Thursday, November 4, 2010

Total Beer Tasting

For my father's birthday I thought it would be cool to take him to a beer tasting class that was being offered by our local Total Beverage store, a place where they have a little bit of every kind of beer, wine, and more.

I never know what to call this place because the name has changed 9 times in the last 10 years. I think it's now called Total Wine & More, but it's been Total Beverage, Total Wine and Beer, Total Beer, Wine, and More, and so on. The only thing that has remained the same has been the word Total.

So while they are primarily focused on wine, they also have the single best craft beer aisle anywhere I've ever seen. I have quite a wide range of taste in beers (Ales rule!) and this allows me to experiment and buy single bottles of things I'd like to try. I know it seems like I drink a lot of beer, but in reality, I just like to sample and talk about them. It's a hobby.

Anywho, I saw this advertisement for an actual beer class where they were comparing Old World style beers (European) with New World Style beers (American). My sibs and I are into it, so we thought Dad would like a night out with his kids doing something different with dinner to follow.

It was a lot of fun, actually. They have a classroom built right into the store and at least 50 people showed up. We learned a lot of history of beer making, styles, ingredients and the like. We sampled 12 different styles (samples, not full glasses!) and made notes on things like color, aroma, flavor, carbonation, clarity, and so on.

They had a great spread of hors d'oeurves and palate cleansers like chocolate, cheese and crackers, shrimp, etc. I thought I would completely go for exclusively Old World beers, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was about 50-50 Old vs New.

At the end they had a "bonus round" pairing. The first was Banana Nut Bread Ale which smelled exactly, and I mean exactly like banana nut bread. However, the taste was not, and it was a disappointment. The other half of the pairing was the Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. There was a startled chain of exclamations as each person tasted this one: Wow!  Dark, sweet, and delicious. It's billed as "A very dark beer, brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley." It costs an arm and a leg ($10/bottle), but it's very worth it; it has 18% ABV and 70 IBU. "Dark, rich, roasty and complex, World Wide Stout has more in common with a fine port than a can of cheap, mass-marketed beer."

We followed up our exciting class with dinner at the Dogfish Head restaurant and a few more choice malted selections (try Sah'tea -- tastes like spiced chai beer), and watched the hockey game on the pub TV. Fine food, fine drink, good company.

All in all we had a fine! time. And slept well.

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