J and I have returned to the East Coast to sample plenty of beers and nerd out over the next 4 days at the National Homebrewers Conference, this year in Baltimore. I’m particularly excited since so many friends will be in attendence, many of them presenting panels throughout the weekend. I’m particularly interested in the sensory analysis and technical tracks. My first session this afternoon will be about brewing with honey.
Last year, I began my research into the art of beer and food pairing. One of my personal and professional goals this year is to refine that knowledge. Although there’s a significant amount written about the philosophy of pairing and recommendations for every beer style, the best way to really understand the interplay of flavors is through hands-on experience.
It’s been a year since we moved to Colorado. As an appropriate anniversary marker, I published my first article about my new local beer scene on the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado. While I’m still getting to know all of the breweries, this year’s World Beer Cup gave me 37 reasons to be proud of my new home.
I love participating in a good alcohol-related event, especially as someone who designs and runs my own.
As a special treat to ourselves, J and I took a break from beer to explore Italian wines and vinting at a local wine-making and homebrew shop, Fermentations (disclosure: I occasionally work at the shop). Overall, the event was social, educational, hands on, and well thought out.
Here’s why it worked:
* The groups are small, only 4-6 couples. As a result, you can not only see everyone around the table, there’s an opportunity to talk with everyone over the course of the 2-hour tasting. Half of the people at our event were return customers.
* The hosts, Tim and Brenda, were knowledgeable about Italian grape varietals, the bottles they served, and wine making in general. They were even able to answer my more technical questions. It always feels like a great value when I can really learn something at an event like this. Talking points alone don’t cut it for me.
* Although each of these wine-experience events focuses on a region (in our case, Italy), the samples are diverse. We tried 11 different Italian wine styles, and a side-by-side tasting of commercial and homemade versions for 2 of them. Each wine was chosen based on whether or not a similar wine-making kit was available. As a result, there were only 2 whites in this flight, but the reds varied in fruit character, body, and dryness. There was something for everyone’s taste.
* Nearly every wine was paired with food. Not only did this help to illustrate the wines’ versatility, it also helped keep us from over-indulging on empty stomachs. Smart.
* Not just an excuse for drinking and eating, each couple got to choose a wine they wanted to make. J and I chose an amarone. As a brewer, I particularly appreciated this bit of hands-on experimenting to expand on what I learned from the tasting. As a bonus, we’ll trade wines with the other attendees on bottling day. We’ll bring home a nice mix of 5 different styles.
A good event benefits attendees in a variety of ways. Based on my experience as an event organizer, most customers are happiest when they not only have fun, but feel like they gained knowledge and experienced something unique. This event accomplished that. As a result, I’m likely to be one of the return customers at the table for the next event.
I’m excited to be running a beer palate class tonight at Peaks Place Coffeehouse. It’s a cool format that’s different from what I’ve done before.
During the hour-long class, I’ll discuss the proper way to taste beer and explore the roles of malt and hops in producing the flavor profiles we enjoy. To experiment with this, participants will have a flight of 4 beer styles from Elevation Beer Co. along with samples of a malt and a hop from each of the recipes. We’ll drink the beer then look at what the 2 highlighted ingredients bring to the recipe.
Local homebrew shop, Fermentations, was kind enough to supply the ingredients that I need. I chose samples of 2 base malts and 2 specialty malts. We’ll taste each whole and also create a tea with some coarsely crushed grain in order to understand the color, aroma and flavor each malt contributes. For the hops, I chose 2 European varieties and 2 American varieties. Besides just discussing the aroma, I dry-hopped some light lager to help us explore the flavor each hops provides.
It’s been a lot of fun to prepare for this class. I look forward to meeting my enthusiastic group tonight!
Homebrewers that enter or participate in competitions likely know that the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) released new Beer Style Guidelines in May. I had the opportunity to test run the new guidelines a few weeks ago in a “summer beer” competition associated with the county fair. Here are my thoughts. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, J and I attempted our first brew day since we moved to Colorado. I chose a saison, thinking it would be a fairly forgiving style. Not only were we using newish equipment in a new space, we’re also 6,700 feet above sea level, where water boils at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. To prepare for brewing in our new environment, we conducted a hot water test to walk through the process and we researched the affects of a low boiling temperature on the brewing chemistry. However, first-hand experience is always the best teacher.