This month’s Session* is a momentous one, being the 100th since the Session began more than 8 years ago. It is rather impressive this collective writing effort persists in the face of so many other social media/blogging directions one can take. A testament, too, to the continued importance of recognizing a diversity of opinions available on any particular subject.
The 100th Session is hosted by Reuben Gray, an Irish beer writer/blogger based in Dublin, Ireland. You’ll find Ruben’s blog at The Tale of the Ale. Reuben appropriately reflects on history and writes:
I wanted to do an interesting topic for the 100th Session and looking back over the other 99 topics, none have touched on lost or almost lost beer styles. There are many of them that have started to come back in to fashion in the last 10 years due to the rise of craft beer around the world.
If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose and some others. Perhaps it’s a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.
There are no restrictions other than the beer being an obscure style you don’t find in very many places. The format, I leave up to individuals. It could be a historical analysis or just a simple beer review.
Looking ahead to this Session, I found myself in Spokane, Washington for a few days. Spokane has enjoyed an explosion of beer activity in the past several years with numerous new breweries opening and restaurants and bars throughout the Inland Empire city embracing quality beer. Not all of the new beer is very good, but some is excellent.
Would I find any forgotten styles? That sounded like a challenge I could take on.
I must note that I’m neither a beer historian nor an expert on forgotten styles, despite being an avid homebrewer for 18 years. Other than a couple styles Ruben mentions, I’m not even sure I’d recognize whether something was a forgotten style or not.
It’s for darn sure I’d recognize something unusual, though, given the dominance of a few standard styles populating most taps these days.
My first stop, as is often the case in Spokane, was Perry Street Brewing Co. Perry Street has quickly gained a reputation for making solid beers in a facility with a welcoming, neighborhood feel. On tap during my visit were a pilsner, single malt IPA, IPA, milk stout, coffee porter and Vienna Lager.
Nope. No forgotten styles there, though the Vienna Lager would come closest to being a “new” style to many recent craft beer explorers. It had a very nice amber/copper color with a wonderful toasted malt level. The only fault I’d lay on it would be a bit much on the caramel flavors than allowed by style guidelines. Overall, an excellent beer.
Outside of their Rise and Grind, I’ve not found a No-Li Brewhouse beer that did much for me, but no search around the city would be complete without a stop at the longest running brewery in Spokane. On tap were an amber, red, tart cherry ale, bitter brown ale, pale, coffee stout, session IPA, IPA, imperial IPA, imperial stout, barleywine and an oyster stout.
Would Oyster Stout count as a forgotten style? Perhaps. They are not common, though breweries from Boston’s (er. . . Cincinnati’s) Sam Adams to San Francisco’s 21st Amendment have brewed one from time to time. The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, suggests the style could have been born out of a beer which was simply named for an Oyster Feast in the early 1900s and later brewed by others with actual oysters and/or the shells.
No-Li described their Oyster Stout as “oysters added in the final five minutes of the boil offer drinkers a subtle essence of salty brine and the flavors of the South Puget Sound.” They were subtle, all right.
One of Spokane’s best stops for beer is Manito Tap House and it’s 50 taps of frequently rotating goodness. A couple of other spots in the City have as many taps (Area 51 and Waddell’s) but the others tend to stay more mainstream in their selections.
It’s at Manito where I found two iterations of a forgotten, but on the path to resurrection, style: Gose. The two, Brauhaus Harmannsdorf’s Dollnitzer Ritterguts Gose and Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose could not be more different.
Victory’s version is bold, tart and quite salty with strong fruity aromas and flavors from the added sour cherries. In contrast, the Dollnitzer Ritterguts, said to be more true to the original style of the Leipzig area of Germany, had a more subtle tartness, much less salt, and a certain mineral or earthy quality about it. (As an aside, the much loved Flying Goat has opened a sister restaurant next to Manito, Republic Pi, offering a similar menu of excellent pizza to compliment 20 all-craft taps.)
Like a bookend to Manito Tap House, on the opposite side of town is Pints Ale House, providing a smaller set of taps, but an excellent, rotating selection typically including some cellared beers. On tap were a bock, pale, amber, blonde, Belgian strong, hefeweizen, imperial stout, six IPAs, a fruit beer, porter, and a locally made Gose. I should have tried the Gose, but when I spotted Port Brewing Co.’s Older Viscosity, one of the best barrel aged imperial stouts anywhere, that was the end of the discussion.
Located in the Green Bluff Growers region northeast of Spokane, Big Barn Brewing Co. has a goal to be self-sustaining, using farm produce from the owners’ farm and the many surrounding farms. Several varieties of hops grow adjacent to the brewery. Various farm products are evident in the beer, including honey, lavender, raspberries, and pumpkins. The selection during my visit included a Wit, porter, two stouts, wheat, two IPAs, blond, honey lager, pumpkin ale, and Belgian-style pale, but no forgotten styles. Still, an excellent reason to venture out of town a bit.
Ramblin’ Road Craft Brewery, located just off the Centennial Trail in the Gonzaga University area focuses on Belgian-style ales and brews a style I’d not heard about: Grisette. It was light and crisp with a slight fruitiness and some grain and grass flavors.
Is Grisette a forgotten style? Neither the BJCP (2015) nor the GABF (2014) style guidelines mention it.
Pennsylvania’s Slyfox Brewing Co. brews a Grisette and describes it as “a Belgian style ale which was originally brewed in the Hainaut province to be the beer of the miners in the area, just as Saison was the beer of the farmers. It was lighter than Saison and frequently contained wheat as well as barley malt.” Slyfox has won two GABF medals with it in the Belgian and French-Style Ale category. If there’s a reason to distinguish it from a more typical saison/farmhouse ale, we might be on to something here. I’ll let the beer historians decide.
Other breweries and beer-centric restaurants around Spokane proved to have more typical offerings, though you won’t find me complaining about the research. You’ll find an excellent patio at Elk Public House in Spokane’s Browne’s Addition. It has the only cask beer I’ve found in the city, though I’ve never seen it change from Georgetown Brewing Co.’s delicious Lucille IPA.
Here’s to another 100 Sessions.
*The Session, held the first Friday of each month, is a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.