Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 4

Monday was the last session of the Beer Enthusiast level of the Prud’homme courses. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I signed up for the next level, Beer Specialist, even before writing the test.

We started the class with an overview of putting the right beer with the right food. This is a concept that I’d like to delve into more. Roger talked about the three C’s – complement, cut and contrast. A few examples were given, but this was just a small fraction of a bigger topic.

The next topic was about cooking with beer. Honestly all I could think about through this whole section was the glorious smell that fills the apartment every time I make the Guinness-braised steak and vegetable stew! Next thing I want to try is to bake with it; I’m definitely having a go at the vanilla porter cupcakes, if I can refrain from drinking the vanilla porter first. Man, that stuff is good. I’m not the only one to think so either, going by the empty spot on the shelves in my local LCBO.

20131127-200705.jpgWe also had two separate tastings. The first was Belgian beers, and I think I fell a little in love with #3.

  1. Dupont Saison
    Appearance: cloudy, straw
    Aroma: a bit skunky, sour, spice like Blanche de Chambly
    Flavour: boozy, lemon pepper, pickle, citrus pith aftertaste
    Finish: sharp champagne dryness
  2. Leffe Blonde
    Appearance: clear (filtered), rich gold
    Aroma: light apple
    Flavour: apple, bubble gun, cream soda at finish
    Finish: lots of sharp bubbles, sweet finish.
  3. Trappist Rochefort 8
    Appearance: hazy brunette, beige foam
    Aroma: vanilla, caramel, eastern spice (garam masala, cardamom, 5 spice powder), a bit like the Redpath sugar barn
    Flavour: boozy, chocolate, molasses
    Finish: tingle.burn from the alcohol
  4. Chimay Tripel
    Appearance: cloudy, pineapple gold, creamy foam
    Aroma: banana, apple
    Flavour: bubble gum, pear
    Finish: carbonated/fizzy, citrus pith at end

And there was more! Next there were three rounds of food and beer pairing, two beers with 2 kinds of food in each round. My notes are a bit of a scribble (I think I was too busy enjoying it all), but I know it was a real eye-opener. Some of the pairings really worked, others not so much.

Round 1: Fat & Protein.
Jever Pilsener and Amsterdam’s Downtown Brown with spring roll and prosciutto. The Jever worked really well with spring roll, but turned sour and metallic with the prosciutto. The spring roll took away away all the warm nutty flavours of the Downtown Brown while the prosciutto was enhanced by it.

Round 2: Cheese.
Steamwhistle and Trois Pistoles with Beemster and Danish blue. I’m not a fan of Steamwhistle on it’s own, but it both cut and complemented the Beemster nicely and brought out some nutty flavours. It completely disappeared with other cheese – it just couldn’t compete with the blue cheese. The Trois Pistoles didn’t do much for the Beemster, but really brought out some of the underlying sweetness of the blue while taming a bit of the harshness.

Round 3: Dessert
London Porter and Mort Subite Framboise with almond chocolate pudding and chocolate covered cheesecake. Let’s just say that pudding and porter don’t go together and leave it at that. Porter really does go with the cheesecake, the richness of both the beer and the dessert met someplace warm and lovely. The cheesecake was too much for the Mort Subit; one of the guys observing likened it to a Viva Puff. You don’t get enough of the raspberry in those either. The Mort Subit did work well with the pudding by cutting the sweetness and enhancing the chocolate flavour rather than fighting with it like the porter did.

Oh and there was the test. 40 multiple choice and 20 incredibly easy fill-in-the-blanks. I know I got 3 wrong (it’s impossible to escape the inevitable post mortem), and I’m sure I got a few others wrong. All in all, I’m sure I’m good to go for the next session.

At least two others from my session will be joining me at the next one, Jen from Ltd Supply and Jen from Beerlicious. I’m very glad, as we seem to have clicked and it’s great to have a few like-minded women around to go and drink beer with!

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 3

After we got the quiz out of the way (9 out of 10 on this one,TYVM), we did a quick tour of Great Lakes Brewery. This was my fourth tour of a working brewery, and took some photos and notes to compare to those taken at my other tours.

They had just brought in their new copper vessel, and were roughing in the placement of the dials and lines with cardboard cutouts. I wish I could have shown this picture to some of my past students – do mock-ups and rough things in first, it will save time and headache later!

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It’s not a big brewing space, but there was a area for the experimental brews, and the fermentation and ageing cellars are enormous by comparison.

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A lot of this class was spent looking at draught systems. I was surprised to see that it accounts for only 9% of beer sales across Canada; I’d always thought it more. Roger went on to explain that it used to be more, 12% in 1997, but when the economy goes bump, people will cocoon and drink at home rather than go out to bars.

We looked at draught systems (CO2, beer mix, mixed gas and air compressors), and went through some troubleshooting flow charts to help diagnose issues. I love flowcharts – I’m a geek, what can I say?

I shuddered to remember how some of the places I waitressed in treated their draft. Like the Bar That Shall Remain Nameless, where we always had so many complaints about the draught. It’s no wonder; it was run by an air compressor that lived in the musty basement beside the bathrooms. Ick.

After we were grossed out by worse case draught scenarios, it was time for the tasting – wheat beers this time!

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  1. Blanche de Chambly, Belgian wheat. I do love this one.
    Appearance: cloudy, buttery gold, lemon meringue pie, creamy head
    Aroma: clove from the coriander, citrus
    Flavour: spice, lemon peel
    Finish: lots of carbonation
  2. Hacker Pschorr, German
    Appearance: cloudy, honey
    Aroma: banana
    Flavour: mild citrus, Juicy Fruit gum
    Finish: smoother, not as carbonated
  3. Erdinger Dunkel Weisse, German
    Appearance: chocolate/mahogany coloured
    Aroma: Banana bread (faint)
    Flavour: banana bread, walnut, caramel (later)
  4. Weihenestphaner Weissenbock, German
    Appearance: cloudy, butter
    Aroma: boozy, sharp
    Flavour: bubble gum, spiced apple, banana
    Finish – thin bubbles,

 

 

Bottling day

I’m not sure what I expected when I opened up the pail that had been under for my counter for two weeks. I think I’d built up my errors in my head so much that I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a pail of green mold.

Thankfully, there was no mold. What I found instead was a liquid the colour of dark honey that smelled of windfall apples that have fermented on the ground of the orchard, yeasty and sweet. It smelled so good. This, I thought, is not the smell of something that has gone bad. It made me hungry.

20131117-180413.jpgI watched more videos on YouTube about bottling. I read the instructions that came with the kit and got everything ready. 

Everything got sanitized, including the counter. I cleaned and sanitized six of the 750ml swing-top bottles I’d gotten from Three Brewers, but it turned out I only needed three. I think I was a bit short on the liquid I’d poured into the pail, and then I had a small mishap with the siphon; I thought it was in the bottle, but it was actually sending everything right down the sink.

Sigh.

So in the end, I have three 750ml bottles of what will hopefully be White House Honey Ale. I am (im)patiently waiting for the first taste test in two weeks.

I’m also planning my next batch; the Mocha Stout from True Brews looks pretty good. I’ve researched it and can get all the beery ingredients from Toronto Brewing, I just need to get a grain mill as inexpensively as possible from somewhere. The recipe also calls for cocoa nibs, which means I’ll have to make another visit to Soma Chocolate. Always good to have an excuse to head there!

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Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 2

We started this class with a quiz. I had read over the workbook and my notes briefly, and decided I was good.

I wasn’t. Good thing this one didn’t count.

We spent the first part of the class getting an overview of the history of beer. I found out that the Sumerians had a goddess of brewing, Ninkasi, and learned a bit about the role that monks and religious orders played in brewing. I am intrigued by this intersection of beer and religion, and have requested a couple of books from the library.

Roger also talked about beer culture and glassware, topics that I really skimmed over in Tasting Beer. I think I should revisit it.

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1 through 4, going left to right

It was also the night of lager tasting! Roger had given us a copy of the beer flavour wheel, which certainly helped with the vocabulary.

  1. Miller Genuine Draft
    Appearance: clear, pale straw
    Aroma: apple
    Flavour: almost non-existent
    Finish: I get what dry means now
  2. Pilsner Urquell
    Appearance: clear, golden
    Aroma: coriander, pear, pineapple (?)
    Flavour: biscuity, soda crackers, slight pepper
  3. Kostritzer
    Appearance: root beer, mahogany, brown with red tint
    Aroma: chocolate, cherry, vanilla – Dr pepper
    Flavour: tea w. brown sugar, pumpernickel, black licorice
    Also pointed out – faint wet cardboard smell, oxidation
  4. Holsten Fesbock
    Appearance: clear, sherry-coloured
    Aroma: figs, vanilla, prune
    Flavour: rum, figs, fruitcake > toffee, biscuit > green tobacco

photo 3One of Roger’s former students is observing the class to teach a later session. We had talked about the Samuel Adams Utopias in class 1, and he promised to bring in his empty bottle to show us. Even empty, the aromas that came out of that bottle were heavenly: mellow sherry and dark fruit and oak to name a few. It might be a while before I can afford one, but it has certainly gone on the bucket list.

Why craft beer…

It started with this:

Next thing I know, a very clever woman who I admire very much offers to help me with my LinkedIn profile. She has a great process, and knows the best questions to ask me:

in your crude/ unedited voice;  tell me why craft beer?

I rolled it around in my head, and when I sat down to answer her email, this is what came out.

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First of all there’s my last name, Goodale. My family have always been beer drinkers over anything else; my dad brewed his own, as do my brothers and now me. I might dabble with martinis and mixed drinks, but there has always been at least a half-dozen bottles of amber goodness in my fridge at all times.

As well as the family history with beer, there is the fact that beer is a historical drink, dating back millennia. The older I get, the more I like having touchstones of the past around me. Also, up to a few hundred years ago or so, the production of beer was woman’s work. As a feminist, I like the idea of doing something that has become so male-dominated. I’ve always been drawn to pursuits that women don’t usually go for these days – ie poker, motorcycling, IT and technology.

Craft beer has been undergoing incredible growth in North America the last decade. People are shifting away from the commercially produced pilsners and same-old-same-old, and into a whole new realm of beer styles and tastes. Science is intersecting with creativity in lovely ways. The opportunity for experimentation is huge – at the Cask Days last month, I tried beer brewed with beets, gummi bears, chai spices, chocolate, hot peppers, salted caramel, and fruit like cherries and raspberries and peaches. There are beers out there as sour as vinegar on the first taste and beers as smooth and silky as a sweet velvet on the tongue. People are increasingly looking at making local choices as well. Craft beer is now the quickest growing sales segment in the Ontario liquor stores and craft brewers are popping up everywhere.

It’s a good time to like beer!

I was raised to be a life-long learner, and it excites me to take on new challenges. I am only just beginning to understand how much there is to learn about beer. It’s vast. It’s micro and macro, local and global, historical and modern. I can drink a beer the same way they did in medieval England or I taste a recipe using ingredients they would never have had heard of, much less had access to. I like that there is just so much to it that one really could never learn all there is to know about it, and so many styles that one could really never get bored.

The timing for me is right as well. I would have been quite happy to continue teaching technology. I get technology, and loved finding new ways to get students engaged in, knowledgeable about and ready for a life filled with tech. However, that door has closed, and I am finding out that being a middle-aged woman with no formal education in her chosen field and really no specialized technical skills is not that sought after. I am working on improving my programming knowledge (knowing enough to teach a programming language isn’t necessarily enough to actually make something complex with it), but while I am good with technology, I am increasingly becoming more drawn to make something more concrete with my hands, to create something that people will enjoy. And for the first time in my life, I have the time and support to sit back and really think about what I want to be when I grow up.

And last but not least, as my husband says, Brewmaster Goodale has a nice ring to it.