Session 119 Roundup: Discomfort Beer

Session 119 Roundup: Discomfort Beer




Here is my roundup for Session 119 – Discomfort Beer:

Considering the squeezed time frame during the Christmas period with us bloggers hammering out Golden Pint Awards, Twelve Beers of Christmas and other festive gambols, I’m especially grateful to all who contributed.

Gary Gillman @beeretseq contributed a post within record time – almost before I’d sent out the request. He’s a true online grafter.



He recalls an increase in ABV in beers from his native Quebec which caused sensory discomfort as well as the sharper hop profiles that started gaining a footing – particularly Cascade.

The Session: Exploring the Beer Discomfort Zone

Meanwhile from Boston USA, Mike Lynch @burgersbrews describes growing up disgracefully during his college days. His recollections also round on the Cascade hop as popularised by Sierra Nevada – a benchmark brewery for many.

Session 119: Discomfort Beer

The shock from pronounced hoppiness is echoed from this side of the pond too by Suzy from Lincoln in the UK @lincolnpubgeek. She recalls the trauma of hoppy beer colliding with a predilection for sweeter, darker ales – in this case the discomfort came from Brewdog’s Punk IPA. On realising how vast a magisterium beer is, she states:

“it was like getting on a ferry from Bangor and only then discovering that Ireland exists”
(just for the record – I was raised very close to the Bangor she alludes to in north Wales – not the one in Ireland. The latter would’ve added surreality to the quote).

Discomfort Beer – What is “hoppy”?

Jay Brooks is a Californian and makes clear his Discomfort Beer – it’s one I can agree with here in the U.K! I don’t believe I’ve ever had a chilli beer I can get down with and neither has he. Beer with chilli-infused food YES. Beer with chilli IN (often stouts – at least in Britain) – NO!


Jack Perdue @deepbeer hails from Grasonville in Maryland and is working on crossing from one side of the beery planet – the rich quads and imperial stouts – to its antipode where sours, lambics and barnyard ales roam free. These more astringent numbers represent Discomfort Beer to him and he’s as determined to acquire their taste as he is to explore.

Back in Ontario, Alan @agoodbeerblog ( talks about many beers but finally rounds on the hop-obsessed and often catch-all style of IPA – but not before going through some seriously unique tasting notes on Cantillon’s Bruocsella:

“quite plainly watery at the outset then acid and more acid…then one note of poo. Not refreshing to slightly sub-Cromwellian stridency”

Session 119: My Discomfort Beer

A nostalgic recollection takes us away from the hops and towards a critique of the body and what’s often seen as the cheaper stand-in for malts (though they can both be used to good effect by good breweries) – maize and corn. Leslie Patiño @lpatinoauthor lives in Texas and dwells on  some of the US beers of yesteryear that her father drank.


Discomfort Beer

Mark Lindner @bythebbl is from Bend in Oregon. He is equally blessed and cursed insofar as he judges many beer contests but with a very discerning palate. He dislikes a lot of IPAs – something you seldom hear – and finds that his taste represents a thin sliver of a broad wedge. Pilsners, barley wines and imperial stouts are his favourites but getting an underwhelming one could be worse than sipping a bog-standard take on a more noxious style. His post is as analytical as it is complex.

Discomfort Beer (Session #119)

Also from Bend in Oregon and this time focussing on the malt (or in this case – as much what’s standing in for it), is @brewsite Jon Abernathy’s post about a beer he’s struggling to get acquainted with – white stout and the dubious lengths brewers go to to actually produce one.

The Session #119: Discomfort Beer

Kate Bernot @kbernot from New Jersey chose to talk about a beery cousin – mead. She recalls her first sickly sweet experience with a beverage that she ended up falling for and it proves that even when restricted to one element (honey), there is still a world of variety.

this sumptuous image was taken by Jill McNamara – photo editor for Draft Magazine

Back in Cornwall UK, Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey @BoakandBailey dissected the topic in their typically cerebral style. They point out that taste and discomfort are rarely fixed – over time, they’re as fluid as our tastes in anything else. The post image they use is also spot-on:


Andreas Krennmair @der_ak is from Linz in Austria but currently resident in Berlin. He brought his experience of home brewing to talk about his initial taste of Orval and goes into the associated history of “keeping beer” or stock pale ales. The link between Orval and these styles was an education to me.

My Discomfort Beer

Gareth @Coluleeds originally from Leeds UK (but now an Essex lad), recalls innocently ordering a glass of Oude Gueuze at a beer festival in Belgium. To be accustomed to a sweet warming Blonde or Brune and then get choked by the aggressive sour hands of a Gueuze must be a real shock. He also glimpsed a revered demigod meditating in a tent…..


Session 119 – Discomfort Beer

Rebecca Pate @rpate has roots in Canada but dwells in and chronicles the frenzy that is brewing in east London. Here she reflects on the osmotic way she takes to new beer styles; her palate adapts to most and evolves accordingly. But she was given pause recently after trying a floral kuitbier. Definitely a new one on me – read on!


Joe Tindall @FatalGlass picks a beer style he initially disliked – and I can join him in reviling it – smoked beer or Rauchbier. He refers to how the palate adjusts to ever more bitter flavours – with hops it’s the lupulin threshold shift (I cannot wait to bring up this term in a loud voice next time I’m in the pub. Thank you Joe!). In Rauchbier’s case, the aggressor’s the smoked malt. He took on this demon and won.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Stan Hieronymus @StanHieronymus (the father of The Session) lives in St Louis in Missouri. He delves back to some of the earliest memories of drinking and the dislike it can kindle as a young spectator; viz his father drinking with friends and the stench of tobacco. Isn’t most people’s first experience of beer negative? I believe so. It’s the original acquired taste.


The Session #119: Feeling comfortable

Finally, and perhaps fittingly for someone into endurance sport, Derrick Peterman @ramblings_oa_br from Campbell, California adds a new depth to this discussion: he talks about discomfort somatically and the way you push yourself psychologically to absorb the pain of running or to adapt to new beer styles. One style that just can’t grow on him though, is American Barley Wine.


Session 117: look to the future

Session 117: look to the future

This month, is hosting session 117 of Beer Blogging Friday.

The Session 117 Announcement: More, more, more…

The aim is for bloggers to paint the following:

“The final picture of Beer Future will be based on what you think we will see MORE of”



I’ve channelled my inner clairvoyant to look into the future of beer, breweries and pubs. For me, the stress on ripeness or freshness is a phenomenon which is proliferating in the food world and it’s spreading tendrils into the beer market too. Here it manifests itself in various ways – here are three of them:

1: Cloudwater Brew Co. Here’s an edited section from Cloudwater Brewery’s blog. It was about how they distribute their popular DIPAs:

Brewery Fresh – Promoting Cold Chain Distribution

“the biggest advantage to releasing a greater proportion DIPA, our hoppiest beer, direct from the brewery immediately after packaging is that you’ll be able to buy beer that hasn’t been above 5ºC.  After the end of fermentation our beers are crash chilled to 0ºC in FV, before being packaged as close to 0ºC from our brite tanks, and being transferred into our sub 5ºC cold store immediately after the packaging run finishes. Warmth and heat kill hoppiness (and other volatile flavour compounds) in beer, ageing and degrading it many times faster than when it’s held at a low and stable temperature”  


“we’re going to do our bit to reflect what our peers and friends in the US do to get beer to their customers in the best shape possible.  From the East Coast to the West Coast, and from some of the largest craft breweries to the smallest neighbourhood micros, hoppy beer in the US enjoys more care through cold chain distribution and direct consumption at the breweries themselves than we currently afford hoppy beer here in the UK.”


Cloud water thus depend on their customers (meaning retailers) to have the facilities to actually keep their beer under a certain temperature. Cellar cool won’t do anymore. The trade’s gone a long way from spiling, venting and tapping.

2: Green hopping

this year’s green-hopped beer by Red Squirrel

With cask ale, a new old trend is becoming popular: fresh/wet/green hopped beers. These are ales where the hops have been taken from the bine, straight to a brewer and brewed within the fastest time possible – often within twelve hours. This was more of a regional event and obviously can only be a seasonal one. But for festivals around the end of September, these beers are beginning to appear on beer lists across the country – not just their Kent heartland. Because the hop flowers haven’t been freeze-dried, some of the oils that would’ve been lost through ageing and drying are still seeping when they get tossed in before or after the boil. It’s hard to regulate flavour and each batch is basically a leap in the dark. In my experience, these oils can produce lemony, vinous, citrus or chlorophyll-like tastes. Sometimes they’re zinging, sometimes they’re undetectable.

3: A simple Tweet by Brew By Numbers in Bermondsey:

Brew By Numbers @BrewByNumbers Oct 26

Our hoppy beers will now have pack dates on tap badges for draught and front-of-label for bottles. #DrinkFresh! –>

The brewery is going to indicate when the beer was made both on the bottles (and I’m sure very soon – cans) and the actual point of sale on tap.


Oddly enough, I recently Tweeted that I’d like to see a timer put on pump clips to show when a cask came on to avoid drinking a glass of balsamic vinegar. In its key keg equivalent, Brew By Numbers is doing just that!

Alec Latham @LathamAlec Aug 13
Here’s an idea – let’s make it law that all cask pump clips are fitted with a timer. This way you can see how long ago the cask was tapped

Often when I go into a pub and scan the row of beer engines, the tender will raise his/her hand above the hand pumps and let it land palm-down on one of the heads. “this went on twenty minutes ago and it’s going quickly”. This is a tribute to freshness and cask at its best as well as a good line to part me from my cash. Something just-breached is definitely a draw.

To summarise, I believe the stress on freshness will become more acute over the next few years. More and more of the beer will be kept from degrading technologically (Cloudwater), by an actual race from the harvest to the brewery, the drinkers will experience beer made using ingredients virtually still clinging to the bine (green hopping) and freshness will be maintained procedurally by serving to the customer as soon as possible (Brew By Numbers).