Full Sail

Lighter-Bodied Summer Beers: A Summery Judgment, Part Two

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"In Part Deux of this little wildly-subjective gaggle of finer craft beers, I try to dispel a myth that sprang up around me, based on a passing comment I made in a post a few months ago. I said that I didn’t like the whole idea of “session beers” and, I guess predictably, a small-but-vocal group of beerheads took that to mean that I didn’t like the BEERS that are usually regarded as sessionable. What I didn’t like was the whole idea of “sessioning”, which I regard as a nouveau rationale for excessive drinking, and the assigning of a term like “session beer” to a product that the brewery may have made as just an attempt at a certain style that happens to be low in alcohol. If a brewery wants to position their beer as a session beer, that’s their choice to make. It is NOT up to pundits to hang that label on it and consign it to that Ghetto of Lightness. Far from not liking the lighter-bodied beers in the Euro-lager and light ale tradition, those were exactly the beers that I fell in love with first. My first official pint was Tetley’s English Ale, served warm in a pint mug that might even have been washed after its last use, in an ancient family alehouse called The Rose & Crown, situated comfortably in the Rose & Crown Hotel in Watford, a northwest suburb of London. I actually sessioned there several times, but then I wasn’t driving. I was on foot…for about twenty feet, anyway.


Here, then, are some of the lagers and pilsners – and, yeah, a couple more ales – that I’ve fallen rather hard for in the past 15 years. The one common factor with these is consistency. You buy these in 2011 and in 2022, they’ll be basically the same beer because they fall under the ancient axiom: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These are superlative beers and have more than proven their worth in the marketplace and you and I can drink them with a fair assurance that, if we love them now, they’re gonna be there tomorrow."


..."Right down there in the awe-inspiring Columbia Gorge, sits Hood River, Oregon, a small, quaint town whose primary claim to fame is America’s 14th largest craft brewery, Full Sail. Full Sail is just Good – across the board, every single beer – and they now also contract brew the Henry Weinhard’s brand, so that has improved markedly. Their “Session” lager and dark lager are among the most acclaimed light lagers in the country and their Black Gold Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout literally makes me weep. But the real surprise to come out of Hood River is their LTD Series, seasonal lagers that have gone from triumph to triumph and now features my favorite: Full Sail LTD 03, a sexy, silky, irresistible pilsner that, as the kids say, rocks seriously hard. This is pilsner with muscle, not at all Bavarian, German, or Dortmunder-styled and unapologetically bold. The picture shows the cool, golden color and it tastes like it looks: decadent. It’s a mouthful of pils, a phrase which had rarely ever passed either my lips or keyboard but is the only description here. Their website describes this as “pimped out by our ace crew of libationary wunderkinds”. I don’t know what that pimping consisted of but, hey, Wunderkinds: Do It Again!"