In the first ever Thirsty Thursday Beer of the Week, Matt Osgood chats with Chris Lohring of Notch Brewing about the Valley Malt BSA.
As people familiar with Review Brews or any of our manifestations on social media know, I’m an unabashedly loyal Notch Brewing Co. fan. Head brewer and founder Chris Loring has found a way to appeal to every one of my sensibilities: he makes low-ABV session beers (check), he has a proclivity towards the local movement (check), and responds to my often-verbose e-mails and requests for quotes (double check).
More often than not, I find myself gravitating towards whatever bomber Notch is currently offering. I consider the 2.9% Tafelbier one of the best beers of the year. Also, in my ever-proceeding quest to determine the definition of “local beer,” Notch keeps appearing. There’s also something to be said about my affinity for session beers.
Of the many complex definitions of “session beer” I’ve either heard, read about, or made up myself, I keep coming back to, “A session beer is a beer I could drink at my lunch break and be just as good—or maybe better—at my job that afternoon.”
As a beer-lover and beer-drinker attempting to drink only local beer during the course of this year, and, as a new columnist at DigBoston, my intent every Thursday is to bring you a “beer of the week” that is not only delicious and seek-out-worthy, but also has a story. I couldn’t think of a brewer – or brewery – that was better than start with than Chris Lohring Notch Brewing Co.
Their Valley Malt BSA (Brewer Supported Agriculture) is 4.5% ABV and is a farmhouse ale brewed with malted barley from Valley Malt in Hadley, MA that differs each year, reflecting the terroir. It’s a deliciously-balanced beer that I recommend picking up if you see it. You won’t be just drinking a good beer, you’ll be supporting a worthy cause.
Lohring and I chatted about this beer.
Matt Osgood: What is the story behind/inspiration the Valley Malt BSA?
Chris Lohring: I started brewing professionally in 1993, and had never stepped foot in a barley field. It was the plight of an East Coast urban brewer.
So more than anything, the opportunity to support Valley Malt and their new business, as well as the farms in western Massachusetts that are growing our grains. I ask local bars to support local beer, and it was my time to deliver on the same promise.
I’m not sure I’ve done something more gratifying than supporting Andrea and Christian at Valley Malt in all my years of brewing.
The BSA, where we pre-pay for the grains before the brewing season to provide farms a guaranteed customer, made so much sense to me I said, “Go” from the first time Valley Malt offered it.
M.O.: What can you tell me about the recipe for the beer?
C.L.: Farmhouse Ales (saisons) always used grains available to that farmer for brewing, so it was natural that I chose a saison for this beer. Each year the beer will change based on the growing season and it’s impact on the grain, and we can celebrate the differences each year rather than being the same.
It’s a Dupont saison yeast, all MA grains, U.S. hops. As simple a recipe as you can imagine.
M.O.: What kind of meal would you pair the beer with?
C.L.: I’m not the person to ask about food and beer pairing … When I’m drinking beer, you’ll see me with the staples – cheese, sausage, bread, radish and a hard-boiled egg, if I can find it. Session beer is a worker’s beer. I like to celebrate food that reflects that.
M.O.: What makes this beer unique from all the other session beers?
C.L.: It is far more expensive to brew, mainly due to grain costs. But if we continue to support local farmers and malt houses, the price will come down. The magic of scale! I’d also say this beer is less about a style, or controlling the outcome. Simple and fresh ingredients paired with a proven brewing and fermentation method is all I try to control. What comes out is less about a brewer’s intent and more about showcasing the ingredients.
M.O.: Where do you think session beer fits in with the craft beer movement?
C.L.: It’s simply an option. No more, no less. Craft beer enhances out times together; session beer extends it. I think it’s a pretty good option to have.
Not a bad definition there either. Cheers!
Matt Osgood is new to DigBoston, but not to the beer drinking world. He writes for the beer website Review Brews, a great site for beer reviews, brewer interviews, and great beer related content. He likes florally IPA’s and other manly sounding things. He is currently attempting to drink only local, New England beers for the next year. He is open to any suggestions. Matt can be reached at matt at reviewbrews.com or follow him on Twitter @reviewbrews & @mattycuatro.