I think all too commonly you hear people (forgive me for stereotyping, but usually younger females like myself) say, "I don't like beer!" They - and by they, I mean I - would rather nurse a cocktail with something alcoholic mixed with something fruity and garnished with something equally fruity: something with a more straightforward taste and a more immediate alcoholic buzz. Today, my friends and I resolved to teach each other about beer and the huge varietal potential that beer has, in order to help us break out of the "I don't like beer" mindset with our very own little beer tasting!
Disclaimer: I know next-to-nothing about beer so the stuff that I'm about to rattle off has come to me either from Charlie Lopresto, who wrote the fascinating post on Sixpoint Craft Beer from Cook Out NYC, or from my primitive taste buds, or the Internet. That being said, here is what our beer tasting was like!
First, we got a few mellow-flavored snacks (e.g., unsalted peanuts, pretzels, sesame breadsticks, Melba toast, rosemary crackers, with apricot preserves and honey to drizzle on the various carbs) and water to soak up alcohol or freshen up our taste buds between sips.
Charlie created these genius placemats that gave some information about each of the eight beers we sampled. The drinks were arranged from lightest to darkest in color, and also pretty much order of increasing alcohol content.
Hoegaarden is a very light wheat beer from Belgium. It has notes of coriander, orange peel, and apple. The beer is unfiltered so we noticed that some of our beer, a while after being poured, was cloudy and had a lot of "yeast sediment" in the cups. I found Hoegaarden to be really light, crisp, and pleasant. It was like drinking a bit of slightly carbonated and slightly alcoholic liquid. The Hoegaarden would probably be the best accompaniment to a barbecue on a super hot summer day.
Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat is a darker wheat beer from Colorado. It has a beautiful golden color and is noticeably less opaque than the unfiltered beer prior. It has notes of orange and honey. I actually really enjoyed this beer and I found it to be a highly drinkable, all-purpose beer.
Wells Banana Bread Beer is a fruit ale that smells and tastes exactly like its namesake: banana bread! My friend (hi Laura!) had raved about this beer before and I was eager to try it. From the first whiff, you can get the incredibly fragrant sweet smell of ripe banana. If you close your eyes and hover your nose over this banana bread beer, you just might imagine that you're about to have a rich nutty banana muffin! This beer smells more banana-y than it tastes: the beer is crispy and tingly but the taste of banana is far more subtle, varied, and multi-layered.
Blue Point Toasted Lager is a lager from Long Island. Commercial beers like Budweiser and Miller Light are light lagers, but Blue Point is certainly not one of those commonplace beers. I forgot to take notes on the Toasted Lager (maybe the a-a-a-a-alcohol was getting to me at this point), but Charlie did mention that they make a blueberry beer that I'd love to try.
Flying Dog's Snake Dog is an India Pale Ale (IPA) from Colorado. This beer - whoa! Charlie prefaced our sips by saying it can "knock you on your butt" and described it being hoppy, bitter, complex, zesty, aggressive, mouth-numbing.... This IPA has a bit of a grapefruit aroma in the aroma and in the aftertaste. With this knowledge in hand, we all sipped the IPA and were hit with a wave of bitterness, as promised. I don't think I would have this specific beer again, but it was definitely a quintessential example of an IPA.
Ommegang, a brewery in Cooperstown, NY, has these two Belgian-style ales: Abbey Ale and Three Philosophers. These beers are the "champagne" of beers: complex, high-end, and a bit on the expensive side. The Ommegang Abbey Ale is viscous and dark brown. It is really malty and rich with caramel, fig, and current notes. The Ommegant Three Philosophers Ale has a bit of cherry ale mixed in, lending a wine-like taste. I really enjoyed the unexpected wine/beer combination with the Three Philosophers Ale.
Young's Double Chocolate Stout is a stout (the most famous of which is Ireland's Guinness) from the UK. This beer has chocolate malt, along with real dark chocolate flavors. Though this beer is the darkest, it doesn't have the highest alcohol content. It is a bit sharp and I would have loved it to be a bit creamier, but this was a really intriguing beer! It tasted and smelled primarily of coffee. We attributed this to the roasted flavors of dark chocolate.
At the end, I was really proud of my rainbow array of different beers. I have never had such unique, complex, and delightful beers ever. The rare times I have beer, I've found it to be a chore or obligation. I am very grateful and excited that we had this opportunity to taste and experience something beyond the commercial beers we use for Kings.... And finally, I hope that our beer tasting will inspire others to venture outside their comfort zones to try different beers, different foods, different activities!