Sunday, June 29, 2008

How to Taste A Lot of Beers Without Being A Drunk

Perhaps you have a beer cellar, perhaps you don't. You may be fortunate enough to have a local bottle shop that has an immense selection of beers and it would take you years to taste your way through them all. You might be a brewer or beer writer that is often gifted with a nice selection of homebrew and commercial beers from your patrons, friends and family. Any way you slice there is always the problem of too many beers and too little time.

The solution: Have a tasting party. Invite your friends, have them pull a couple of beers from their secret stash or go to their local bottle shop and buy some. Seek out the rare, exotic or simply that bottle you have been meaning to try. Better yet have your friends bring some beers AND a hunk of cheese.

My friend Jay Brooks suffers from the "problem" of too many beers. Jay writes about beer for many publications as well as the Brookston Beer Bulletin (which is required daily reading as far as I am concerned) so you can imagine that he has quite a collection at his house. The many samples from breweries in addition to purchasing beers from around the world during his travels all add up to over stuffed refrigerators.

I was fortunate to be invited to a tasting at Jay Brook's house for a "fridge emptying party" as his collection had become too immense to be contained by his three refrigerators. Being the world traveler that he is there were many beers that would not be available in the local market adding up to a plethora of rare or otherwise special selections.

To encourage variety and avoid going directly to the cream of the crop Jay devised a method to at least randomize the style that was selected. A simple die was rolled with various colors on each face representing a broad beer style: ale, lagers & hybrids (referred to as "not ale"), Belgian and then one face that granted access to the secret stash where Jay kept some of the more coveted bottles. The roller would select a beer from the category for all to taste. This way you can minimize personal preference a little and have variety in the sequence of beers.

The bottles were shared with the entire group even if it was only an ounce between all the tasters. This isn't a beer review, even though there were several standouts that were a nice blend of beers I have had before, beers I have always wanted to try, and beers I have never heard of. Most, but not all, were good but even those that were questionable either had a remarkable history surrounding the bottle or prompted an educational discussion about brewers practices and flavor sources.

I encourage you to get a group of your friends together, raid your own stash, pick up some beers on your next vacation or by some new beers at a local shop and have one of these tastings. It gives you the opportunity to taste lots of beer (we managed to get through 52), get together with friends and expand your ability to try many, many of the great beers being brewed around the world without being a drunk.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I don't think it's possible to convey the difficulty I had in leaving the tasting early, although the metaphor of escaping a black hole might be close. The method and myriad of tastes Jay made available generated a lot of great stories and educational asides, while challenging the buds in a way that a straight light-to-dark vertical tasting just can't. It was, simply put, an honor to be invited, and a pleasure to meet you there!