Prud’homme Beer Specialist, session 5

A draught case study test. AND off-flavours.

Not my night. I did not do well on the draught case study; I was so focused on finishing the chemistry course for my Niagara College application that I forgot about it until Tuesday afternoon. It really is too late to try and cram at that point. Sigh. I’m so glad that I’m almost done trying to learn a year-long course in two months. It will be nice to get my life back.

And what can be said about the off-flavours? It’s not like anyone ever says they enjoyed making their taste buds unhappy. It was very educational though. I know that the sensory evaluation is the one part that I working hardest to learn, and it was good to set the tastes and smells of worse-case scenarios in my head for reference. The smell of skunky and the taste of DMS will never leave me. It was a bad night to have sushi beforehand though – I had to stop at Shopper’s on the way home to get something to soothe my strained digestive system.

There was some beer tasting done as well, thankfully before the off-flavours. Two things stood out – the marked difference between a beer in a bottle and the same beer in a can (the Pilsner Urquel below) and how the cleanliness of a glass can completely change the experience. During one of the tastings, everyone was going on about sweet malt notes they were picking up in the aroma; me, all I got was iron and blood.  I thought I was losing it until I checked against Hank’s glass and smelled the same appetizing aromas that everyone was describing.

Sensory Evaluation

Style - Pilsner, Cans vs. BottlesPilsner Urquell, 4.4% - bottlePilsner Urquell, 4.4% - can
Appearanceclear, light straw, light head that fades quicklyclear, light straw, head takes a bit longer to dissipate.
Aromacrisp, maltmetallic
Tastemalt, slight bitterness lingersfaint biscuit, hops
Finishmore impact & carbonation than canlow impact, watery, smooth
Style - BelgianMill St. Belgian Wit, 5%Cheval Blanc, Belgian wheat, 5%
Appearancepale lemon, cloudy, slight headcloudy, lemon meringue
Aromalemon, bubble gum, cloves, coriandermetallic - copper, bubble gum, cloves
Tasteherbal, lemon, pear, spiced apple, more spice than fruit
Finishfruit forward, soft, fizzylonger, thicker mouthfeel
Style - Paulaner, 5.5%Denison Weisbier, 5.3%
Appearancecloudy, apricot, lots of cream-coloured headcloudy, dark lemon
Aromabanana, bubble gum, clovejuicy fruit, spice
Tastesweet biscuit, spicebready, cracker
Finishdoesn't linger, fizzy, smooth mouthfeelfinishes dry, coriander lingers

Cooking class

As well as the regular classroom sessions, the Prud’homme Beer Specialist level includes a cooking with beer class, held last night at Aphrodite Cooks.

I met one of my classmates, Jen of Ltd. Supply, at her house before heading to the kitchen. She opened several of their homebrews for me to try:

  • Mint Condition, a chocolate stout with an oh-so-subtle mint flavour imparted from fresh mint added during fermentation
  • Have Your Carrot Cake and Drink It Too, made with carrots and spices. It tasted fantastic, but alas had no carbonation.
  • Midnight in the Pumpkin Patch, a dark beer made with farmhouse saison yeast. Lots of great warm spice notes, cinnamon and nutmeg, with the pumpkin coming in quietly at the end.
  • Reporter Coffee Porter – I haven’t tried this one yet, she gave me a bottle to bring home that’s now waiting for me later this weekend!

And as if that wasn’t enough, she cracked open their bottle of Utopias and poured me a wee dram in a snifter. I soon lost myself in the smell of fruitcake and caramel – it was like smelling my Grandma’s Christmas pudding with her home made butter caramel sauce. It solidified my desire to get a bottle of my own next year.

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Having given ourselves a nice head start, we took a cab to the class where we were promptly given a glass of Grolsch as we waited for a few class members to arrive. It was difficult to taste anything in the Grolsch after the dark beers, but I enjoyed the thirst-quenching aspect of it.

Shortly, we were split into groups to make a salad, soup, entree and dessert. It was great to be in an informal setting to talk and exchange stories with the people I don’t usually sit beside. There were many laughs, and I enjoyed talking to Jen, Hank ( a home brewer), Kait who is a wine sommelier, Shawn, one of the guys behind Old Flame Brewing in Port Perry, and, well everyone. I miss the interactions of teaching and work, and admittedly get a bit chatty as soon as I get out of the house. Actually there was more talking and laughing than cooking – huge thanks to Vanessa of Aphrodite Cooks for her attention to detail.

Our menu consisted of:

  • Onion and lager soup, made and served with Grolsch
  • Green salad with a witbier Roquefort dressing, made and served with Hoegaarden
  • Pork with apricot wheat beer and paprika, made and served with St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat
  • Poached pears with vanilla ice cream, made and served with St. Bernardus Abt 12.

While everything was delicious and offered some interesting tastes in terms of complement and cut, I have to say it was the dessert course that stuck with me the most. Definitely be making it at home.

US vacation, the beer version

My beloved and I had planned our 10th anniversary vacation back in April, before I was let go from my job of 12 years, before my life was turned upside down. I had thought a few times about cancelling it due to my change in finances, but am glad that Keith convinced me otherwise. We had not gone anywhere together for almost a year when finally got on the plane in December, and it was time to reconnect. Actually, getting on the plane was a bit touch and go – we left on the day of the ice storm. After two cancelled flights and 4 long lines, we got on one of the only flights out of Toronto.

I had thought about what beer to try while in the states. I had flipped through Stephen Beaumont’s book, The Pocket Beer Guide, that I had got during Cask Days, but hadn’t made any notes or thought of any must-haves. I decided to just see what happened along our travels.

Route

And travel we did. This odd butterfly shape covered over 3600 kilometers of some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.

Grand Canyon Brewery Sunset Amber Ale

The first day was spent getting supplies and getting out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. We arrived around 3:30, just enough time to check into our cabin and go watch the sunset over the rim only a few paces away.

grand canyon

It seemed appropriate to order a Sunset Amber Ale by Grand Canyon Brewery to accompany my dinner. It hit the spot, but like my dinner, there was nothing that made it unique or noteworthy. It had a pleasant sweetness, but was a bit milder/lighter than I was expecting. Very drinkable.

Grand Canyon Brewery Starry Night Stout

Monument Valley was the next stop, where we stayed at The View Hotel on Christmas Eve. Highly recommend this place – staff was friendly, food was hearty, and of course, the views are fantastic.

We sat bundled up on the balcony after dinner, and watched the sun go down. The hotel is dry as it’s on the reserve, but I’d bought a few bottles of interesting beer before leaving the Grand Canyon. I opened the Starry Night Stout and sipped it from a plastic cup while watching  the stars pop out in a crisp, clear sky.

monument valley

It poured nice and dark, with minimal foam. It had a great smokey/molasses nose, which carried through to the taste. It had the right balance for me, and had a minimal bitter aftertaste.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Christmas Day found us meandering to Zion Mountain Ranch near Zion National Park, where we had booked a cabin. Ten years before, we had had our best and most memorable Christmas dinner at their fledgling restaurant, the Buffalo Grill. We know you can’t recreate a magical moment, but we wanted to make a new one. The three course prix fix Christmas dinner was delicious and completely overshadowed any beer I might have had with it. I thought about taking notes, but was enjoying the evening with my guy too much.

After dinner, we walked back to our cabin in the dark with the stars to guide us. And the flashlight app on our phone – it was still too dark  even with the incredible display of stars reflected on snow.

The cabin had a feature I couldn’t wait to try out – a huge claw-footed Jacuzzi tub! I filled it with bubbles, poured myself the Midas Touch I had bought at the Grand Canyon and listened to Soma.fm’s Groove Salad while Keith made a fire in the fireplace. I don’t know what your description of heaven is, but this was pretty close to mine.

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I did not take a photo of the bubble filled tub, the candles and Christmas lights arranged on the window sill or of the beer. I was too busy enjoying the moment to be pulled out of it. You’ll have to imagine it.

The Midas Touch was amazing, a perfect beer to celebrate with. Smelled of grapes and malt with the faintest saffron undertone. Sweet and dry, with the initial honey flavour giving way to fruit and a hint of spice. I was disappointed when it was gone, but not sure how much more I could drink in a sitting; I think the sweetness could get a bit cloying after a while.

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Gratuitous photo of our morning view – buffalo grazing outside our cabin window with the cliffs and valleys of Zion National Park in the background. Definitely a life-is-good moment.

Shock Top Belgian White

No meandering the next day as we bolted for the coast to drive the Pacific Highway. Interstates are not fun, but the conversation was great, the audio book, Ready Player One, was engaging and the the road snacks were plentiful. We got to San Luis Obispo just after sunset, and headed downtown for dinner. They had a major street closed off for a farmer’s market, and we bought oranges, home made hummus and pita, and locally grown nuts before heading in to Mo’s Smokehouse for ribs.

The choice of beer was between Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Shock Top’s Belgian Wheat – I went with the Belgian as I felt a lighter, brighter beer would go down better. The Shock Top Belgian Wheat seemed to have more citrus going on than in other Belgian wheat beers I’ve tried, but it worked to counter-balance the sweetness of the bbq sauce on the ribs.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve

What a day! Sunny and warm with incredible views as we drove along the Pacific Ocean. We stopped to walk along beaches, look at elephant seals, and have a picnic lunch while listening to the waves crash beside us. It took us all day to go only 375 kilometers, ending at Half Moon Bay just south of San Francisco. We got there just in time to catch a brilliant sunset and watch the surfers race to get one more wave in before it got too dark.

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Dinner was take-out pizza that was surprising good, and a bottle of Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. The tasting notes on the bottle promised “a roasty, malty flavor and a hoppy spruce finish”. What I got was an off-flavour mess that tasted of imitation butter and pine. Not pleasant. Disappointed, I poured it down the sink and got a Coke from the vending machine in the lobby.

Indian Wells Brewery Orange Blossom Amber

Back on the interstate to head east toward Death Valley. It was a bit surreal to be driving through the green lushness of the growing region of California and have it turn to arid desert by just going over one mountain pass. We stayed the night in Ridgecrest, home of a naval base in the middle of the desert, speaking of surreal. We decided on steak that night, and were recommended a place called Caseys within walking distance from our hotel.

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On a whim, I ordered the Orange Blossom Amber. It poured an almost neon orange colour, the colour of C-Plus pop. The comparison to orange soda did not end there. Both the smell and taste were of over-powering sweet orange that would have been better as a dessert beer than with dinner. Even then, it might still be too much. Not to my taste at all.

Lindemans Framboise

The last day was a warm and dry drive through Death Valley and back to Las Vegas. After a dinner so memorable I can’t even tell you where it was much less what it was, we headed back to our spa suite at Mandalay Bay to pack and relax on our last night of vacation. While Keith watched Family Guy in the main room, I drew a bubble bath in the huge spa tub, poured myself a glass of the last bottle of beer in our cooler and watched a Harry Potter movie. Yes, a tv in the bathroom. I was very careful not to drop the remote control in the tub.

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I have to admit, I really prefer a bit of tart or sour more often than not. The Framboise was a treat for all my senses – I loved the deep raspberry red colour of the beer in the glass with the faintly pink head. The smell of tart raspberries fills the glass, with little or no discernible malt or hops tones. The taste is all nicely tart/sour fruit – Granny Smith apple to start followed quickly by the ripe raspberry.

Perfect end to a perfect vacation.

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,