Friday, February 7, 2014

The Session #84 - "Alternative" Beer Reviews

I have fun blogging for The Session every month, but I've been looking forward to this month's session a little bit more than usual. And why? Because it's being hosted by one of my favorite bloggers Oliver Gray of Literature and Libation. His blog is excellent and always has me striving to up my creativity level just a little bit more. Not surprisingly, his rules for The Session have forced me to think outside of the box once again. The rules this month are in Oliver's words below. 
We, as beer bloggers, tend to get caught up in this beer appreciation thing, forever chasing an invisible dragon of taste, doing our best to catalog our experiences on the page or in a database. We get obsessed with the idea of quantifying our experience – either so we can remember specifics ad infinitum or use the data as a point of comparison for other beers – and often forget that beer is just as much art and entertainment as it is critic-worthy foodstuff. 
So for my turn hosting The Session, I ask all of you to review a beer. Any beer. Of your choosing even! There’s a catch though, just one eentsy, tiny rule that you have to adhere to: you cannot review the beer.  
I know it sounds like the yeast finally got to my brain, but hear me out: I mean that you can’t write about SRM color, or mouthfeel, or head retention. Absolutely no discussion of malt backbones or hop profiles allowed. Lacing and aroma descriptions are right out. Don’t even think about rating the beer out of ten possible points.
As a beer blogger, it's pretty easy to dismiss beers like I.C. Light and its big brother Iron City. From a beer ingredient point of view, even if Oliver weren't forbidding me from actually reviewing the beer there wouldn't be a whole lot I could say about it. But this review isn't about the grain bill, hops, or the fact that they aged a beer in wine barrels from Atlantis and then inoculated the wort with essence of elf fart to give just a hint of cinnamon like flavor you couldn't achieve any other way. No, this is a review about a beer that makes me think of home.

It's not easy to find Iron City beer in Baltimore. In fact, I'm pretty sure you can't. But as soon as I read this month's Session rules I knew exactly which beer I wanted to review. Without a planned trip home I asked my friends on Facebook if they could get a picture of an I.C. Light atop Mount Washington. And just like an Iron City beer, the people of Pittsburgh are straight forward people who just want to put a smile on your face. To my surprise, Jay, a friend that I had minimal interaction with in college was quick to respond that he could help me out. Those are the kinds of things I miss about home. The people are there to help you when you need it no matter if you're a close family member or a stranger on the street. Jay helping me like this was a perfect reminder of that. Thanks, Jay. 

Before I knew someone would help out with a picture, I convinced my sister to send a few beers in the mail. It's nice to know I can depend on her to support me for silly things like this. And no, Lauren, I haven't forgotten my end of the deal. Season 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey are coming your way. I just need to come to terms with the separation anxiety that's sure to ensue when I finally get to the post office. By the way, has there ever been a better beer trade than two Iron City Beer's for two Seasons of Downton Abbey? Take your Pliny the Elder for Westy 12 trades and shove it!

Maybe you  noticed the mug I poured the beer in up above. My Pap gave that to me. I miss him and don't get to see my family as much as I'd like, but every time I drink out of that mug and pour an Iron City inside its glass walls I think of him and my Grandma telling me that it would only collect dust if I didn't take it. 

Iron City are the beers that have been in the background of so much of my life. It was the beer my buddy Homer was drinking when he was teaching me the merits of drinking from a Mason Jar. It was the beer I had in my hand when more than one year ended and the next began. And it was the beer I drank a few months ago when I got to be the best man at my brother's wedding. 

So, thank you Oliver. Thank you for coming up with the idea of an "alternative" beer review. Because even if Iron City was the most complex in the beer world I wouldn't want to talk about ABV and IBU's. Thinking about the people in my life and the places these beers have worked their magic was so much more satisfying than talking about the finer points of some random A+ rated beer. Cheers to you, Oliver. And Cheers to simple beers like Iron City and the comforts of home.


  1. Super Mario!

    A well-done piece. One of the things I enjoy about The Sessions is getting out of the normal comfort zone and sometimes even reflecting. Glad to see you have the opportunity, too.

  2. Great post. I went down a similar path for my session post this month.

    1. Thank you very much. Just stopped by and enjoyed yours as well.