Thursday, July 14, 2011

"What's Not on Tap" Part One

So I've got something a little different here tonight. Instead of the usual recipe blog post, we'll be discussing beer. Specifically a beer tasting class I attended at Total Wine. Do you have a Total Wine near you? They're like BevMo, but bigger, and according to The Husband, better.

Total Wine does beer and wine tasting classes every month, and I've been wanting to attend one for quite awhile now, but either grad classes conflicted with the date/time, or I would just plain forget about the class until the day after is happened. Yeah, seriously, it sucks to remember you wanted to do something pretty much right when it ends. Lame. This month the stars aligned and I actually remembered before the class passed. (Well actually, we were at the store on Sunday, buying some new gin for an at-home gin taste taste, when I saw the sign and immediately signed up.)

The beer class was $15 a person and I went alone because the husband is a party pooper and didn't want to join. Well that and he has nearly zero listening comprehension skills, because no matter how many times I described the class to him, mentioning it was a beer TASTING, he thought it was a class on homebrewing. What??? I mean it makes a teeny tiny bit of sense because I have been talking about a desire to homebrew recently, but that never came up in the conversations we had about taking a beer tasting class. :/ I called the afternoon of the class, once he finally realized it was a tasting not a brewing class (which by the way, I think would be an awesome class to take!) and said he wanted to go too, but they were sold out. Ha! Maybe next time he'll learn to listen to me...who am I kidding, no he won't.

Anyway, if you've made it through that long intro, I applaud you; I'm sure you are thinking to yourself "when is she going to stop yapping about nonsense and get to the goods?!" Well, here we go.

As the title of the post suggests, this was not a tasting of Bud Light or Coors. (People of the world, put down your shitty beers!) Actually, I stole the title from the class, which was called "What's Not on Tap: Uncommon, Extraodinary Beers You Must Try". I was really hyped to try beers that would require CIA-like intelligence to find, but being as this was in Total Wine, a store that sells beer, it's not that hard to find them. Just walk down their aisle of beer, and there you go! However, you're not going to pony up to your local dive and find these on tap, so I guess there is some truth to the title.

Upon arriving and checking in, I found a seat at a long table, and then headed to the back for some fancy cheese (ok, it was really just regular ol' cheese from Fresh and Easy. but still good.). We were all given a packet of tasting sheets to record the beers we tried, along with our thoughts on their appearance, aroma, taste, and mouth feel, as well as 2 glasses, a bottle of water, and a cup to spit into (I choose to actually drink all my beer. Why would you waste perfectly good beer?!). We were also given a copy of the evening's PowerPoint which contained information on each style of beer, foods and cheeses to pair with the beers, beer trivia, and a few websites for more beerformation. Don't get wigged out by the PP aspect! It was not boring in the least, and was a good way to know what the heck was going on. Plus, having a copy meant I didn't have to write down all that info, but could instead focus on drinking-I mean tasting- the beers, and recording my thoughts on each. I was thankful for this because I felt the pourings moved at a bit of a quick pace and I wasn't always sure how to describe the beers, so referring to the PowerPoint, which listed characteristics, helped me out a bit.

Let's get into the beers, shall we? Just a quick note before you leap into judgement--all of these photos were taken with my iPhone. I didn't want to bring my DSLR and feel obnoxious or deal with trying to figure out the right settings while trying to enjoy the beer. Also, I forgot to take pics of a couple of the beers because I was too busy having fun drinking.

Beer #1

Name: Reissdorf Kolsh
Style: Kolsh
Country of Origin: Cologne, Germany (many of the beers I tasted were from Germany)
ABV: 4.5-5.5%
Recommended serving temperature: cold, 39-45 degrees
Food pairings: grilled food, spicy food, German food, chicken, fish, shellfish
Cheese pairings: Brie, Camembert, Montery Jack, Edam (WTF is that??)

Okkkkkkkk, I have like zero notes on this beer. LOL. It was a pale gold color, clear, with a diminishing, fizzy head. Since I have no notes, I can only deduce that it wasn't a favorite. I think I remember it was kind of bland and boring. Not for me. Maybe good if you're not a big beer fan? Though really, I think shitty beer is what keeps people from liking beer. Not that this is a shitty beer.

Some other beers in this style are one by Flying Dog, Tire Bite Golden Age, and Alaskan Brewing's Summer Style. Who cares. This beer was not in my top anything.

Ok, let's move on.

Beer #2

Name: Lost Coast something or other (helpful, right? Don't worry, I actually improve as we go on)
Style: Herbed/Spiced Beer
Country of Origin: no effing idea, but it is over 1,000 years old
ABV: varies, but low (what the eff type of information is this? Sorry, this is copied from the PowerPoint. Stick with me past this beer and I promise improvement here people. Besides, it's not like YOU paid $15; this information is free...Ok, sorry for the hostility there. Let's keep going, shall we?)
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: salads, desserts
Cheese pairings: none given...effin' Total Wine screwing up my blogging...

Alright, well with that intro this must be a promising beer. So an herbed/spiced beer means that the brewer added in plants and herbs beyond the normal hops to give the beer a sweeter taste. Informative, yes? So this technique, called gruit, is actually really old; they were doing this back in the Middle Ages before hops. Do you think serfs were drinking it up, or was it just a royalty thing? I'm sure Google could tell us, but let's move on to my assessment of the beer.

This beer was not as forgettable as the first one; it had a light, summery, slightly perfumey or herbal taste to it, with the hazy, pale straw color of an unfiltered beer. But again, not a favorite of mine. Too boring. Maybe I should mention at this point, I tend to go for dark, bold, flavorful beers. And sometimes Bud Light Lime. What, a girl's allowed to slum it sometimes.

Beer #3 No Picture.
Name: Pike Kilt Lifter
Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy (what a cute name, wee heavy!)
Country of Origin: Scotland (say it with a Scottish accent for more fun!)
ABV: 6.5-10%
Recommended serving temperature: cellar, 55-57 degrees
Food pairings: roast/grilled lamb, game, pork, grilled smoked salmon, deli sandwiches
Cheese pairings: aged and smoked cheeses, asiago, gruyere (we had a smoked Gouda in class and it was really delish with this beer)

I enjoyed this beer much more than the first two, though I didn't take many notes beyond circling attributes on my tasting sheet. The beer has a honey/caramel color, with some cloudiness and a lasting head on the pour. It smelled caremely, but tasted more nutty, toasty, and slightly smokey, with a smooth moutfeel. This beer has a bit of warmth to it, but I wouldn't shy away from drinking it during a summer BBQ (cook out for those of you not in The Golden State) either. This was a nice, drinkable beer that I'd recommend for someone who is ready to move past the yellow fizz that is Bud and Coors and into a real beer. (Yep, I am a beer snob.)

Beer #4 No picture
This is about the time people started loosening up and the room got noiser and a bit rowdier. People were talking beer and having a great time. I was pretty quiet since I was there alone and the woman next to me disliked pretty much every beershe tried. As did the woman with her. WTF? Why come? Even two of the guys in their group weren't enjoying the beers. These were clearly MBC people (MBC is Miller, Bud, Coors for those of you not in the know.)
Name: Old Suffolk English Ale
Style: Old Ale
Country of Origin: England
ABV: 6-12%
Recommended serving temperature: 55-57%
Food pairings: baked ham, roasted/grilled game, lamb, beef (so, perfect for Easter dinner! Now when you need to bring sometime to a spring dinner, you can bring this beer.)
Cheese pairings: Asiago, Gloucester (an English cheese I haven't seen in the states. I was a big fan of this cheese during my stint in London.), Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Roquefort, Stilton (another English cheese I haven't seen stateside. Let me know if you know where to buy it!)

Ok, I actually took some notes about this beer. It is a brown ale with a diminishing head, and a sweet, chocolately, toasty, smokey, slightly spicy aroma. It had a sweet, chocolatey taste, with some dark fruity flavors, almost like a wine. I thought this was an enjoyable beer that I would drink again. It was very smooth with a balanced body and a long finish (you're still tasting it awhile after that last swallow).

Beer #5 Not pictured
Name: Weihenstephaner
Style: Weizenbock (meaning "strong-wheat")
Country of Origin: Germany
ABV: 6.9-9.3%
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: roast pork, roast beef, smoked ham, desserts
Cheese pairings: Gouda (including smoked....again MMMM!), Manchego (a hard, Spanish cheese)

Let me get this out there right away. I love wheat beers. Hefeweizens are a big favorite of mine. And actually, I thought all German wheat beers were Hefs, so it was pretty cool to learn that is not the case. According to my handy PP handout, Weizenbocks are stronger in alcohol and flavor character than Hefeweizen or Dunkleweizens, and are characterized by clove spiciness and fruity-banana flavors. Typically, I do not like wheat beers with banana notes, but this Weizenbock showed me that some beers can get it right.

The Weihenstephaner looks like your standard unfiltered wheat beers: golden color, cloudy appearance, a fizzy head. It has a clean, yet spicy aroma, which mimics the taste. (Look, I'm actually giving you some real information now! Aren't you excited? I'm excited.) It is slightly sweet, with a fruity, spicy/clove taste, and a small hint of bananas. Which, as I said before, normally I am not a fan of--nor do I like wheat beers that have a bubble gum taste (what the eff is up with that?! Why would you want a beer to taste like gum? Go drink a Jones soda if that's what you're looking for and leave the beer to those of us who don't want to junk it up!). But this beer pulls off the banana-clove taste very well.

If you're not a big beer drinker, but you're looking for a brew you can actually enjoy, I'd suggest giving a weizenbock a try. But don't get the one at Gordon Biersch; it has that weird banana-bubble gum taste. yuck.

What number are we on now?

Beer #6

Name: Spaten Monchen Dunkel
Style: Munich Dunkel Lager
Country of Origin: Germany
ABV: 4.5-5.6%
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: roasted meats, BBQ, sausages
Cheese pairings: Gruyere, Munster

So the first note I have at the top of my tasting sheet for this beer is *buy. Guess I liked it. LOL. So the Spaten Brewery has been around since 1397, which I guess means they know what they're doing. Here's another fun fact for you: Lager in German means "cellar" and lager beers are aged, or rested, to mellow out the flavor. What does that mean to you, a beer layman? Basically it means that this is a smooth, balanced, drinkable beer. It's an amber color, with a diminishing, fizzy head. It has a sweet, caramely, chocolately aroma, with a chocolately, toasty, and bisquity flavor. It has a very mild bitterness to it, which plays nicely against the chocolatey, bisquity, or bready, flavors.

I'd definitely recommend giving this beer a try, especially if you're looking for an easy to drink, yet flavorful beer. This is another one I'd like to see at summer BBQs and get togethers. Again, if more people were trying quality beers, less people would say they "don't like beer." Though then again, if those people keep thinking that way, it means there's more good beer for me.

Ok, since there were 13 beers sampled in the beer class, I'm going to break this up into two parts. Read about the rest of the beers on Monday! And it would be awesome if you commented and told me how much you're enjoying my beer roundup...or how lame you think this all is. I just like comments.


Ann In Fallbrook, CA said...

Interesting read though as you know, I don't really like beer. I do enjoy cooking and baking with it however. You have put out a lot of good information that I am sure many will find useful.

Janet said...

Stay tuned for Monday when we get into the darker, more complex beers, which I really enjoyed!

If you guys have a Total Wine near you, I bet Dad would enjoy one of these tasting classes. They have wine classes too.

Molly Jean said...

Ahhh so fun! I wish I could have done it with you. And I'm glad you decided/remebered to blog it. That was a great post, Janet!


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