Every craft beer is a learning opportunity. New flavors. Re-discovered styles. Differing opinions. And that could be all in one pint of beer. If you are looking for a more structured learning environment, then Eagle Rock Brewery’s monthly Education nights are for you.
I joined a large group in the tasting room of the brewery last Thursday to learn about how to mindfully savor beer and some of the science behind what beer does to our taste buds.
The evening started with my first mug of Eagle Rock’s most recent release, Revolution XPA. An array of aromas in this. Citrus to grapefruit then apple. Pours a beautiful deep orange. A little bit of biscuit flavors in this as well. The bitterness really lingers but it isn’t overpowering. The XPA and the witbier are unique interpretations of each style.
Then it was on to the book learning. Jeremy Raub and his father Steve were there to talk about their beer making process. Noted beer writer and home brewer Drew Beechum gave us a lesson on flavors. The information and humor began flowing like beer from a tap.
Here is what I took away from the class,
1) Davis wheels visually group flavors to make it easier to find the vocabulary to match what you are tasting. One of the simpler versions that I utilize is at www.33beers.com.
2) Carbonation not only changes the texture of the beer but also enhances aroma and creates some acidity.
3) Cover the glass. Put a coaster on top of your beer to trap in the aromas. Then you will get a concentrated blast. Smell is the most important element of whether we like the taste of something.
The class got the “opportunity” to taste spiked beer so we could recognize off flavors. Metal and wet cardboard were particularly nasty, whereas the vinegar and yeast samples didn’t bother my taste buds nearly as much.
The biggest take-away for me was that each person not only recognizes flavors differently but also at different levels of potency. My friend who loves dark, roasty beers probably gets a different “hit” off of a porter than I do because my tongue may be more in tune with hop flavors.
Your homework comes in two parts today. First, check out the Eagle Rock Brewery website for details on the next class. Second, check out 55 Degree wine shop in Atwater Village. They do a beer tasting every Sunday down in the dark cellar beneath their shop. Each week they choose a theme and you get to sample some great beers. This Sunday, they will be featuring (4) Allagash beers. Tripel Reserve, Victor 2009, Grand Cru and Four Ale. All for $16. They also have a quirky selection of foreign beers to browse through.
The beer of the week – Mischief – is one of the latest offerings from The Bruery. It just had its red carpet premiere at Blue Palms Brewhouse on Wednesday night complete with specialty cheese tasting. The hoppy golden Belgian ale starts out pouring yellow and bubbly and by the end gets hazier. Mischief has a great floral hop taste with a nice lingering bitter taste to it. It is an excellent introduction to The Bruery for anyone who has yet to drink one of their distinctive brews.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.