Sunday, August 02, 2015

4 Things I Learned from Sesh Fest 2015

The prematurely tapped kegs and long lines that marred last year's otherwise noble first-time celebration of lower-alcohol beers were gone at Saturday's sequel event, as were a couple of the experimental brewers who created both good and bad buzz for their vanishing beers.

But a number of other breweries stepped up their games and brought creations that many people at the sold-out event were discussing. In fact, it was interesting to talk to a people throughout the day and hear many of them recommending the same handful of hop artists over and over.

That said, here are some of the biggest takeaways from Sesh Fest 2015, as brought to the beer world by Imbibe and the Colorado Brewers Guild

1) Baere Brewing is Killing It
Had the year-old Denver brewery brought only its Raspberry Table Sour, it would be remembered for creating a perfectly pitched and tart offering that was the beer of the festival. But it also offered up several versions of its Baere-Liner Weisse - including a Cascade-dry-hopped offshoot that was very sharp and well-defined by its subtle but effective hops - that left you wanting to head straight from Sculpture Park to its tasting room to see what more it's doing.

2) Two New Kids are Very Worth Watching
Neither Spangalang Brewery nor Call to Arms Brewing were operational when the first day of Spring rolled around. By the time Fall kicks off, they are likely to be on everyone's minds - and their offerings at Sesh Fest showed why.

Spangalang served up a dry-hopped Brett saison alive with grape taste, as well as a Citra-dry-hopped lemon wheat beer that just popped on your taste buds. Meanwhile, Call to Arms showed off its Clintonian Pale Ale that may have been the only full-bodied hoppy beer on display Saturday (more on that trend in just a bit).

3) Low-ABV Sour Beers are Here to Stay ...
Last year, they were one of the trends of the festival, as brewers dabbled in naturally sessionable goses and Berliner weisses. This year, attendees saw even more classical Belgian- and American-style sours just made more lightly in booze, and everyone seemed to put them near the tops of their must-drink lists.

Odd 13 Brewing, for example, served a Vincent Van Couch American-style sour that weighed in only at 4.6% ABV but burst with lemon and melon flavors. And New Belgium offered a Hop Tart hopped-up sour that felt a little like a poor man's version of its bigger-bodied, bold La Terroir but still jumped out on this day. Beer lovers should probably expect more of these experiments.

4) ... But it's time to end the "Session IPA" fad
More and more breweries seem to be tapping their own offerings of this style. But it was clear at Sesh Fest that these watered-down versions of what normally are intriguingly-hopped beers were the least interesting iteration of the session movement.

The Brew on Broadway, for example, offered up what it called a dry-hopped blonde that was distinctly lacking in hops. And Sanitas Brewing, which normally serves head-turners, poured a "session pale ale" that was nothing more than a malt-heavy, hop-deficient amber ale trying to jump on the bandwagon.

American craft brewers have done incredible things with hops over the past decade that no other brewing culture has managed. Note all the ways they are bringing life to other styles above by dry-hopping them, for example.

Of anyone, then, they should be the first ones to recognize that beers relying on hops for their primary flavoring should not be half-assed and should be backed with an ample malt backbone that is going to drive up ABVs. And they should find other ways to bring creativity and taste to session beers, as some Colorado brewers are showing that they can.

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I just read your blog on the Sesh Fest. I am sad that you found my Shadyside "distinctly lacking in hops". I never passed this off as an IPA that is why I changed the name to a DHA or Dry Hopped Ale. I was after a nice gentle citrus finish and not an in your face hop finish and people really liked the profile. It would be nice that you understand the profile before you bash the profile and the brewery. Just like every brewery you need to offer those who are not hop heads a choice in styles for them to enjoy and that is what I did. Come on down and try my ales and see what we are really about. We have a solid line up of English style ales. Sorry for ranting but we are doing a great job and our customers are enjoying what we are presenting.
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