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Philly Beer Week 2009: Session Beer Project

Beer Week festivities continued last night with a visit to The Tiedhouse in the Franklintown (Fairmount) section. (The Tiedhouse is "tied" to the General Lafayette Inn, a brewpub in Lafayette Hill. Despite the alliance, they also serve beer from other brewers.) I was intrigued by the focus of this tasting: a roundup of “Session Beers.” Our tasting tutor was no less than Lew Bryson, who is the primary proponent—if not originator—of the Session Beer movement. I had been reading Lew Bryson’s blog for a while, and was looking forward to hearing him speak as well.

Not surprisingly, Lew made the case for session beers eloquently. Macro brewers, of course, already produce session beers by the tanker-load in the form of their “lite” offerings, but Lew’s session beers are low-alcohol beers with flavor. To help drive the point home and calibrate our palates, he gave everyone a taste of Miller Genuine Draft Light 64. The MGD64 was barely recognizable as beer, and succeeded in dramatizing the incredible difference in flavor between beers of similar ABV. Lew then turned the floor over to brewer Russ Czajka, who described the brewing process and technical challenges of making low-alcohol beer. We ordered a flight of all seven of the session beers:

As much as I love me some big beer, I have to say I didn’t miss much flavor in any of these diminutive brews. I thought the English Stout wanted for nothing, and I especially liked the Economizer and Brawler.

But enough about beer; I really should mention the food. I was all set to order the cheesesteak spring rolls, but they were out of them, so I settled on the hot turkey sandwich on ciabatta, which was awesome.

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