Beerpiphanies

Last year my father in law and I attended a Beer & Food pairing put on by Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster.  If you’ve never heard Mr. Oliver speak, I think it is well worth seeking out an opportunity to do so.  In a nutshell, his beer philosophy revolves around the pairing of beer and food and an emphatic plea for people to respect beer (apologies if that is over-simplifying things).  After the session, my father in law generously purchased a copy of Mr. Oliver’s book, The Brewmaster’s Table, for me and I was able to have it signed (and spend a few minutes talking with a genuinely friendly and passionate individual).

Fast forward to last night when I finally started reading the book.  I’ve read bits and pieces here and there when trying to decide what to eat with a certain type of beer, but haven’t gotten around to going toe-to-toe (cover-to-cover?) with this decidedly epic book (at least epic as far as beer books go).  Within the first few pages, Oliver discusses his first experience with real beer—a cask-conditioned ale the color of maple syrup.  He doesn’t recall the name, nor the brewery or even the style.  His recollection of this experience brought to mind my first experience with real beer…my first “beerpiphany.” Continue reading

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Diacetyl ≠ Light-Struck

I don’t know what I was on last week when I wrote my mini-review of Pilsner Urquell.  For some reason I used the word “Diacetyl” referring to the skunky nature of the beer.

Diacetyl is a buttery aroma and flavor that is a natural yeast by product.  Though it would be inappropriate for a Boh. Pils, it is acceptable and often desirable in other types of beer.

Light-struck or “skunky” is a, well, skunky aroma that results when fermented beer is exposed to light (as often happens when packaged in clear or green bottles).  Supposedly some manufacturers WANT a bit of skunk on their beer and have therefore resisted using brown bottles.  Or maybe appearance is more important than quality.  Who knows.

An list of all recognized beer faults is provided by (who else?) the BJCP here.

Anyway, Diacetyl ≠ Light-Struck and the offending error has been deleted from last week’s post.

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Expansion of the Stone Empire Announced

 The Stone Brewing Company, rated as the all-time top brewery by Beer Advocate Magazine, epitomizes the American craft brewing mantra of more, more, MORE!  More IBUs, more gravity, more age….Stone makes big beers.  Now, in addition to their ever-expanding line of regular, seasonal, and limited-release beers and plans to open a brewery in Europe (still in planning), Stone has announced plans to significantly expand their brewery and even open a hotel (plus several other new projects).  Are they planning to take over the world?  Well, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing…would it?

More information here.

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A note about my BJCP tasting flight posts…

It has been mentioned that there might be some confusion regarding my use of the BJCP category and subcategory numbers when referencing beer styles.  If it weren’t for the fact that I’m studying to take the BJCP exam, I wouldn’t be as ridiculously specific when categorizing and reviewing beers or referencing other beer styles/types.  But, since I am, and in order to make things a little easier, I’ve put together a quick set of shortcuts for readers to reference. 

There is a link up at the top of the page next to “About.”  Or you can click here.

There’s also been a question regarding my use of numbers before the name of the beer I am reviewing.  In each case, this is the rank that the BJCP gives each commercial beer example regarding how definitive of the style the beer is.  So if you take this post as an example, Sierra Nevada is considered the #1 commercial example of an American Pale Ale (10A), Stone Pale Ale is the #2 example and Bear Republic XP is #4. 

Here’s a key to illustrate the format of these posts:

10. American Ale (the category)

Subcategory: 10A. American Pale Ale (the subcategory)

1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (commercial examples ranked by how definitive of the style they are)

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BJCP Course – Class #1 (Part 2)

This is the second part of my post on the first BJCP class on May 15.  In the first part, I reflected on the Pilsner tastings.  I might have gotten a little too ambitious with the length of my descriptions, which took longer to write than I expected.  The big downside is that my memory of the second half of that class (Category 10. American Ale…aka: what I am now trying to write about) is fading quickly.

10. American Ale

Beers within this category are kind of the backbone of America’s craft beer culture.  Sure, IPAs, Russian Imperial Stouts, and Wet-Hopped Oak-Aged Imperial Dopplebarleywines might be what everyone talks about…but pint for pint, I think these beers are what most craft drinkers drink on a regular basis and are what define American Ale. Continue reading

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BJCP Course – Class #1 (Part 1)

The first of 11 BJCP classes was held on Sunday May 15.  Chuck, the class leader, started with a brief introduction to the BJCP program, it’s purpose, the format of the exam, the different ranks one can achieve (based on exam score and judging points), and a syllabus for the next 10 classes.  We went over the guidelines for two styles (2. Pilsner and 10. American Ale) and their subcategories.  We then had a tasting session for the two styles. This week was Pilsner and American Ale.

Note: Because of the length of this post (which is much longer than I thought it would be when I started writing) and because I haven’t finished compiling my thoughts on the American Ale portion, I’m going to post this in two parts. Continue reading

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BJCP Course – Intro

BJCP LogoIn order to broaden my knowledge of beer styles and learn how to improve my homebrewing, I have decided to take the Beer Judge Certification Program exam.  The BJCP is the premier beer judging body and its style guidelines and judging process are utilized by the majority of brewing competitions in America.  As it says on the BJCP website, “the purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills.” Luckily, my local hombrewing club (the North Texas Homebrewing Association) is hosting an exam on October 15, 2011 and a study course to prepare exam-takers for the big day.  Chuck, a NTHBA member, has graciously offered to lead the course and has assembled an outstanding array of beers for us to sample during each class.

Over the course of the next 5 months, we will have a total of 11 classes, covering everything from the BJCP process, to water chemistry, to the geography of beer.  At each class, we’ll also taste commercial examples of two beer styles (20 styles total since not all styles have commercial examples).  Unless no one from the class can source a suitable beer, we’re looking at a total of 219 different beers that we’ll taste.  In addition, we’ll taste and mock-judge a homebrew from a club member that fits one of the two styles for the day.

My intent is to chronicle each of these classes, primarily the tastings.  Tasting the premier examples of almost every major beer style back-to-back is a pretty uncommon experience for your average boozer, so this should be quite fun.  Besides, blogging about this will probably help me retain some of the knowledge I am gaining.  Hopefully some of my classmates or anyone else with an opinion will chime in on the tastings.  Stay tuned!

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