Showing posts with label session 42. Show all posts
Showing posts with label session 42. Show all posts

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hail Bitter!

This Thursday sees one of my favourite events of my beer drinking year, the release of the best bitter I designed for Three Notch'd Brewing. This tapping is a little different than usual because the beer has a new name. No longer will the name Session 42 grace the tap lists of Virginian bars and restaurants as it is being replaced by the name 'Bitter 42'.

The name change is being forced on the brewery partly by the famed litigious nature of the craft brewing scene, and I now have another brewery whose beer I will never drink as a result. However, Three Notch'd decided to take the opportunity presented by the new name for a little bit of beer education for the masses.


It is perhaps a sign of very effective advertising that the very word 'bitter' seems to cause consternation among marketing folks, raising the spectre of Keystone Light, the mass produced, low grade swill whose slogan on the 1990s was 'Never Bitter Beer'. Running alongside the slogan were pictures of old men gurning because their beer was bitter.

Well, and forgive my French here, fuck that.

Bitterness is an essential part of beer, balancing out the sweetness of the malt. The family of beers called 'bitter', whether ordinary, best, or extra special, are the backbone of an entire nation's drinking culture. That's what the new name for Session 42 is about, reclaiming the idea that bitterness is a good thing in beer, and paying homage to the family of beers that are the inspiration for the beer itself.


Bitter 42 is proudly a best bitter, one that would stand up favourably to the finest bitters in England. I am very much looking forward to that first pint on Thursday at the Three Notch'd tasting room and being able to utter the words of benediction....'pinta bitter please'.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let The Session Commence!

A couple of weeks ago I spent a Friday morning at Three Notch'd doing the ceremonial dumping of hops, the slightly more labour intensive digging out of a mash tun, and the ever pleasant ritual of watching the runnings of a beautiful copper wort flowing from the mash tun to the kettle. Or to put it more simply, brewing Session 42.


This Thursday brings the best part of brewing a beer to town, drinking the stuff!


Yep, on Thursday at the Three Notch'd Brewing tasting room, the third iteration of Session 42 Best Bitter will be tapped, from about 5.30pm if memory serves.

I am sure I have said this before, but it's always worth repeating, Session 42 is as close to a British style best bitter as is possible to get over in the States, at least, in the Virginia part of these United States. If you have ever had Timothy Taylor Landlord or Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted then you know what to expect in terms of colour, none of your 'boring brown bitter' here (the less said about people who think bitter is brown and boring the better really). That colour comes from a combination of 2 row pale malt and Victory malt, which lends the beer a distinctively biscuity flavour.

In keeping with the theme of the beer using all US ingredients, the hops are US Goldings, which are very similar to East Kent Goldings, in that they are spicy, orangey, delicious, all 42 IBUs of them. A good whack of bitterness, plenty of flavour and aroma.....mmmm......Goldings.

So guess where I'll be on Thursday after work, and with Friday off to boot, so I can have a fair few pints. Oh, and at some point, not this Thursday I believe, there will be cask Session 42....oh yes, cask best bitter!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Session Season Cometh

It's a four day week for me this week, but I will be working all five days of the week. Although I won't be spending Friday doing my usual business analyst tasks such as requirements gathering, writing user stories, or working with software developers to create something useful for our clients's users, I will be working. Working as in dumping sacks of grain into a mill, digging out the mash tun, and ceremoniously chucking hops into boiling wort, yes I am off to a brewery for a brewday and all the satisfaction that gives me.


The brewery in question is my favourite local brewery Three Notch'd, and the beer is the third rendition of Session 42, the best bitter I designed a couple of years back using Timothy Taylor Landlord as something of a model.

I know that I am utterly biased but Session 42 being available is one of the highlights of my drinking year, not just because it is great to see 'my' beer available in lots of places in the area, but also because best bitter is probably my favourite style of beer to drink. Whether I am sat on the patio just chilling with Mrs V, or with a group of colleagues kicking back after work, or even by myself at the bar of one of my favourite watering holes, I find that best bitters suit my mood more often than not.

For those in Virginia, and hopefully it will again make it down to Richmond,  maybe even up to Northern VA, Session 42 is a burnt orange delight that packs a punch belying its 4.2% abv and is essentially a love song to Goldings hops, with all their spicy, Seville orange goodness. Yes I am biased, but if you see it on tap in a few weeks time, give it try.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Few More Drops

On Saturday afternoon, Mrs V and I went to Three Notch'd Brewing Company. Nothing unusual there in the slightest, though we did have Mrs V's best friend, visiting from South Carolina, in tow and it was her first time to Three Notch'd.


Having ascertained that both ladies wanted pints of Session 42, I wandered to the bar and ordered 3. While I had been standing waiting to order, I got chatting to a bloke from the North West of England who was planning to fill a growler of Session 42, as he had, apparently, every day of each weekend that the beer was available. Not revealing my role in the creation of the beer, I was thrilled to hear people raving about the beer.

I have drunk very little other than Session 42 for a while now, yes I am biased, but it is a magnificent best bitter that would more than grace the bars of Yorkshire. As pint 3 was being poured, the keg kicked, and much to my chagrin that was the last keg in the building. So I had my half pint topped off with Oats McGoats to make a lovely black and tan, and lamented the passing of my favourite beer.

Thankfully though it is available in a few of my preferred bars in Charlottesville, so next stop was the Whiskey Jar so I could get my fill. We returned on Monday at their opening time, a very civilised 11am, and another 4 pints were reveled in before midday. Nothing like marking Labor Day with the working man's drink. Each mouthful was a melancholy delight as I wasn't sure when I would be able to have more, given the fact I rarely drink during the week these days.


This morning though I had a text message waiting for me on my phone, from the brewmaster at Three Notch'd, Dave, telling me that they had brought a few kegs from their satellite brewery in Harrisonburg back to Charlottesville. Suddenly this weekend looks as though it will have more Session 42 in it, which makes it a much brighter prospect.

Note: Mrs V keeps mentioning that I can always brew Session 42 at home, which is true, but I get the sense my favourite pubs would be rather miffed at me for trying to drink a homebrew version in their establishment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#Cville Beer and Pizza

Beer and pizza, the staple of many a Friday night in, it really is a classic combination. Obviously it helps when the pizza is better than your bog standard Pizza Hut fare, and when the beer is better than a couple of cans of Tennent's Super.

In Charlottesville there is a pizza place called Brixx, which boasts wood-fired pizza and an extensive beer list. Mrs V and I have been a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed both, as well as the live music that was playing on the patio that afternoon.


Tonight Brixx is hosting a tap takeover for my friends over at Three Notch'd Brewing (yes, I know I talk about them alot, and no I am not on a stipend), and one of the beers that will be available is Session 42, the beer I brewed on my birthday.

The official launch of Session 42, as I have mentioned before, is this Friday at the brewery tasting room, but those that make it down to Brixx tonight will get a preview of what I hope is an on the money bitter that would grace any pub back in Blighty.

Yes I know I am biased.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tis The Session

Today is the beginning of 'the Holidays', five and a bit weeks of parties, soirees, over-eating, and, best of all, plenty of free flowing booze.

Seasonal beers, as the nights shorten and the mercury plummets tend toward the boozy. Barleywine, Imperial Stout, and many a Belgian over 8% abv. While they are all wonderful styles to drink ensconced in the warmth and comfort of your home, I sometimes wonder if they are the best thing to drink at the company Chrimble bash, the homebrew club festivities, or just your annual meet up with friends to do a pub crawl (note to self: organise a crawl with Mark).

You likely know that I am a fan, and even perhaps an advocate, for session beers. Those wonderful pints, proper pints naturally, of complex, flavourful brew that weigh in under 4.5% abv (no 6% is not sessionable). Sadly many relegate session beers to the warmer months, disparaging them with terms like 'lawnmower beer', but I am convinced that with so many parties to go to, this is the time of year when session beers should come into their own.

With several hours of socialising to get through, why not a nice dry stout, a best bitter, or even a well made mild (other than the fact that the latter two are rarer than hen's teeth)?


Forgive the shameless plug, but I get the feeling that I will be drinking lots of Session 42 in the coming months. I tried it the other day from the fermenter, where it is conditioning beautifully, and to be honest, and in no way objective, it is lovely. As I said to Dave at Three Notch'd, if I were served that in a pub back home I would not be disappointed. As I sniffed, swished, and sampled, I started to realise that a best bitter is actually a great winter beer.

Think about what a best bitter is. A beer where hops are the very heart of it, though not the grapefruit, pine resin thing of Cascade and it's C-brothers, but the orange and spice of something like Goldings. I don't know about you, but growing up, Advent and Christmas were redolent with the aroma of spice studded oranges. In terms of malts, the highest quality pale malt lays down a base for amber and/or caramel malts to shine through, adding complexity so the hops don't have it all their own way. So take that spicy orange thing from the hops and smear it on top of the warm toast of great amber malt, and at between 4-4.5% abv you have a beer you can drink all night, or even indulge in a quick pint with lunch - and all food tastes better with a beer than an insipid ice tea or post-mix fizzy drink.

Session 42 ticks every box for me when it comes to best bitters. 4%, a beautiful orange colour, 38 IBUs of pure Goldings, and a drinkability that is, quite simply, moreish. As with any British style beer being served in an American pub, give it time to warm up...

For people reading this in the Charlottesville area, Session 42 is being released on December 6th at the Three Notch'd tasting room, with a sneak peek at Brixx when they have a Three Notch's Tap Takeover on the 3rd. If you run a pub in the area, it will be available in distribution from the 9th....just in time for Christmas drinking!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Barrels of Best

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent the day at Three Notch'd Brewing here in Charlottesville, making the biggest batch of beer I have ever been involved in. I arrived at the brewery at 7am expecting to be brewing 10 barrels of Session 42, an English style pale ale, hopped exclusively with US Goldings, only to be told that we would be brewing 20 barrels instead.


As I mentioned in my last post, Session 42 is a best bitter, but with a slight difference, we used only US ingredients. No Maris Otter, no Kent Goldings, the ingredients were as follows:
  • 89% Rahr 2 Row Malt
  • 11% Briess Victory Malt
  • 38 IBUs of US Goldings
We are using the brewery's standard yeast, the Edinburgh ale strain which is derived from McEwan's back in Scotland.


The grain bill of just 2 Row and Victory malt will give the beer a sweet, bready, almost toasty base. Usually I would add some crystal malt, but I wanted to avoid the caramel sweetness that seems to be a defining element of the English Pale Ale in some people's minds.


If everything goes well the beer will finish at about 4.2% abv, just a touch above the finest best bitter on the planet, Timothy Taylor's wonderful bottled Landlord.


All the hops in the beer are US Goldings, which is basically Kent Goldings without the Kent. Packed with a Seville orange citrus character, as well as the spicy earthiness you expect from this classic hop. With the toastiness of the Victory malt, think marmelade on warm toast and you're pretty much there...


To say I am looking forward to drinking the beer when it comes out in early December would be an understatement...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pale and Bitter Ale

If rarity were truly an indicator of the world's best beers, then in the American context, the top 100 would have a decent smattering of beers from the bitter family. Getting a well made, or even a made most of the time, ordinary, best, or extra special is almost as difficult as convincing some people that there is more to the United Kingdom than just the bit south of the Tweed.

The bitter beer family constitutes some of my favourite beers to drink, and to brew, indeed I think this year I have brewed more bitter than anything else combined. Bitter, if you have been keeping up with your beer history classes from Ron and Martyn, is also known as Pale Ale. The former being the name given to this type of beer by the 19th century consumer, the latter by the brewer.

On Monday I will be brewing even more Pale Ale. It is my birthday on Monday, and one of the benefits of the place I work is that employees can take their birthday off. However, rather being ensconced in my garage, brewing up one of my standard 2 and a half gallon brews, I will be at recently opened Three Notch'd Brewing Company. By the end of the day, or at least around mid afternoon given our starting time of 6am, we will have brewed 10 barrels of an English Pale Ale, more specifically a Best Bitter.


The beer is called Session 42, and will be the first locally brewed best bitter that I know of since moving to the US in 2009. I will share more technical details next week, when I write a bit more about the brewday itself. The beer in the picture above is of the trial batch, which other than a couple of minor fermentation issues turned out pretty close to what I was looking for...

Update: as you can read in the comments, my memory failed me, probably as I don't recall drinking it, but Blue Mountain Brewery made a Best Bitter last summer, called Straight Outta Chiswick.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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