Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

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New Beer and Cider!

After several months on sojourn, I came back in May 2011 with this post concerning some new beer and some rather delicious ciders! The latter were largely the result of us attending the Wassail celebration over at the Sea Cidery, which is just a short drive/bikeride away from us. In fact, there are two local cideries in our area, both of which are infinitely reachable. The second is mentioned here and is also a very good purveyor of ciders: the Merridale Cidery. Too bad they’re not within walking distance, that’d be really ideal! But I digress… Here’s the post:

Hello again! Boy, its been awhile since I reviewed any beer, which is surprising considering that I haven’t exactly been slowing down with the sampling lately. In fact, just the other week-end, my darling girl and I went to an IPA/cider/wine sampling party. Our generous hosts arranged the whole thing, with finger foods, multiple selections of each, and we even graded them and gave out prizes to whomever brought the winning selection.

Guess who won the award for best IPA? Do I need to ask? I mean, c’mon, read the title! Beer Snob, that’s who! And my entries were two favorites, Spinnakers IPA and Howe Sound Devil’s Elbow IPA. Both excellent ales in their own right, one lighter and infinitely drinkable, suitable for food pairing and the uninitiated; the other stronger and hoppier, floral in both taste and aroma and best when enjoyed on its own.

But there were other vintages that I think need some honorable mention. For instance, in terms of cider, we were treated to a series of local favorites, many of which came from either Merridale Cidery or Sea Cider. From the former, the Traditional Cider was the entry, and it was a big hit. This dry, smooth cider is a fine example of… well, traditional English cider! Not much more to say. And from the latter cidery, the party guests were treated to a taste of Pippins. This is a more sweet and scrumpy cider, named after the principal type of apple used to make it. I don’t believe this one won Best Cider, but dammit it should have! What didn’t make it in the lineup, but very well could have had my darling and I been able to show some restraint, was Sea Cider’s seasonal cider known eponymously as Perry. Like all perry ciders, its made from pears rather than apples, and the result in this case is a very dry, effervescent drink that’s perfect when paired with snacking foods like sharp cheeses and salty treats.

More to come, but first, I must review the names of some recently sampled Kolsch’s and Bitters. See ya soon!

FYI: I never did get around to reviewing Kolsch and bitters. What’s more, I should definitely dedicate some time to the wonderful Sea Cider plant and its products. That Wassail (an Old English tradition, wæs hæil meaning “good health”) was a good time! Oh well, something to do in the future!