Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Beer 101

I'm not much of a drinker, even though I can sometimes be partial to French champagne or an occasional wine trail. My brother is a professional beer brewer; I am a competition junkie. Last week, our interests converged when I won an evening of beer tasting at The Malthouse. My partner and I were two of the first graduates of Beervarsity, having 'passed' Beer 101.

The evening was hosted by beer writer and judge, Neil Miller. Neil's a talker, that's for sure. I'd imagine many a tall beer tale has flowed from his lips (or pen) over the years. In fact, the way Neil tells it, beer is largely responsible for civilisation as we know it. In the past, beer was traditionally brewed by the women of the house for their families as it was safer to drink than water. Now brewed on every continent, beer is apparently the third most widely consumed beverage, following only water and tea for the #3 spot. Yes, more beer is drunk around the world than wine or coffee. *gasp*

So, on to the tasting. We got to sample five beers, including a surprise from Neil's own cellar.
  • Tuatara Hefe. This yeast beer was my pick of the evening. Cloudy in appearance, the hefe is sweet and creamy with distinct traces of banana and without a bitter aftertaste.
  • West Coast Marzen. All the way from Westport, this is a German style beer traditionally brewed in March (leading into summer in the northern hemisphere). It has a rich, dark caramel colour and a bitterness resulting from the type of hops used. This is probably an acquired taste.
  • Epic Pale Ale. Epic by name, epic by nature, or so Epic Beer on Twitter would have you believe. This fruity (grapefruit) American pale ale has a pungent smell and lingering bitterness.
  • Tuatara Porter. This dark beer is poured flat (not fizzy) from an English hand pump and its texture thickens as it warms. Gushing with a rich malt flavour, I couldn't honestly taste the promised chocolate - and if anyone is going to hunt out and find chocolate, it's me! Not a beer I'd choose to drink.
  • Neil's special surprise - a chimay brewed by monks in one of just seven Trappist breweries worldwide, vintage circa 2003. This beer had a rich aroma of figs and raisins and tasted more like wine than beer. Magnificent!

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