Got invited to a great tasting at my good friends Natalie and Larry's house last week. They know a thing or two about beer. They are people after my own heart. They are both avid homebrewers, and Larry is a stalwart collector. He's got an "aging cabinet" and presented our brews in order of intensity and with stinky (read awesome) cheese pairings.
There were many beer knowledgeable women there as well. Go beer chicks! It just goes to show that people are doing beer tasting parties now, the way they used to do wine tastings. This was so much fun and a lot was learned.
One of the great treats of the night was that this party was attended by the very talented Victor Novak, Brewmaster at TAPS Brewery in Brea, CA. I always want to know what makes a brewmaster, so I googled him after our meeting and discovered this gem: "While attending the University of California at Berkeley, two revelations changed Victor's career course: his first taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a dining experience at Chez Panisse." (Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse is one of my personal heroes.)
"Inspired to learn the craft of fine beer making, Victor, a native of Southern California, moved back East and began working at the award-winning Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia. There he apprenticed under a well-respected English Brewmaster who had served as Head Brewmaster of the Grand Metropolitan Breweries in London. Victor spent four years at Dock Street learning the European methods of brewing. He also traveled to Europe five times, researching the unique beer styles and crafting techniques in Britain, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic. He has been brewing since 1992."
Here are some of my favorite beers from the tasting. The first one being one brewed by Victor himself. Yeah!
Taps Brewery Biere de Garde
ABV: about 7.5%
Biere de Garde is a farmhouse style of beer that means "beer to keep or to store." I personally think that it means "beer I'll fight you over," but that's just me. Originally from French Flanders in the northeast, this ale is traditionally brewed in the spring and consumed throughout the summer. Taps describes it as "medium- to full-bodied, amber in color, a bit earthy, a touch acidic, and very drinkable." I say the balance was wonderful and there's nothing like being able to taste and discuss a beer with the person who brewed it. Excellent.
Go to http://www.tapsbrea.com/ for more information.
Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale
We made a couple of bad jokes about this beer tasting like Cleveland. BUT after sampling it....Cleveland must taste pretty good. This fruity pale ale is the bomb. Definite pineapple with vanilla and maple in the nose, but then hoppy bitterness and dryness in the finish, all keeping with the Bavarian Purity Law! (See Reinheitsge-what?).
Go to http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/ for more information.
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe Double IPA
So this is a Double IPA, which means that you are going to get BIG HOPS from this beer. The aromatics from this beer are huge, fresh, piney, grassy (as in p-o-t) and clean. I was expecting to cringe at the bitterness. But this beer has none of the harshness that huge hops can produce. That's because it was brewed exclusively using the specifically developed hop hybrid "Simcoe," According to their website, "this hybrid hops was created to allow maximum aromatic oils, along with low cohumulone(harshness) levels, so that brewers can really load up a lot of 'em in a beer and not have any harshness. Introduced by Weyerbacher in 2005 as a seasonal, this brew has garnered numbers so high on Beer Advocate, and been in such high demand by consumers, that we decided to add it to our year-round line-up in March 2007."
Go to http://www.weyerbacher.com/ for more information.
Dogfish Head Red & White
ABV 10% (yeah!)
This beer is one of Dogfish Head's Limited Addition brews which are made and released once (or just a few times) a year. Red & White was released in February of 2007 and is a big, belgian style Wit (beer brewed with wheat) . Dogfish followed with the addition of the traditional wit flavorings of coriander and orange peel, but then took it a step further and fermented the beer with Pinot Noir grape juice. Then, they fermented a portion of the batch in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels and a portion of the batch in oak staves. Then the beer is blended together and bottled. This beer really is a fantastic balance of a citrusy, spicy, refreshing witbier and a robust Pinot Noir. Yummy yummy yummy in my tummy!
Go to http://www.dogfish.com/ for more information.