Tuesday, October 30, 2007
So this past Saturday evening offered my a test-run into a little possible side project for me. I put together and ran a beer tasting session, and really enjoyed it.
As nerdy as it sounds, my folks held a show at their house for a local potter. My mom is also a potter (with a degree in fine arts/ceramics from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit) and has a shed in the yard where she throws pots (all joking aside). They invited a very talented local potter, Jon Whitney, who put a beautiful representation of his work on display for purchase. He also borrowed my mom's studio and did a few demos on throwing pots (all jokes aside). Go check out his web site; his art is gorgeous and functional.
To break things up a bit, they offered both a wine and beer tasting. Of course, since I am putting together different programs for beer tastings, they asked me to try it out.
Given the October timeline and theme (lots of German-style food at the party), I figured I'd do a German beer tasting. I chose four very different beers that were different from what everyone thinks of in terms of German beer (Warsteiner, St. Pauli Girl, Heineken): Atwater Brewery's Maibock, Atwater Brewery's Oktoberfest (Bloktoberfest), Paulaner's Hefe Weizen and Ayinger's Celebrator.
This tasting was a come-and-go-as-you-please setup, so I repeated myself a lot. In the future, I'd sort of like to try it all at once. But for a reception-style party, it made a ton of sense to be flexible. As people approached, I did a brief explanation (with a write-up) about the 4 ingredients of beer and their interplay. I also supplied a write-up of each of the 4 beers I brought that was essentially a simplified version of the BJCP guidelines for each of those beers (including appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and overall impression as well as history and commercial examples). Next to each sensory category, I left blanks so people could write their own impressions and the challenge was to see if they could see, taste and smell each of what is prescribed as well as simply be aware of what they are tasting (That's what I tasted...I just couldn't put my finger on it)..
As for order, I began the evening walking people from the Maibock to the Hefe to the Oktoberfest and then the Doppelbock. But part way through it occured to me to swtich it up just a bit. I started people with the Hefe (as the delicate clove and banana esters could go missing if one started with a stronger beer), then the Oktoberfest. Then I gave them the Maibock followed by the Doppelbock on the understanding that a Maibock and a Doppelbock are in the same "family" category in the BJCP Guidelines (a bock is a bock, be it Mai, Doppel, Traditional or Eis) so people could get a sense of the evolution of the bock. People were surprised at some of the similarities between a very light and a very dark beer.
Apparently, my spot was a pretty popular hangout. People left knowing and appreciating just a bit more about various types of beer and at the very least commented that they expanded their horizons of German beer beyond the pilsner.
With one solid tasting under my belt, along with the requisite self-critique of what I could do better, I'd really like to find more opportunities to branch out and do this more often.