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.

photo 2

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.

**********
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.

 

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 1

photo 1This was the first formal class in my beer education. I’ve been reading and drinking, but felt that a more structured framework at the beginning might be best for me.

That’s how I came to be stumbling around outside Great Lakes Brewery in the dark, looking for the door. It might be close to the lights of the highway, but their parking lot still gets pretty dark once they turn the store lights off. I bumped into a few other people in the course, and we found our way up to a space on the second floor.

Roger Mittag, the teacher, is both knowledgeable and engaging, so the time went quickly. Most of this first class was taken up by going over the ingredients and brewing steps. It felt like review after reading Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher, but repetition of  concepts is never a bad thing.

The last half hour was what I had been looking forward to the most – tasting concepts. It’s easy to read about aroma and taste, but so hard to put into practice without some guidance. What does banana, coriander or biscuit really smell or taste like in a beer? Expanding my knowledge about my palate and developing the language to describe it are going to be critical in this pursuit of a job in the beer industry.

I liked the group dynamic, being able to talk through the aromas and tastes. My notes on what we tried:

  1. Sleeman Cream Ale – Colour: golden, clear. Aroma: grape/wine. Flavour: low impact, slight biscuity/grain taste
  2. London Pride Pale Ale – Colour: clear honey, off-white foam. Aroma: toffee, apple, fig, honey. Flavour: low impact, slight nutty/grain taste, like grandma’s walnut bread.
  3. Guinness – Colour: black with ruby hints. Aroma: coffee, burnt oatmeal, molasses, smoke. Flavour: molasses, smokey campfire.
  4. Great Lakes Crazy Canuck – Colour: gold, hazy. Aroma: heavy citrus, pink grapefruit pith. Flavour: grapefruit peel. I had a real problem with this one. A sinus infection was making itself known and the headache was making me feel nauseous. It was all I could do get it down, between that and over-the-top (for me) grapefruit bitterness. It might be a while before I can drink anything like this again.

I took the transit home with two of my classmates, Jen from Ltd Supply Kitchen Brewery, a blog I’ve been reading for a while, and another Jen, this one from Beerlicious, the event group behind the Toronto Beer Festival and the Ontario Brewing Awards.

It was great to talk to women interested in beer as much as I am. I’m looking forward to more conversations.

Beer Day

Started my day with this announcement on Twitter:

 

1) Making Beer

Truthfully, I am not sure how this batch is going to turn out. You can only read so much about a new endeavour before you jump into it, but I think I would have benefitted from having someone experienced in home brewing on my speed-dial for the day. I tried not to over-think it, but that proved near impossible.

I made the White House honey ale that I ordered with the one-gallon brewing kit from TorontoBrewing.ca. It’s an all grain kit; I wonder if it would have been better to try an extract first.

It went great (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself). There were a few hiccups that have me questioning whether it will work or not.

  1. my thermometer broke. I was watching a bunch of YouTube videos, and a lot of the guys were using a cooking thermometer like this one that we used for our turkey, so I thought hey, why not. It would be easier to read and monitor than the glass mercury one that came with the kit. However, it went crazy at some point and now reads over 200F when at room temperature. Thankfully, I had the glass one to switch in, but I have no idea what happened before I did.
  2. there was no hot break. I drained the grain bag, turned up the heat under the kettle and waited, but got nothing even remotely resembling the pictures or videos I’ve seen. I did a quick Google search, and it doesn’t appear that it will wreck the batch, but I’m kind of disappointed to not see it.
  3. the stuff is boiling happily and it’s time to add the bittering hops with the finishing hops coming in after the hour-long boil. However, I have one package of hops. Cue over-thinking. Did I miss one when I opened the grain package? is it still in the grain bag? Yes, I did open the grain bag up and sift through the contents to find nothing. I did more Googling which confused me even more. Luckily, the guys at TorontoBrewing.ca answered their phone on a Sunday. “Use half now, half later.” Or at least I think that’s what he said. Hope so…that’s what I did anyway.
  4. I was very careful about sanitizing everything that came into contact with the post-boil liquid. Except, as I realize now, the thermometer that I used to check the temperature during the cool-down, the thermometer that I rested on the wet counter every single time. Sigh.

Now I wait.

2) Writing about beer

Ta da!

3) drinking beer

This Vanilla Porter from Mill Street is quickly becoming my go-to beer. And it goes really well with vanilla johnny cake.

photo

 

Fall Beer and Cider Fest

I’m going to have to revise my usual refrain of “I never win anything in contests”. Thanks to Canadian Beer News, I won two VIP tickets to the Fall Beer and Cider Fest at the Rhino!

I took my friend Daniel, and we set ourselves at the bar to try some beer and cider, talk technology and generally kill a Sunday in a wonderful way.

I started with the West Avenue Barrett Fuller’s Secret Bourbon-Barrel Aged Cider, and was very impressed. I’m not normally a big fan of ciders, but I did like the smooth warm notes that bourbon barrel imparted on it.  I moved to another warm spice taste, Granite’s The Chai Wallah Has A Moustache Oatmeal Stout. I don’t know if my tastes, or because it’s autumn, but I am really liking stouts and porters these days.

Next was Flying Monkey’s Rubus Acerbi American Wild Raspberry. This reminded me of the tart wild raspberries that grew behind the cottage we rented every year when I was a kid, where my friend Sandi and I would run wild for a few weeks and explore the edges of our world.

I followed this with another beer that seemed interesting, Beau’s Smoking Banana Peels Rauch Weissbier. I think the nicest thing I can say about it was that it was not to my taste. I got an aroma of smoked fish from it that I could just not get past. I tried the old smelly-cheese trick of holding your breath until I get a sip in my mouth to see if I could enjoy it without the smell overpowering me, but it was still too much. This interests me, as my friend Daniel also got the smoked fish, but other people I’ve spoken with had a totally different experience. I might re-visit this one again once I have a better understanding of my palate.

The last one of the night was the Nickel Brook Pie-Eyed Pumpkin Ale. I liked that the taste was more about the pumpkin and less about the pumpkin spice.

At this point we had to skedaddle and head to another event. A huge thanks to the Rhino for hosting, and for Canadian Beer News for the tickets! It was a great way to spend a Sunday!