So I really Blew it. I've never participated in THE SESSION. I've wanted to, but I haven't.
When I saw this month's SESSION topic announced at Bath Tub brewery, I knew I wanted to participate. I have a mash tun of memories...but I was a newbie and didn't read thoroughly enough that you must post it on the first Friday of the month. I guess I thought you could do it any ol' time until the next topic was posted. So I stayed in tonight and reflected. I came up with 6 or so beers that make me reflect and smile. I am two weeks and two days late. My apologies.
But the work is done so I am posting anyway.
I am always late so I guess my SESSION post should be to.
Here are a few memories....
Spaten Optimator :
I am not sure if he even knows this, and would probably frown upon learning it having given his life to Jesus Christ over ten years ago. But my brother, Michael, is the first person to introduce me to craft beer. I was attending Penn State Berks which was just about an hour away from our house in Harleysville, so I came home fairly often. He told me he was over at his friends RJ’s house and I should come over. I get there and they are drinking a gold labeled beer, Optimator. I couldn’t believe my eyes, what was this coffee colored liquid? He also had a mix pack of Saranac. I had learned very early that beer existed beyond Yuengling Lager.
Paulaner 16 oz- I was working at a Damon’s at PennState. I had already started drinking craft beer: Troegs, Victory, Sierra. All 12 oz bottles. One day this gentleman came in to give us a waitstaff education and it was on Paulaner. The bottle was 16 oz. I was intrigued. Beer comes in different size bottles? I tried to push it on tables all the time. That same year I was at the Allen Street Grill with my friends Sue, Amy and Tim whom were dating at the time. Amy and Tim were drinking Paulaner again and they were putting oranges in it. I was intrigued once more and followed. I would never do that today but I smile when I reflect “once upon a time…” Fast Forward 8 years and I am pouring beer at the Oktoberfest at the Armory. I look up to see a familiar face it takes me a second to recollect and I ask him if his name is Tim. It is. Go figure I run into him seven years later at a beer festival. The best part is he tells me he wants to find Amy so she can say hi. They had been married for five years.
Sam Adams Chocolate Bock
I worked for Boston Beer Co. for 15 months. About five years ago. The best Boston Lager I ever had was in Jamaica Plains in the tasting room at the R and D plant. My favorite beers from Sam were Vienna Lager, their Scotch Ale, Old Fezziwig, and the Chocolate Bock. The Chocolate Bock was the first Chocolate beer I ever had. It was made with Scharfenberger Chocolate out of San Fran. The bottle had a beautiful Silver embossed label. It retailed for $15. I didn’t really have the means to sample it. Because it was pretty pricey. I had one bottle that I brought to Chloe, a byo by old city. For dessert, I broke it out and paired it with a Banana bread pudding. I saved some for the chef and he came out to toast us. That was my one of my first food and beer pairing experiences. And it was sublime.
La fin du monde
This beer reminds me of my evolution as a beer drinker. I started with pale ales, then wits and weisses. Towards the end of my college career it was mostly Sam Adams. I assumed they would be signing my paychecks within a year. (It took a bit longer than that, two years and five interviews later;)
My first year out of college, I went to visit my Friend Denise in Boston. She suggested we go to Bukowski's, one of her favorite bars by the Green Monster. My friend Greg had introduced me to poet Charles Bukowski by this point and I was excited to see what the bar that bears his name would offer.
It turned out to be an AMAZING beer bar. Dark. People with pad and pens at corner tables. Bukowski’s own words decorating the walls. Denise said that we were going to share a beer, and ordered a 750 ml of La Fin Du Monde. I had never shared a bottle of beer before. And I had never had a Belgian Style. I love recommending this beer. As an eye opener. And not really “ the end of the world,” but the beginning of one.
Peche Mortal- As I got more and more into beer, I created a wish list. Peche Mortal (Mortal Sin) was the first one. It was listed as one of the best beers in the world (forget the publication). I heard that it wasn’t available outside of Canada. And since you always want things you can’t have. I wanted it bad.
I had run into beer buddy John Doherty at the World Café Live in February of 2006 and he told me he had something for me. He handed me a brown paper bag, whose contents were from Toronto.
It was the first time someone surprised me with a beer. Now, whenever I get the chance to give someone a beer I do. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings I can think of.
Westvleteren 12 & Alaskan Smoked Porter
My mom “dear johned” my dad on December 4, 2004 with a steno pad piece of paper that said
“Bye For Now.” My first nephew was to be born in three months. None of us were too surprised, but our hearts went out to our dearest Dad, who had spent years trying. They stayed together for the five of us but if you ask us, things would have been better if they had done this just a bit sooner. My mother would remarry the next November. We all struggled with how to deal with this. And-we still do. My younger sister and I finally decided to visit after she was out there a year. I figured I could deal with meeting the new husband if Michelle was out there.
I went back and forth. Should I stay or should I go now? My mother really wanted to see me. And I knew I needed to see her and see her happy. It was about 12 pm and I booked a flight to Phoenix. I had been holding on to a Westvleteren 12 someone brought me back from Belgium for a few months. The flight left in 4 hours. And I spent the first hour packing while sipping on a Westy 12.
The trip was wonderful. William was kind. The weather was as well. I horsebacked through the dessert visited three different breweries and saw my mom laugh. I finally found an Alaskan Smoked Porter which had also made it on to my beer wish list. I decided I would take it back home with me. I put it in a sock and smuggled it back. It was my first smuggle. I drank it the night I returned to Philadelphia and I thought to myself, God must have intended for us to love bacon, ham and all things smoked...
In the fall of 2005 I needed a break from structured working environments and was serving for a bit. I was working at a Belgian Bar where I had the opportunity to sample a variety of beers. A few months into my time there, I had tried almost every beer on the menu. One night two gentleman came in after attending a show at the Tin Angel. They had flown up for one night only from Florida to see a guitar virtuoso whose name esacpes me. They loved the show, they were loving the bar, and I guess they were lovin me. They said Suzanne, “we’d like to buy you a beer, any beer on the menu." I turned to my senior server, Nick Schuster, and I told him what was going on. He said “well then it’s going to have to be the Rochefort 10.” I was reluctant based on its pricetag. But decided I would go ahead and have them order me one, under the stipulation that they weren’t allowed to leave me a tip. They wanted me to join them, but alas- I was on the clock and couldn’t really. I did pour it, cheers them and take a sip. I thought it was delicious. I went back to work. I came back just about fifteen minutes later to check in on my new friends. I took another sip. And that sip is as fresh in my mind as this morning’s grind. I learned that evening about temperature. About letting a beer sit. Waiting for it and having it be well beyond worth the wait. I also learned that it’s not that difficult to hop in a plane and travel a few hours to experience joy. In “How to Brew like a Monk” Stan Hieronymus references a descriptive phrase that won in a beer writing contest which happens to describe Rochefort 10….“a deep, dark, potent, warming cosmic meltdown of a forcefully contemplative brew, begging to be the last of the evening”. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to mine is Rochefort 10.
Lance figured that out rather quickly.
Sierra Nevada Celebration ale
It was the night of our first “In Pursuit of Ale” Christmas party. It was held at Devil’s Alley in Center City.
It was a mixer so the gals could bring their guys if they please. I also invited a few local brewers to mingle. Maybe play cupid. I never thought it would be a self-inflicted arrow.
I was too busy to really enjoy myself, so I was relieved when the official event ended and we could mosey on down to drink some ½ price Sly Fox cans at Good Dog. A bunch of us gathered around the large window table up front. I got stuck sitting across from Lance Lapierre. We chatted a bit and next thing I know its 2 am. Lance inquires, “Have you ever been to the P and P?”
Having worked in the restaurant industry on and off since living in Philadelphia, I was very familiar with the journalist spot turned hospitality industry late night spot after 2 am. I didn’t know Lance that well, but I couldn’t believe he knew of the seedy p and p. He suggested we head over. I welcomed his suggestion and added my own of sneaking a few cans out to drink on Latimer St. before we headed in.
(I Hope the Good Dog owners Heather and Dave aren’t reading this;) When we get to P and P-Lance orders us two Sierra Nevada Celebrations. What a great beer. Around the holidays, it’s nice to find some hops in the midst of the nutmeg madness. We find a table for two by the Juke box and we start the “getting to know you “process. We were suddenly on an impromptu date. I was smitten.