The Session for September comes to us from Barcelona's top beer blogger Joan Villar-i-Martí and the topic he's picked for us is "The Role of Beer Books".
I don't have many beer books and very rarely buy them. Beer is a fast-moving subject and well-documented, for free, here on the web so I don't really see the point. I'm not someone who buys books just because it's nice to have them either. People get some funny ideas about librarians (of which I am one) being hoarders of books when in reality we tend to treat them much as a farmer regards his livestock: practically, unsentimentally and as something to be managed.
So my collection is a small one: one shelf, largely made up of freebies I got for review, plus gifts. Perhaps that's the beer book's most important role: an easy gift option to give people who are in any way disposed towards beer drinking. My handful of purchases does include one book which I've pulled out and referred to a number of times over the years, usually when writing commissioned pieces where getting the facts right is kind of important. It's Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table and I've come to regard it as indispensable. It's over a decade old now so doesn't have a whole lot to say about Awesome Craft Beer™ but it does handle The Classics extremely well: their provenance, their history and practical ideas for matching them to food. The content is timeless and will doubtless still be relevant long after all of beer's current fads have passed away into faintly embarrassed memory.
I pronounced it my favourite German beer. O to have such confidence today! Since 2010 it has been badged as Schneider Weisse Tap 7: Unser Original and it is a fairly full-on 5.4% ABV. The most distinguishing feature is that amber colour, very unlike most weissbier and almost into dunkelweiss territory. It's achieved with a 1% addition of black malt in the grist, intended to recreate an old-fashioned grain bill when the malt would have been dried to a darker colour.
First impression on tasting is smoothness. Nothing in particular jumps out, there's just a luxuriant soft texture. The typical weissbier attributes are quite subtle: a bit of bubblegum on the nose and sweet clove rock in the flavour. Its secret weapon is that dark malt. It adds an almost imperceptible dark roasted edge whose dryness contributes hugely to the beer's complexity and drinkability. It never gets too heavy or cloyingly sweet, a masterclass of finely-tuned balance.
Though obviously, of course, you'd be better off drinking it than reading about it.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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