Friday, February 07, 2014

Beer Blogging Friday. The Session #84: Cask Ale! Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life!

The Session #84: 'Alternative' Reviews The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, one beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received.

For more information, view the archive page.

Oliver Gray —at the blog Literature & Libation— is hosting the 84th iteration of The Session for February 2014. His topic is 'Alternative' Reviews.
We, as beer bloggers, tend to get caught up in this beer appreciation thing, forever chasing an invisible dragon of taste, doing our best to catalog our experiences on the page or in a database. We get obsessed with the idea of quantifying our experience – either so we can remember specifics ad infinitum or use the data as a point of comparison for other beers – and often forget that beer is just as much art and entertainment as it is critic-worthy foodstuff.

So for my turn hosting The Session, I ask all of you to review a beer. Any beer. Of your choosing even! There’s a catch though, just one eentsy, tiny rule that you have to adhere to: you cannot review the beer.

I know it sounds like the yeast finally got to my brain, but hear me out: I mean that you can’t write about SRM color, or mouthfeel, or head retention. Absolutely no discussion of malt backbones or hop profiles allowed. Lacing and aroma descriptions are right out. Don’t even think about rating the beer out of ten possible points.

So, with apologies to Victor Herbert ...


Ah! Sweet mystery of life,
At last I've found thee.
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning.
The burning hopes, the joy, and idle tears that fall!

For 'tis cask, and cask alone, the world is seeking,
And 'tis cask, and cask alone, that can repay!
'Tis the answer, 'tis the end all of living.
For it is cask alone that rules for aye!

  • Not bursting into overwrought operetta, but I did nearly act this way upon tasting Coniston Brewery's cask-conditioned Bluebird Bitter, cask-conditioned, at the U.S. Real Festival, in Chicago, Illinois, in 1999. Bluebird, a 3.8% alcohol-by-volume bitter, had won the honor of Supreme Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival, in London, in August 1998.
  • How such a low-alcohol beer, shipped so far, could taste so fresh, so full of hop character, so moreish —more so than even the much-higher-alcohol U.S. hop-bombs served there that day— was, indeed, A Sweet Mystery of Life. It was zymur-alchemy, a Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment for me and cask ale. Since, 'tis been cask, and cask alone.
  • Using the Madeline Kahn clip from Young Frankenstein might have appeared just a bit off!

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