Awhile ago, on a trip to Baltimore with a bunch of city leaders, I was outed as a beer guy.  After all of the different meetings about how Baltimore got so cool, the bunch of us headed to Fells Point looking for a fun evening. As you might guess I don’t particularly fit into the typical bar scene. Loud music, smoky rooms, frozen glasses, and dirty draught lines just don’t ding my dong, if you know what I mean.  

I quickly became antsy and, after announcing I was on the hunt for a good beer bar, left with about half a dozen city officials in tow. It took nearly an hour but we did find a good spot and spent the rest of the evening sampling some fine pints with me as the guide, coach, nudge, whatever. As we wandered back to the hotel a couple hatched this idea of forming a club, The Club, whose meetings would exclusively be guided beer tastings (you can see where this is going already. Right readers?) during which political discussions were forbidden.

For over a year, every six or eight weeks, I lead about a dozen people on a tour of beers. I’ve looked at styles. I’ve done European/American comparisons. I’ve showed off a wide range of odd ingredients.  I’ve even put together a collection of big beers.

When I did the event last month, I thought to use it as a forum for exploring rather than exhibiting.  Could I toss out some ideas and see if, after nearly a year, the club members could get into a dialogue about the beers?

Here are the beers for the February event:

Opening beer:

Bad Penny Brown Ale, Big Boss Brewery,Raleigh, NC

(Just a wonderful beer for socializing over. Close to the session beer definition, it has a lot of caramel in the beginning with a fair bit of hop finish in the end.)

First Pairing

Allagash Fluxus 2008, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME

Left Hand Terra-Rye-Zd Black Rye Lager,Left Hand Brewery, Longmont, CO

(They were out of the Allagash, so I substituted a Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, co-brewer of the Left Hand beer, in a vein attempt to highlight what rye could contribute to the taste.  I took a stab at a slight hint of sourdough flavor.)

Second Pairing

Odd Notion, Magic Hat Brewery, Burlington, VT

Dogfish Head Black & Blue, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE 

(Here I was a bit of a smart aleck. The Odd Notion, a Pils, has some agave and blue poppy seeds in it and the Black & Blue, a Golden Belgian Ale, is laced with blackberries and blueberries.  Of course all four flavors were noticed as soon as they were named (odd quirk, that). Again, language.  Some of these words, agave for example, are the descriptor themselves.)

Third Pairing

Ommegang Rouge, Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY 

Kasteel Rouge, Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck, Ingelmuster, Belgium

(Now I was getting silly.  The Ommegang threw out a lot of sour cherry, with some woody background.  The Kasteel delivered a lot of the same, but heading more towards the sweeter end of sour cherries.)

Fourth Pairing

Sierra Nevada Smoked Imperial Porter, Sierra Nevada Brewery, Chico, CA 

Foothills Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewery, Winston-Salem, NC

(I originally wanted a bunch of chocolate beers to compare the use of nibs in Foothills with, say, the Cadbury in Young’s Double Chocolate, but no such luck.  Therefore, I thought to put the dry nibs up against some smoked dark malts and see how they compared.)

In conclusion, I really, really, really need to find a way to capture information in the moment and I really, really, really need to find a way to conduct research on my own, someplace quiet. Writing would work.

By the way, I’m off to Siebel next week for the short course on beer tasting.  Should be fun.