate consumption), he admits that some goals are easier said than done. My only suggestion is that you *do* pop open that rare bottle while watching Big Bang Theory and discuss with your dog how the characteristics of a beer have changed and mellowed over time... then blog about it! :)
- Anda writes that every day as a day worthy of enjoying the your best beers. Of course, I noticed Anda is a lawyer, and if there is one thing I know about lawyers, it is that they are never lacking in opportunities for drinking occasions. The Ferm’s own Mr. Smokeypants is Exhibit A in this case. In her Legal Libations post, Anda exclaims “right now” is the best time to open the good stuff. “I never regret it.” Cheers to that!
- Apparently this month's Session topic awoke the inner blogger in Dan from Beerovision. He openly admits that he has a bad case of "New Dad Syndrome." I feel you partner. My little ones have unapologetically “interrupted” me about 87 times during this post (and counting). However, Dan shows he’s well on the way to being a great dad by advocating sharing as the best way to drink your best bottles. “22oz of a great beer consumed by yourself is not the same as 5oz shared among four friends.” This is very similar to my theory that 22 diapers changed by yourself is not the same as 11 shared between parents.
- Derrick doesn’t have much of a cellar collection, but his Bay Area Beer Runner blog post describes an occasion where he broke out a bottle of Malheur Dark Brut, a beer brewed using the methode de champenoise, when friends were over for dinner. My cousin and resident The Ferm blogger K-Dub homebrewed a champagne beer a few years back using the techniques described by the Maltose Falcons homebrew club. The beer was served at K-Dub’s wedding in lieu of the crappy champagne usually poured at weddings. Based on Derrick’s announcement on his blog in his Session post, maybe he’ll find this link useful: http://www.maltosefalcons.com/tech/methode-champenoise-beer. Congrats!
- Al of Hop Talk is another craft beer enthusiast that doesn't dabble much in cellaring. In his somewhat self-therapeutic post he reminds himself to be organized (but not to the point of "those annoying oenophiliacs") and to get together with friends more often. I also couldn’t help but notice that my blogging handle got "quotes" treatment. SirRon is in fact my name, as long as anagrammatic pseudonyms still count as your name. But enough about me :) , make sure to check out Al's Beer-a-Day project in from 2009.
- While some on us focused on tasting sessions passed or past, Sean has well laid plans of his tasting future. He is a West Coaster and is proposing an Anchor Steam Our Special Ale vertical as well as a session planned for a selection of IPAs. Head over to Beer Search Party to apply for his crew of tasters. If you are looking for drinking inspiration, check out the right column of his page where you can see what is in his fridge, big brother style.
- You would think that someone with a website named “A Beer in Hand is Worth Two in the Fridge” would not have problems pulling out his best beers for consumption... and you would be correct in that assumption. Jay writes: “Saving beer... is not something that I am able to do easily.” He goes on to describe some occasions where he has or plans to open up special beers. He and his brother opened a bottle of 2005 Sam Adams Utopias when to celebrate the birth of his brother’s first child. He also plans on opening a Westvleteren 12 on his wedding day. Jay’s sees the beers as timeless reminders of the specific events in which they were opened.
- Jim’s philosophy for cellaring and simple and straightforward: “I think that there is a reason that you age quality beer in a cool dark place. It's the out of sight, out of mind principal. The temptation is not so strong.” In his post on Two Parts Rye, he advocates sharing with friends, as long as they aren’t Milwaukee’s Best drinkers (D- on BeerAdvocate.com, in case you were wondering). “You don’t feed your dog filet mignon.”
- Gail from Beers by BART, which for those who may be interested is a San Francisco area beer travel logistics site, used her The Session #37 post as an excuse to open a 2007 Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra... for no good reason but to break free and celebrate everyday life. Note that she and her blogging partner passed up her sour beers (“too special... sheesh”) or any high gravity beers (“gotta work tomorrow”), but what follows is an intoxicating dialogue of two people sharing an 11oz bottle of the 18% ABV Belgian dark ale.
- Josh decides to take us on a tour of his stash in his Session #37 post on his blog Hump’s. His tour, complete with pictures, is a fun read that includes location, temperatures, and types (including his homebrews). Josh admits to being “an acquisitive sort,” which results in “the display shelf [getting] more and more trophies.” But that is what friends are for...
- Brian of Red, White, and Brew takes issue with my (and I suppose others’) terminology. “I'm still not entirely comfortable with how the beer community has joined winos in turning cellar into a verb.” He prefers to kick it old school and use the word “lager,” which in German doesn’t imply bottom-fermentation but cold storage. As for his lagering problem, he suggests it proves he doesn’t “have a drinking problem (just a collecting problem).” Brian boasts of ~300 bottles in his collection, which he refers to as Beeradise or the Malt Vault. Whatever you call it Brian, your pictures made me thirsty.
- Yours for Good Fermentables hosted last month’s Session #36 about cask conditioned ale. Real ales are best fresh, so Tom found it an amusing coincidence that this month’s topic was beers stored to be drank later (something Alanis Morissette may find “ironic”). Although he describes his collection as “minuscule... by some standards,” Tom briefly discusses his memories drinking a 1999 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine and a 1991 Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy Ale in his Session #37 post. I’m impressed at the patience it must have required to keep those beers that long.
- Michael got his proverbial feet wet with The Session during this month’s topic. On his blog, A Perfect Pint, he claims he never has a problem identifying the “beers you don’t drink” and saving them for the proper occasion. Michael’s notes his problem is his “sizable collection of beers in [his] cellar that [he] never really meant to save,” like his 2007 Left Hand Goosinator Smoked Doppelbock “with the quarter inch of sediment on the bottom.” He admits beer buying moratoriums don’t help, so like me, he imports more than he exports. Just remember, as Michael points out, “a beer not consumed is a beer wasted.”
- One way Alan keeps his stash in check is by “preemptively … living in Canada where no one really can get the good beer into the stash either by sales or samples.” In his post on A Good Beer Blog, Alan presumably takes us in the cellar to drink a few bottles from his stash. For the post, he shares his thoughts on a 2006 Hair of the Dog Brewing Company Doggie Claws and a five year old George Gale & Company Conquest Ale. Even though his stash has grown from 40 to 200 bottles over the past half decade, Alan has a good attitude about opening some of his good stuff up and sharing it (even if it is just a virtual sharing).
- If you have suffered through twenty-something of my recaps and are still with me, you are in for a treat. Jon from The Brew Site has the answer to when to the question of when to drink the good stuff. You’ll find the answer two-thirds of the way through his post, but I’m going to spoil it for you here: “It’s entirely up to you. What? Too anticlimactic?” Nah, because you opened a bottle of 2007 Deschutes Brewery The Abyss to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of The Session (the first topic was Stouts) and this month’s topic of opening up something good. Apparently “now” was a good time to drink the good stuff (although more power to you, because “while writing” isn’t one of my preferred times to enjoy something good... or it just means that you may not enjoy the resulting post).
- Daniel took our topic to heart. He opened a would-be cellared beer that he purchased earlier in the day...... for no special reason at all. His description of the occasion: “It's far from a perfect drinking environment; my girlfriend is watching a DVR-ed episode of The Mentalist on the TV while I listen to music on headphones. I've just had dinner, which could impact my palate, although I had some water to clean the tongue, and I'm basically just sitting in the corner of my basement by myself. But my guess is that opening a great bottle will be worth it, even if this is likely my only chance to try the beer.” I’m impressed. What follows are his tasting notes on a 2009 Founders Nemesis. Check it out on his blog, Endosymbiosis. “A day you open something great is a special occasion in itself.”
- The aforementioned The Ferm blogger K-Dub is a guy that has as many refrigerators dedicated to deer meat as he does craft beers, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t have a great selection of craft beers (some of which go great with venison cheese salami). K-Dub didn’t post on this month’s topic, but he did leave a comment. “This is something that I've been struggling with myself. I have three refrigerators FULL of brews that I've been saving. Vertical years of Dogfish 120, Real Ale Sisyphus, North Coast Old Ale, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, homebrews and even some Belgian ales that I've collected since 2004. I should take the stance that every day is a celebration and start to breakdown my ridiculous collection of awesome rockin' brewskis.” Rock on cuz!
- The founder of this little monthly blogging forum, esteemed beer author Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, files a Session #37 post that discusses his February memories of Deschutes Jubel 2010, Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Grand Cru, and Firestone Walker Anniversary, proving his a pretty good friend to have. Still, Stan confesses to be a "serial cellarer." In the end, he suggests "sharing beer with friend should be occasion enough" to drink the beers in his collection.
- Last but certainly not least, the co-moderator and the blog that hosts the links to all Session topics past and future, Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin discusses his philosophy of storing beers. He employs a “network of four refrigerators,” one of which is used for everyday beers (“ones my wife is allowed to drink”). For the rest of the stash, Jay mentions he has flirted with the idea of an intimate tasting club, but that he’s never got it going. To end his post, Jay tells a great story of two bottles he was given by a distributor from Whitbread Brewery. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the beers were allegedly part of a batch made with 50+ year old yeast harvested from bottles recovered from a WWII shipwreck. I have no suggestion as to when the right time to open those bottles.
And that's a wrap! Just one last comment... I'm surprised at how many of you moderate the comments on your blog. That may suppress conversation about beer or the topic you are presenting, but to each his own I suppose.
Sincerely speaking, it has been a pleasure to host The Session this month. For everyone here at The Ferm, we would like to thank your contributions. Cheers!
From here we pass the torch to Sean Inman at Beer Search Party. The topic is “Cult Beers,” which I assume won’t be about Kool-Aid or beers brewed by monks.
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow