My birthday present to myself was to have some friends over and subject them to a beer tasting. As most of them are casual beer drinkers, I decided to arrange the tasting in a way that would highlight different beer ingredients and examine how they affect the beer. Things were pretty casual (none of that look/smell/taste stuff that I knew my friends would have none of), but I did talk about the flavours of each beer and how they fit within the criteria of each round. There was also no formal rating process, though I did grade the beers based on facial reactions after the first sip (kidding?).
Things started off with two welcome beers – the Creemore Kellerbier (Ratebeer) and the Ölvisholt Skjálfti (Ratebeer). These beers had multiple purposes, the first of which was to give people something to drink while others were still arriving. You can’t just sit around and tell people they’ll have to wait for the beer! These lagers were also flavourful, but not overwhelming. The modest hops in each beer were a good way to cleanse the palate, but not shock the system or destroy your tongue for the rest of the afternoon. Having something strange like an Icelandic beer is also a nice talking point.
The first round of beers was the called “Fruits & Veg,” even though no beers were actually made with vegetables. Usually tastings might involve everyone tasting the same beer at once, but I wanted to give lots of options (especially for the non-beer drinkers). It wasn’t possible to try everything, though it was a better system than forcing one beer on everyone (plus it cleaned out my fridge a bit). As the afternoon was really hot, I thought these refreshing beers would be a nice start. The three options were the Samuel Smith’s Organic Raspberry Fruit Beer (Ratebeer), Mill Street Lemon Tea Ale (Ratebeer) and Dieu du Ciel Rosée d’Hibiscus (Ratebeer). The Raspberry and Hibiscus beers were the clear favourites, though a lot of people had already tried the Lemon Tea.
The next round was specialty grains, an attempt to show how using ingredients other than barley can add different flavours. Two wheat beers were featured, Denison’s Weissbier (Ratebeer) and Schneider Brooklyner Hopfen-Weiss (Ratebeer), along with a rye, Mill Street Schleimhammer Roggenbier (Ratebeer). Even though the Schneider could have fit into the next round, it was the clear favourite – eyebrows popped, O-faces were made. The Roggenbier was a love/hate beer, while the Denison’s was liked but did not have a strong impact (and yes, it was a better can than my one from two weeks back).
It is impossible to look at the ingredients of beer without looking at hops. Picking beers for this category were the hardest as I didn’t want to scare anyone away with aggressively hoppy beers. By choosing the Scotch Irish Sgt. Major IPA (Ratebeer), Rogue Brutal Bitter (Ratebeer) and Black Oak 10 Bitter Years (Ratebeer), my goal was to have three different beers and match them to my drinkers. I know my brother likes lightly malted beers, so that is how I sold the 10 Bitter Years (and yes, he liked it). The fruitiness of the Sgt. Major was emphasized and the Brutal Bitter kind of explains itself. Nobody made disgusted faces, so I consider that a victory in itself.
I did want to offer one really strange beer for everyone to try, so I opened up a bottle of Trois Mousquetaires Rauchbier (Ratebeer), once again talking about how malt is used to flavour beer. Smoked beers can be really intense, like drinking a liquid campfire, so I wanted some food pairings to help balance the flavours for my guests. I served some elk summer sausage and bacon chocolate and hoped all the flavours would go well together. The Rauchbier was actually fairly tame, with a lot of chocolate notes to match the firewood flavours. It stood up well to the fattiness of the elk. The bacon chocolate did not work as well, with only the smoked salt in the chocolate coming through. Nobody was repulsed by it, so I think that counts as a win.
I was going to say the afternoon went really well, but that seems a bit narcissistic. It was a fun, relaxing way to open up a lot of my friends to some great craft beer while (hopefully) not coming across as an uber-serious beer geek. The format worked and I would try the same structure again.
Today: 1.5L. Year-to-date: 134.6L.