Thanks to Kathleen Pierce for this guest post from an Event I wanted badly to attend but couldn’t make happen.
If my coaster could talk it would ask, why are you in beer school on a Monday night?
As Portland becomes more and more beer-focused, classes like Rising Tide’s sensory training workshop will be equivalent to voluntary CPR class.
I’m convinced that, like wine, you don’t have to know much about ale to enjoy a brewery event. Though the off-sensory training held last month and again Monday night is more serious (if a tad geeky). It requires quiet contemplation, pen and paper and sniffing, whirling and pitching suds into buckets.
All the ingredients you sample make beer bad.
There I was pen in hand, saltine crackers and water at the ready trying to pick out the nuances between diacetyl, isoamyl acetate and a host of other beer “flavors” I couldn’t pronounce. The point is not to make yourself sick (or long for a Pabst Blue Ribbon), but train your palate to know when beer frankly sucks.
“It helps teach you to approach it critically,” said Haley Campbell, the brewery’s director of quality control, who runs the class. “It brings more of the craft of beer to the forefront.”
After each sample, a concentrated vial is passed. Inhale deeply to be sure you never come in contact with these fowl aromas again.
Brewers may look like the ones having the most fun, but turning out stellar batch after stellar batch is a scientific wonder.
Everything from a lack of insufficient zinc levels to low aeration to improper boiling can make a beer go from epic and toasty to tasting like “crawl space,” and “junk mail,” as the guys from the Maine Brews Bus rightly termed the flavors we sampled. It’s crucial to sit next to fun-loving beer lovers or this workshop can feel too studious.
The best part is the end. Otto Pizza and a pint of your choice relinquishes all lingering badness in a jiffy.
My first sip of Rising Tide’s Atlantis, a smooth black ale with a subtle kick, was like a religious experience. Now this is beer. Nothing off. Entirely on.
Kathleen Pierce is a BDN staff writer and blogger. Check out Urban Eye at http://pierce.bangordailynews.com.