Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beer Tasting

I don't know where to begin, except to say that there are no simple answers. So, I'm posing this question to you who happen to stumble upon or are following this blog. But what is the question you ask? Simple.

How does one decide on a selection of beers if you're conducting a beer tasting class?

The reality is that there are twenty three recognized classic styles of beer not including mead, cider, melomel, and perry (whatever that is). In addition, there are a total of seventy nine subcategories that make up these styles. Break that down even further by considering the companies that brew these beers and you've got thousands of beer out there to choose from.

Now, your mission if you choose to accept it is to pick just eight of those beers to present in a three hour tasting session.

Making the choice of beers can be a creative process and that is how I approach it. I begin this process with an intention. For instance, I may make the decision on my selection based on beers of historical interest, like 'Why monks make beer and when did they start doing that'? I could decide to based the choice on similar qualities, a selection within a style for instance, like Russian imperial, sweet, foreign, oatmeal, American or dry stout. Or maybe a comparison between English and American pale ales and introduce some West coast American pales ales for good measure? A variety of seasonal German lagers?

The recent beers from the tasting class include Belgian tripel, quad, grand cru, grand cru vintage 2007, gueuze, homebrewed dry stout, pumpkin porter, homebrewed Russian imperial stout, Drake's aroma coma IPA and Hop Wallop IIPA.

Any of these ideas would be enjoyable to create a tasting around but there are other consideration that must be addressed. What comes to mind are the students. Their understanding of brewing and exposure to beer. Their preferences and past experience in tasting. In most of the classes that I have conducted, for the most part the students are inexperienced in tasting and have little exposure to beers outside of the mainstream swill. They come with a sincere interest in tasting new beers, learning the process of critically tasting and also want to enjoy a nice afternoon of sipping beers, an entertaining brew event. The reasons for them attending a beer tasting and the level of there experiences must be considered when designing a class. In addition to the novice there will occasionally be homebrewers and beer appreciators that have a wider level of knowledge and experience and their reason for attendance maybe slightly different and must be regarded also in the presentation.

So, back to the beer choice. Here we have 1000's of beers to choose from, a mix of attendees with varied knowledge and experience and lastly, a limited amount of time to not only educate, broaden their interests in beer and entertain but also to reward them with the feeling of satisfaction that they made a good decision by registering for and paying good money to attend a beer tasting.


I also want to use this space to thank my TA's Brady and Teresa for helping me out with this recent tasting. Their support enabled me to focus on the presentation. Thanks also to Jan and Andy for providing home brewed Russian imperial stout and brownies that were baked with said same stout, delicious!

Now I'm getting geared up to begin the five week brewing course. I'm excited.

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