Thursday night I participated in continuing my education. My beer education.
You see, I’m using my little run break to do things I normally wouldn’t do… like drink alcohol on a
school work night. If I was training I would have woken up at 4:15 AM on Thursday, and the thought of going to do anything after work, especially one that involved beer and retaining information, would’ve horrified me.
But lucky for me, I am nursing my right IT band. So instead of being a homebody, I joined my friends in a beer class at our local Total Wine store.
I should probably state that I’m not a big fan of IPA’s. In fact, I think most of them taste like perfume or hair dye. Not that I’ve ever tasted either. But I know what they smell like. However, I’m always up for learning and spending time with friends, so I signed up for Total Wine’s ‘Hooray for IPA‘ class.
The class was only $15 and started at 6:30 PM. It was in a small class room towards the back of the store. I’ve never been so excited to learn.
We started off the class learning about hops and moved quickly to how to taste beer. According to our teacher, to truly enjoy a beer, a taster should engage all of his/her senses. From then on, we would analyze all beers by appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. The first three are fine, but quite frankly I don’t like to swish beer around in my mouth. It makes me feel like I need to go brush my teeth immediately.
I was fascinated that IPA (stands for “India Pale Ale”) originated in England during the 1800′s. Pale Ale and Porter we being shipped to the British troops stationed in India, but the 90-day voyage often resulted in the arrival of spoiled beer. So the English started to amp up Pale Ale with higher alcohol and more hops (both natural preservatives) so that the beer could make the voyage. In theory, the troops could then water down this high alcohol beer, but that’s just silly. They drank it as is and just got drunk faster.
We learned the differences between English IPA, Belgian IPA, American IPA, American Double (a.k.a. Imperial) IPA, American Red Ale and American Black Ales. If you’re wondering, the American IPA’s and American Double IPA’s are the most pungent, and my least favorite. A finer beer taster would describe these as “hoppy, citrusy, piney, spicy and medium-bodied.” But I just said, “Ew, this tastes like hair dye or perfume.”
I did, surprisingly, like a couple of the IPA’s and the Black Ales, which I conveniently marked in my workbook with smiley faces (how all beer testers do, of course):
- Old World India Pale Ale (English IPA) – Brewed by BrewDog
- Piraat Ale (Belgian IPA) – Brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
- Diamond Knot India Pale Ale (American IPA) – Brewed by Diamond Knot Brewery
- Hoppy Feet 1.5 (American Black Ale) – Brewed by Clown Shoes
- Pitch Black IPA (American Black Ale) – Brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing Company
The American Black Ales were definitely more my style. I love anything with notes of coffee!
At the end of the class, we got to try two bonus beers, both of which I liked (but only one of which I would buy):
- Hop Strike Black IPA (American Black Ale) – Brewed by Tommyknocker Brewery
- Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale (Smoked Beer) - Brewed by Rogue Ales
I was surprised to enjoy an ale that tasted of smoked
bacon ham and maple syrup, but I won’t ever actually purchase this. I prefer my ham and maple syrup served on a plate.
Overall, we tasted 14 different beers and I can now confirm what I knew before the class: IPA’s are not my fave. That’s okay, now instead of saying “I don’t like IPA’s because they taste like perfume,” I can now say “Oh, they’re just too hoppy for my liking.”
A big shout out to my friends, whom I loved “learning” with, our patient and funny teacher and the pretzels and dump bucket, both of which I took full advantage of.
Have you ever taken a beer or wine tasting class? How did you like it?