2014 is going to be the year of session beers. You cannot swing an empty growler without hitting another variation of the theme. You know how I know it is going to be the hot trend? The term session has become almost meaningless like IPA before it.
Why meaningless? You see brewers calling beers session ales that have alcohol levels ranging from under 3% ABV to over 8% ABV. Bitterness levels are equally all over the map. This is okay, but it does confuse the beer drinker. It just requires a little leg work and tasting. First world problem, I know.
Keeping myself on trend, I brewed up a batch of Northern Brewer’s SMASH American Session Ale:
iBrewMaster calculated the beer to be 3.8% IBV and ~48 IBU. Ignoring the voluminous head of some of the bottles in this batch, it’s a pretty well balanced beer. The bitterness is about perfect and the dry hopping adds a resinous after taste that lingers just long enough to enjoy without becoming annoying.
The beer could use a little more body to it to balance out the bitterness and “hoppyness.” I would not suggest upping the alcohol content because I found this to be a very drinkable ale, but I would rather find a way to incorporate a malt structure that has a better chance of supporting the excellent flavors present.
I am a recent convert to the powers of dry hopping. Between this beer and my recent dry hopped Chinook IPA I am prepared to forgo my former opposition to the practice as gimmicky and embrace the effort to enhance the flavor or beer.
I did not like this beer as much as the second Chinook IPA, but that is not to say that I did not like this beer a lot. I have been drinking this beer for the past couple of weeks and the great flavor has been appreciated during this recent cold snap and holiday break. Even when I was sick and nothing tasted like much else there was something refreshing about a glass of dry hopped goodness bursting through to my taste buds.
In the past I have been leery of the Simcoe hop variety. Beers I have tried using this hop always tasted like something was burnt or ashtray like. It was not a flavor in the body of the beer, but something that sat in the back of the throat. After drinking this beer I am going to chalk my suspicion up to the execution of the brew rather than the ingredient. It would be interesting to duplicate this recipe using a different hop variety. Citra, perhaps?
My New Year’s “beer resolution” is to develop a so-called house beer to have on tap in my newly constructed keezer setup. The idea is to refine a single recipe rather than trot out singular attempts—dubbed a series of one night stands by a beer writer—in order to really nail down the finer points of that particular recipe. Brew on.