The role of beer books (The Session #115)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by Blog Birraire (Joan Birraire in Barcelona) and is on “the role of beer books.

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session. To participate in the current Session just write a comment down here with a link to the article on -or before- September 2nd, so that I can include it on my Round Up.”

05 September 2016: Update posted below

Being me and being about books this is long and perhaps even rambling. Sue me. I’m a reader, a librarian and a cataloger.

The short version: the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place.

First beer books

I doubt that it was my first “beer book,” as I had been collecting beer cans since the age of 12, but I received a copy of Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, 1st US ed. for Christmas 1978. As I was a 19-year-old US soldier stationed in then West Germany, this is the book that first opened my eyes more fully to the world of beer, as it did for many, many others.

Prior to that I was given a copy of Will Anderson’s, The Beer Book; an Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana, 1st US ed. by my parents for my 16th birthday (1975). Somewhere in and around here I also got copies of The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch: an Illustrated History (©1978 so one of my earliest “beer books”) and The Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (©1982), both new. Somewhere in there I also acquired a copy of The International Book of Beer Can Collecting (©1977).

Of course I read all of these books, some, in particular Jackson’s World Guide, several times.

More Recently

For a long time my interest in reading about beer waned as did my can collecting. I am simply ecstatic that I never got rid of any of my early beer books, unlike many other books over the years or like the vast majority of my can collection that was actively worked on for almost two decades. Too many moves. Too many dollars spent on storage. Most of the cans had gone long before we moved to Oregon, although most were shed over a ~20 year period.

Books Owned

More recently since moving to Bend, Oregon my interest in all aspects of beer has been rekindled. According to LibraryThing—which until now has served as my personal catalog—I own 87 books having something to do with beer or brewing, plus there are a couple that aren’t in as they need manual cataloging and I haven’t yet.

Books Read

My Goodreads account has 118 books on my beer shelf. Bouncing that off of the read shelf I show 74 as read, 1 skimmed, 1 gave up on (had a better version), 1 on pause, and 3 currently being read. Many of those would have come from assorted libraries, both public and academic.

My beer blog

My blog is named “By the barrel; or, the Bend Beer Librarian.” Sadly, I have done a poor job at reviewing all of these books. There are many reasons for that, only a few of which are actually good/legit ones. I always strive to do better although I see seven beer books waiting for reviews on my review-these-damned-books-already (physical) shelf next to my desk. There are of course many more that aren’t sitting here needing reviews. Some of those currently waiting are:

  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 4th ed.
  • Amato – Beerology
  • Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide
  • Herz and Conley – Beer Pairing

Others waiting to be reviewed, not directly related to beer but of immense overlap and interest possibly, include:

  • Halloran – The New Bread Basket
  • McQuaid – Tasty

Of course, these are just those books still to hand. ::sigh::

The Role of Beer Books

So what do I consider the “role of beer books”? I may not be much of a reference librarian—my specialty is elsewhere—but as a reader (and a cataloger) that “role” is completely dependent upon the context(s) brought to bear by the reader and cannot really be given much in the way of an answer unless that context is included.

Education

Education is the simple and most relevant generic (and specific) answer. As you can see from just the above list, my personal beer book-enabled education covers a lot of ground from brewing to the history of craft beer to style knowledge to beer and food pairing to almost encyclopedic works and on from there to the revival of craft grain/malt production to the science of taste.

Early spring this year I went on a book buying binge to ensure I had most of the books in the BJCP Judge Certification Program “BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide” [see pg. 3-4] as I was involved in a 12-week tasting exam prep class and hoping to take the tasting exam [I did manage to take it on 23 July and now get to spend a few agonizing months waiting on my score]. I already had quite a few of the books listed but I got almost all of the others, except for the individual style books in the Classic Beer Styles Series from Brewers Publications I didn’t already own.

To backup, my very first beer books were books about beer can collecting and were for both education (history, production) and to see far more of the variety of what was out there (can porn) than I could encounter in my Midwest home town and surrounding environs. Will Anderson’s book is more generally about breweriana and so helped broaden my education beyond cans.

Michael Jackson’s book was given to me just a few months after I had arrived in Europe for my first tour of duty. I knew styles existed, of course, but this book was a real eye opener.

Nowadays my interests are far broader and I have a massive amount to learn! I want to be a competent and confident beer judge. I want to brew beers well that Sara and I like, along with understanding their historical and current cultural contexts. I want to be solid at beer and food pairing. I want to understand how we got to where we are culturally via archaeology, anthropology, ethnology and so on (across cultures). I want to understand as much of the science of brewing as I can. I want to enjoy what I read, at least some of the time. I could probably elucidate many other reasons for a desire to learn about beer and to be entertained by beer writers.

On Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon beer

If you are interested in the beer, breweries, and history of Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon then I highly recommend the following:

  • Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
  • Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Logan Thompson – Beer Lover’s Oregon: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars

For the larger region but covering Oregon also are:

  • Lisa M. Morrison – Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
  • Gary and Gloria Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer Making in Oregon and Washington

All of these books are a bit dated; some more than others. They are either primarily history (Abernathy & the Meiers) or Regional guidebooks (the rest; and the most dated).

“Beer books” is a non-category

I think beer books is too broad a “category” to consider as a whole; as in it isn’t really a category, far too amorphous. In 2013, I gave a talk on beer books during Central Oregon Beer Week and this is how I broke down what I talked about:

Those I addressed:

  • General
  • Beer porn
  • Reference
  • Beer business
  • Historical
  • Breweriana
  • Trivia
  • Regional Guidebooks

Those I did not:

  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing science

No doubt other categories could be named as no doubt some of these could be split further.

The role of a regional guidebook is generally going to be much different than a book of beer porn or one on the business of beer or one on brewing science and so forth. A book of beer can porn serves one role to a collector and another to a student of mid- to late-20th century commercial art.

Conclusion; or, a return

Thus, I am going to say that the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place (context).

Update

I have received a few comments regarding the Brewers Publications Classic Styles series. I believe that I could have been a bit clearer in places in my post but let me offer some comments to take or leave as you please.

I believe that the only books I explicitly recommended were under the heading ON BEND, CENTRAL OREGON AND OREGON BEER. All of those are technically historical documents at this point; one always was and a second mostly was. But the first four are still close enough to the present to be useful even if lots of newer breweries are left out. Any other book(s) mentioned I meant to neither recommend nor not; many I would but that was not my point. I was attempting to discuss the role of books from my perspective and not which were good or bad. Perhaps I should have had a small section on the use/role of books that have bad or contested information. That would include pretty much every beer-related book ever written to some extent. The reason I mentioned the Classic Styles series was in the context of acquiring the recommended books to study for the BJCP exams. Clearly I did not believe that those style guides were necessary for my studying.

I am aware that there are some definite issues with the Classic Styles series books. I do not have enough brewing chops to provide much useful critique though, except in the rarest of circumstances and that would still be based on book learning. I do know that some of the “history” is definite bunk. I also realize that they still sell. I have even picked up a couple—all used—as primarily archival documents, if you will. Not necessarily to learn how brew the styles, nor to believe everything written in them—I do that with no book; do you?—but to take them as an artifact of a time and a place.

I do my best not to slog products here—especially those creative endeavors of one or two authors—but rather avoid them or discuss them in a context that hopefully doesn’t entail recommending them. Others far better qualified have addressed the deficiencies on the individual Classic Styles titles and I leave it to them.

I have read several books—some of them fairly new—by big names in the beer world and I thought them either not at all worth the paper they were printed on; there are more older books that fit in that category, thankfully. I gave them a low rating in Goodreads and moved on without writing a review. I do not believe in the “If you don’t have something nice to say …” school of thought but I also see little reason to be an ass for the fun of it. I get excitable enough, which turns me into something of an ass on occasion, that I do not need to pursue it as hobby.

Besides, I have too many outstanding reviews still to be written for books that I do want to recommend to bother writing reviews for ones I find lacking.

I apologize if I failed to pull apart some of these issues but they did not seem particularly pertinent to me in my thinking on the role of beer books at the time I was writing my post. That does not mean they couldn’t have, and maybe should have been, included; or, I could have been clearer about what I was recommending and what I was not. But that was also not my point.

My point is that use of any particular book is up to the individual reader. And while we may or may not be privy to the specific failings of any given book, that too is a part of the context that we need to attempt to bring to it, even before reading sometimes. That is often difficult after reading it. Makes life a little less uncertain to say the least but you should regard pretty much all of your knowledge as potentially fallible and kept open to actual experience anyway.

To decide if a given book is relevant to your own purpose(s) is a critical, complex, and, yes, often fraught undertaking.

That was an awful lot of words to say that “mentions do not imply endorsement.”

The Session: Lovely Time Warp

tl;dr: If you like your cherry porter sweet and fruity, have this beer fairly fresh. If you prefer your cherry porter smoother and a touch sour, age this beer for at least year or more. [Guest post from my wife, Sara]

Comparing two vintages of Bend Brewing Company’s Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter made me realize something embarrassingly obvious: beer awards, like restaurant reviews or the Oscars, are entirely subjective and won’t necessarily match up with my own tastes. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to apply such common sense to beer when I’m so good at it keeping it in mind about other things.

The Lovely originally won Bronze in 2012 at the GABF and comments from the judges indicated that a bit of age on the beer would make all the difference. Sure enough, BBC submitted the same beer the next year — now aged as suggested — and it took home the 2013 Gold.

As friends know, we love to age beers. For the dark, roasty, full-bodied brews we enjoy, aging tends to bring out hidden notes and depths not found in the beer’s first few months.

And yet … the outcome was very different for me with this beer.

I first checked in a Lovely on Untappd in December 2013, calling it “a wonderful symphony of flavors” and noting that I was “looking for a touch more body after aging.” In honor of the Session theme of porters, we opened up two different bottles of Lovely side by side – one aged since 2013 and the other brewed much more recently, sometime between late 2015 to early 2016. Now, it could be that the recipe has been tweaked ever so slightly over the past couple years, so perhaps not all of my observations can be pinpointed just to aging.

The 2013 Lovely had an aroma of licorice, cherry, and maple. The flavor reminded me of a watermelon jolly rancher … not entirely in a positive way. The mouthfeel was definitely smoother than the 2016, which surprised me given that the 2013 had more head and a lacing that lingered much longer. I kept coming back to the 2013 because the mix of flavors was just so darn, well, confusing. Jollyrancher one moment, and wild raw honey the next. Ultimately though, the 2016 held my interest longer.

At first, the aroma of the 2016 hinted at far more hops than it’s older sibling. Subtle hops, but definitely bitter.  Fortunately, the flavor was all fruit — juicy, prickly cherry fruit that had me smacking my lips together for the sheer yumminess of it.

This is probably unfair to the beers, but the deciding factor came down to some nuts. Yes, nuts. A couple days before the tasting, I had roasted some pecans with maple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon (nom nom nom!). The stark difference in how the pecans paired with the two versions of the same beer was rather startling!  For the 2013, the sweet and roasty flavors of the pecans actually made the beer even more sour.

I don’t like sour.

At all.

The 2016, on the other hand, became more wine / sherry / port-like with the pecans. A delicious combination. For the record, Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese paired very well with both beers.

All this to say, don’t look a beer award in the mouth (is that the right metaphor? I don’t even know.). And if a porter isn’t broken, you don’t do anything – not even aging – to fix it.

Porter (The Session #109)

This is my entry for the 109th Session, which I am in fact hosting, on the topic of porter. My post will cover some tasting notes of several different porters. We drank a couple vintages of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter and I had three different porters from the Guinness boxed set, The Brewer’s Project.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

See here at Brookston Beer Bulletin for an intro to The Sessions.

Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic

On Sunday, 28 February 2016, the wife and I compared a 2013 and a 2016 bottling of Bend Brewing’s Lovely Cherry Baltic. BBC is the third oldest brewery in Central Oregon and the second oldest in Bend proper. They celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2015 on my birthday, which means they are now over 21.

I respect the hell out of Lovely but it is one of my wife’s favorites, not mine (because of sour cherries). The label states that it is an Imperial porter aged on Montmorency cherries but makes no mention of yeast used. Is it truly a Baltic? Who knows? And it would depend on whose style guidelines you used anyway.

We had a bottle we acquired in October 2013 and another we just got on 13 February during Zwickelmania at the brewery. We asked the brewer’s wife, Jen, about the origins and she asked Ian (the brewer) and they confirmed it was bottled this year, which I assume means it was actually brewed sometime in 2015.

This is a beer that was originally brewed by Tonya Cornett before her departure for 10 Barrel. See this post at New School Beer for a profile of her from shortly after her departure.

For a profile of current head brewer, Ian Larkin, see “Bend Brewing anniversary and profile of Head Brewer Ian Larkin” at The Brew Site.

See Jon Abernathy’s post, “Lovely Cherry Baltic Porter,” also at The Brew Site, to read one of the earliest reviews of this beer and learn a bit about its bottling history.

We compared them head-to-head and tasted them with assorted cheeses, chocolate, and roasted sweet potatoes, apples and pecans.

Two photos of a glass and a bottle each of 2013 and 2016 Lovely.

2013 on left; 2016 on right. artist Ken Knish of Sisters; styled realism of the 1940-60s. http://www.knish-artwork.com/

They were definitely different beers but clearly also the same beer. The wife, who will be writing her own [guest] post, definitely preferred the 2016 bottling. I guess that means we best drink the other 2013 and the two 2014s and the other “random” one we found in our refrigerator.

For the record, I am not the biggest fan of sour cherries or even cherries, period, although I like the sweeter cherries more. But considering I am not a huge fan that then makes them an ingredient that, while I agree they can work in beer, I am not usually a fan of in beer. Nonetheless, this is a well-executed, award winning, beer.

Awards:

  • 2013 GABF Gold Medal in Aged Beer
  • 2012 GABF Bronze Medal in Aged Beer

I wrote a lot of notes on both of these beers but I just don’t know …

I kept waffling between them depending on temperature of the beer as it varied from cold to warm (and back to cold … as we refilled our small snifters) and as paired with different foods. I started out preferring the 2013 and at the end of the night just when I thought I was preferring the 2016 I decided to drink the rest of it off so I could finish with the last of my 2013. Different in lots of ways but sort of a tie. In the end though I think I prefer the older version. If I had to drink them by themselves and not together then I would choose to drink more of the aged one.

Tasting Notes:

2013

Aroma:

cold: med low sour cherry; med dark fruit

warm: med sour cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown with dark tan head, extra fine with some small fish eyes, non-persistent

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; initially sweet with slight sour bite from cherries, quickly moves to darker malt flavors arriving at chocolate in the swallow. Finishes dry with lingering light-med sour cherry and darker malt flavors of chocolate

warm: Tastes much thinner; but, in fairness, most of the carbonation would have been swirled out at that point. I believe it is a combination of the temperature of the beer and all of the swirling.

2016

Aroma:

cold: dark malts but far from prominent; can’t find cherry

warm: very light chocolate and cherry

Color: Clear dark red-brown (carbonation interfering with visual inspection; head same as 2013

Taste:

cold: Full-bodied and creamy; less sweet than 2013 at beginning; goes into darker malts rapidly; some very light cherryish notes in finish. A bit more bitter; from malt? [Didn’t seem a hop bitterness.]

warm: no notes

They were vastly different with assorted foods:

  • Egmont cheese
  • Beecher’s Marco Polo cheese
  • Rosey Goat cheese (rosemary): No! enhances soapiness of the rosemary
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Roasted apples
  • Roasted pecans

The 2013 was more complex than 2016; while in the 2016 the cherry, which was very subdued, came out nicely with assorted foods.

Again, I have the utmost respect for this beer but the cherry is not my thing. Give me BBC and Ian’s Big Bad Russian or The Raven Baltic Porter or Currant Volksekt or Salmonberry Sour or Ludwig German Pilsner. Ludwig is one of the very best Pilsners available in Bend, which is something with Crux’s amazing Pilsners available here, which also makes it extremely good. Period.

Guinness The Brewers Project Taste-Off

We saw our friend, Ryan Sharp, at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café last Friday evening and he told us Costco had Guinness’ The Brewer’s Project 18-pack in and he had only tried one so far but was looking forward to the other two. I went to Costco Saturday morning and got one.

Picture of a carton of Guinness' The Brewers Project box

Here’s an article about this project at Ad Age.

And here’s a 0:30 video from Guinness, which truth be told irked me after giving up an exact birthdate for age verification. In particular, my gripe is that that is it for info available there. Um. OK.

Photo of description of the beers on the carton

Yes, they used “brewers,” “brewers’” and “brewer’s” and they left a period off one description. Grammar? Sort of. Sad they can’t get the name standardized.

Dublin Porter [1796]

ABV 3.8% “Dublin Porter is inspired by a reference in our historic brewers’ diaries dating back to 1796. It is a sweet and smooth beer with subtle caramel and hoppy aroma notes and burnt biscuit finish.”

Aroma: Sweet; very light grape. Slight tang emerges as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; very light tan, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Very slightly vinous, very light smoke, definitely light tang?, very light grape; finishes very lightly sweet and then dries out long. Thinnest of the three.

West Indies Porter [1801]

ABV 6.0% “A style with origins from our brewer’s diaries dating back to 1801, West Indies Porter is complex yet mellow, hoppy with notes of toffee and chocolate”

Aroma: Light smoky sourness.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; light brown, fine-bubbled head, non-persistent.

Taste: Light but lingering smoke; med dry finish with light astringency. Light chocolate as warms.

Guinness Original [1800s]

ABV 4.2% “Guinness Original is the closest variant to Arthur Guinness’ original stout recipe and was first introduced in Dublin around 1800’s as a premium porter. Still sold today in the UK as Guinness Original, this brew is very similar to Guinness Extra Stout. It’s hoppy, roast and crisp with a bittersweet finish.”

Aroma: Very light chocolate. Extremely light grape as warms.

Color: All are about the same color but lighting was also sub-par; fine-bubbled head, non-persistent, in between other two in color

Taste: Creamiest [mostly due to carbonation]; very light sweetness and extremely light tang across middle; finishes with hint of chocolate, med dry but sweeter than West Indies Porter. Very light astringency and mild chalkiness late in the finish.

Comparison. Color of the beers and all aspects of the head were pretty much the same with the biggest, yet still small, difference in head color. As for body, all were very similar yet different.

None of them are really that good but they are respectable. I will most likely use the remaining 13 for cooking with unless I have a friend visit who simply must taste them.

Concluding thoughts

I am looking forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts on porter and in how they interpreted the fairly wide-open prompt.

I adore some porters and if you include stouts as forms of porter, as Terry Foster and Martyn Cornell do, then I love lots of them but I much prefer some forms of porters and stouts to others, to say the least, and even then I don’t love every example within each sub-style. As for “regular” porters I prefer them to be sliding into stout territory in body and roastiness along with a slightly broader range of bitterness acceptable.

Even if none of these are my favorite examples within their various sub-styles I quite enjoyed spending some time tasting and comparing all of them while trying to work on my sensory perceptions and translating those into words. Usually a good exercise.

See you in a couple days with a Session #109 Roundup post. Cheers!

McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza

On Saturday, January 16, 2016 we attended the McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza with 22 breweries & 4 cideries present. [updated beers drank 29 January 2016]

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto.

For McMenamins passport fans there is an event stamp.

We got there pretty much at opening at 1 pm and like last year the weather was (or threatened to be) a bit wet so they had moved large portions into the theater. There were still couches and other seating available when we arrived so we joined some of our friends.

Photo of some of my notes, the program and two fest glasses from the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

Disclosure:

Let’s just get this out of the way. I got put on the guest list so got a free entry package of tasting glass, 10 tokens, and a koozie. We did pay the $15 entry and got Sara her own glass and tokens though.

I like this festival as it brings together a lot of different McMenamins beers and brewers along with a fairly equal balance of beer from other local Bend breweries. The brewers from the 10 or so represented McMenamins breweries were there from 1-4 pm pouring their beers and I chatted with a couple including our local brewer, Mike “Curly” White. I didn’t get names but also a woman from Thompson (Salem) and a guy from Crystal (Portland) that I actually had conversations with and not just chit chat.

I didn’t bother to take any other pictures except of the names of the beers I was getting. Of course, I didn’t get pictures of the ones I tried via my wife and I didn’t get all of those written down. May well have missed one of the ones I got myself, photo-wise.

Definitely caught a good buzz. We stopped and got a pizza and drank a lot of water before heading home at a still reasonable time.

These are the beers that I tried in as close to the order that I had them (highly accurate):

  • McMenamins Old St. Francis School Midnight Scream Double Black IPA
  • McMenamins High Street (Eugene) 565 Strong Ale
  • Silver Moon Train Rye’d Barleywine
  • McMenamins on Munroe (Corvallis) Ballena Russian Imperial Stout
  • Deschutes The Descendant
  • McMenamins Anderson School (Bothell, WA) Into the Badlands IRA
  • McMenamins Thompson (Salem) Magnuson Strong
  • McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor *
  • Three Creeks Ten Pine Porter
  • Worthy Dark Muse 2015 Stout
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine *
  • I am missing (at least) one that I had a taste of Sara’s and I believe that is Crux Snow Cave. [Bend Brewing’s Big Bad Russian is definitely missing from here. 29 January 2016]

My favorites were definitely the McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine and, very surprisingly, as 2nd oddest beer out, the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor.

For the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor I wrote:

“Haha. This shit is like crack. Sara had a sip, her face lit up, & had another before saying anything.”

That is surprising behavior for my wife with any lager-like beer except Samichlaus.

The alcohol wasn’t hidden from you, although it wasn’t exactly prevalent either, but you just wanted one sip after another and we aren’t talking small sips. This was a very dangerously “more-ish” beer and one of the best uses of corn ever in a beer. I was not expecting to like it under the context of the fest but it was exquisite. I got a chance to go back and tell the brewer all this after having it. That’s a feature of this fest, if you can go early.

For the Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine I wrote:

“2014 barleywine in Hogshead Whiskey. Another (almost) crack beer.

? [unsure]

With palate cleanser cookie is awesomer in the opposite of Helldorado a deep dark chocolate barleywine. Crazy.”

Quite tasty. Not quite a crack beer because easier to tell its 10%+ ABV is present. But amazingly tasty. And far more “appropriate” for the time of the year.

I also enjoyed Deschutes The Descendant but that was the odd beer out for this fest. I don’t believe there were any other sours, and no other fruit beers either, I believe. Quite delicious.

Photo of the description of Deschutes The Descendant at the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

My friend Jon Abernathy has a much better post and definitely more and better photos at his post, McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, thoughts and photos. If you check out Jon’s post you can see that we had pretty much the same thoughts on best beers of the day even though we did not have exactly the same ones.

My pre-post can be found here at McMenamins OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January.

If you are in Bend or the nearby area mid-January next year, and like high gravity beer, you ought consider this fest. I cannot comment on how it is in the evening as we insure that we are in and out before then, which is how we try to do fests. But we enjoy this one quite a bit.

Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

Date read: 28 November 2015 – 10 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016curr 2015poss

Cover image of Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table

Paperback, xi, 372 pages
Published 2003/2005 by Ecco
Source: Own

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Basics
  • 1 What Is Beer?
  • 2 A Brief History of Beer
  • 3 Principles of Matching Beer with Food
  • Part Two: Brewing Traditions
  • 4 Lambic
  • § Gueuze
  • § Fruited Lambics
  • 5 Wheat Beer
  • § Bavarian Wheat Beer
  • § Belgian Wheat Beer
  • § Berliner Weisse
  • 6 The British Ale Tradition
  • § British Bitter
  • § British Pale ales and India Pale Ales
  • § British Brown and mild Ales
  • § British Porter
  • § Irish and English Stout [what he says re IS]
  • § Scotch and Scottish Ales
  • § British Barley Wines and Old Ales [what he says re BW]
  • 7 The Belgian Ale Tradition
  • § Belgian Pale Ale
  • § Flanders Brown and Red Ales
  • § Saison
  • § Trappist and Abbey Beers
  • § Golden Strong Ales
  • § French Bière de Garde
  • 8 The Czech-German Lager Tradition
  • § Pilsner
  • § Helles
  • § Dortmunder Export
  • § Dark Lager
  • § Vienna, Märzen, and Oktoberfest Beers
  • § Bock and Doppelbock
  • § Schwarzbier
  • 9 New Traditions—American Craft Brewing
  • § American Pale ale, Amber Ale, and India Pale Ale
  • § American Brown Ale
  • § American-Style Wheat Beer
  • § American Amber Lager
  • § Steam Beer
  • § American Porters and Stouts
  • § American Fruit Beer
  • § American Barley Wines
  • 10 Unique Specialties
  • § Altbier
  • § Kölsch
  • § Smoked Beer
  • Part Three: The Last Word
  • Glassware, Temperature, Storage, and Service
  • Beer with Food: A Reference Chart
  • Index

This book is in three parts: The Basics, Brewing Traditions, and The Last Word.

Part Two is by far the largest section of the book, 281 of 383 total pages. Each section here consists of a bit of history of the style, a section on the style with food, and a list of notable producers with descriptions of specific beers and their pairings refined even further.

The are four color photo sections with gorgeous photos of brewhouses, regional specialties with their accompanying beer, and so on, throughout the book. There are also lots of black & white images throughout the book.

Chapter 3 on the Principles of Matching Beer with Food contains the following sections: Aroma; Beer Styles; Impact; Carbonation; Bright and Dark; Bitterness; Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization; Roast; and After Dinner—Matching Desserts and Cheeses.

“Paying that little bit of attention, both to your food and to your beer, is the difference between having an “OK” culinary life and having one filled with boundless riches of flavor. Learn a little bit about the amazing variety and complexity of flavor that traditional beer brings to the table, and in return I promise you a better life. I’m not kidding—it’s that simple” (39, emphasis in original).

The Aroma section gives us lots of words for the various aromas that come from beer ingredients and other foods but the gist is that, “Harmonizing aromatics between the beer and the food is one of the guiding principles of matching. There’s far more to beer than its aroma, but your nose will often lead you in the right direction” (44).

The Beer Styles section emphasizes determining style as “… style describes what the beer tastes like, what the aromatics are like, how strong it is, what sort of body it has, how it was brewed, and even what its history is” (45). There is a cheat sheet provided on the facing pages of 46-47. “”Cheat Sheet”: Beer Styles and Flavors” provides quick, useful information, such as Bitter is “Fruity and racy, subtle, low carbonation, robust hopping” where IPA is “…, amber, strong, dry, robust hop bitterness and aroma” (46). There are approximately 40 styles elucidated via this shorthand on these two pages.

Impact is the section where we get, in a sense, the most information. First up, “When we are matching beer and food, the most important thing we’re looking for is balance. We want the beer to engage in a lively dance, not a football tackle. In order to achieve the balance we seek, we need to think about the sensory impact of both the beer and its prospective food partner. “Impact” refers to the weight and intensity of the food on the palate” (49). What follows this is a several paragraph “thought exercise” discussing various beer and food combinations that help elucidate further what is meant by impact.

Carbonation tells us that “In finished beer, carbonation gives beer a refreshing lift, concentrates bitterness and acidity, and cleanses the palate. It also lifts the beer’s aromas right out of the glass and presents them to your nose. … The carbonation in beer lifts and scrubs strong flavors from your palate, leaving you as ready to enjoy the next bite as if it were the first” (50).

On the next page, Oliver discusses the range of carbonation and how that works with assorted food choices.

In Bright and Dark we learn that “Brightness refers to a dry briskness on the palate, sometimes with a refreshing zip of acidity. It also refers to citrus or apple-peel aromatics, sometimes from the yeast strain used, but also from some hop varieties. … Darkness refers to roasted flavors such as chocolate, toffee, caramel, and coffee, as well as the flavors and aromas of dark fruits such as plums, raisins, and olives. Sweet spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg belong here too; this is one reason they are often added to stews. Mushrooms are a dark flavor …” (52).

For Oliver it is still all about “harmony” (52).

We also get the highly applicable admonition to “Let’s not confuse bright and dark flavors with light and dark colors, though,” as they are not the same (52, emphasis in original). Often a dark beer has a dark flavor and vice versa with light but this is definitely not always the case!

Under bitterness, we get a discussion of the Italian love of bitterness to start and end a meal, for instance, with something like Campari as an aperitif and a sharp espresso to end it and how this contrasts with Americans’ general distrust of bitterness.

“Well-hopped beers have the ability to cut through heavy sauces, fats, and oils, leaving the palate cleansed and refreshed rather than stunned” (54).

Also critical to understand regarding bitterness in beer, Oliver tells us that “Hops are not the only ingredient that can lend bitterness to a beer. Roasted malts can also add their own bitterness—just as espresso has a roasted bite, so does an Irish stout, and only partly from the hops. In beer, bitterness is focused and accentuated by lowering serving temperatures, higher carbonation, and a low residual sugar content. Conversely, malt sweetness, warmer serving temperatures, and lower carbonation will temper bitterness” (54).

In Malt, Sweetness, and Caramelization we are told that “The warm, breadlike flavors of grain are more prevalent in some styles of beer than others, making them better companions for certain foods. Malty beers tend to be full-bodied and round on the palate” (55).

Perceived sweetness, which is a corollary to malt, depends on four factors: residual sugar, bitterness, carbonation and serving temperature (55). Oliver does a good, succinct job of how those work together and individually affect the beer to generate a perceived sweetness.

Roast expounds on the flavors of roasted malts—primarily across the wide ranges of coffee and chocolate—and how they work with foods.

Desserts and Cheese round out this chapter with some specifics on those topics.

I jumped into a lengthier discussion of this section since, at heart, it should be the core of the book. Alas, I fear it is not. I do believe that Oliver has done a good job overall but it is spread far more throughout the book than concentrated here. Much of what you need to know to pair well is in those detailed style and specific exemplar pages.

Some of the books that have followed this pathbreaking one have done a better job of providing the basics of how to proceed on your own versus the main gist of Oliver’s pairing knowledge being passed on in the style sections, such that the reader must piece more together. Then again, “shoulders of giants” and all that.

For instance, Mirella Amato in Beerology, does a fine job giving one lots of angles from which to explore while giving the subjectivity of individual taste its due. Randy Mosher also does a wonderful job in a short amount of space in Tasting Beer, which I highly recommend overall. Both authors give credit to Oliver, as they should. Another writer, also respecting Oliver, who does a fine job on the topic in a short space is Jeff Alworth in The Beer Bible.

Another early beer and food writer given her due by many is Lucy Saunders. We have, and I have read, her 2013 Dinner in the Beer Garden, which we helped crowd fund. This is more of a cookbook with little in the way of principles but one could learn from it, albeit more slowly perhaps even than Oliver. Saunders has also written Cooking with Beer (1996), Grilling with Beer (2006), and The Best of American Beer & Food (2007), sadly none of which I have seen.

The other writers often bring in the idea of “contrast,” which is an important idea. For Oliver it is (or was) all about the harmony and balance, which is a great place to start but not the only way to go.

I am also hearing really good things about Julia Herz and Gwen Conley’s Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros but I have not seen it yet. I am looking forward to it though.

On cheese and beer pairings I doubt that you can do better than Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher.

The best way to proceed may be to peruse one or more of these books and choose a point or two of entry and bravely venture out with (or without) any firm guidance and experiment. Remember to record and grow your experiences from there. They are your taste buds and your palate, after all. No one can tell you how things taste but you.

From English and Irish Stouts with Food:

“The harmony between stouts and chocolate desserts is so big and so wide and so obvious that every restaurant that serves desserts should have at least one stout on its list. If you get only one thing from this book, make this point the keeper—stouts are an absolutely perfect match for chocolate desserts” (144, emphasis in original).

Beer with Food: A Reference Chart is a 7-page quick listing of beers that go with specific foods, ranging from Aioli to Wild boar.

Highly recommended but perhaps not as the first book one peruses on the topic. I feel you can get an easier and quicker start by digging into the short chapters in Mosher or Amato (see above), or others. Oliver is the book you’ll turn to to get a deeper appreciation but one which you’ll have to cull from the entire book.

Saunders – Dinner in the Beer Garden

Dinner in the Beer Garden by Lucy Saunders

Date read: 10-11 March 2015 (Re-read); originally read 24-27 June 2014

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Photo of cover of Lucy Saunders' Dinner in the Beer Garden

Paperback, 232 pages

Published 2013 by F&B Communications

Source: Backed on Kickstarter 6 Sep 2013 ($25) by wife, received 31 Jan 2014

[Sara helped Kickstart this book so we have a signed copy that randomly arrived one day a couple of months later. Some days that’s a joy of Kickstarter. Some days not. I read it last June but failed to review it at the time. As part of my goals for the year, starting this month, one a month, I am to review a beer book that I previously read but failed to review. That schedule may be a little tight since it will involve so much re-reading but if I can get through about six before year’s end then that’d be most of them.]

Well-illustrated with color photographs. Lest the title distract you, this is a cookbook. There is no text wasted on philosophies, disputations or similar arcana. There is an acknowledgments, a recipe index and an ingredient index, along with photo credits and an author bio. In between each recipe section there are short “profiles” of some beer gardens and related topics. Otherwise it is mostly recipes, each of which comes with a suggested beer pairing.

While this book does not eschew meat entirely, as the jacket states, “It’s a cookbook for people who like carrots and kale—as well as butter, fish, cheese and chocolate!”

Table of Contents (and commentary):

  • Appetizers (9 recipes – Bock pretzels and other sweet and/or savory things for various seasons)
  • About Tasting and Pairing Beer with Vegetables
  • Beans & Legumes (6 recipes – From salads to fried)
  • Bavaria’s Biergartens (by Lindsay Bosslett and Rick Hadsall)
  • Cheese (9 recipes – French toast to gnocchi to turnovers)
  • Estabrook Park Beer Garden (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Eggs (8 recipes)
  • August Schell Brewery Gardens (New Ulm, MN)
  • Fish & Seafood (7 recipes)
  • New Glarus Brewing Co. Hilltop Beer Garden (New Glarus, WI)
  • Greens (7 recipes)
  • Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro (Bellingham, WA)
  • Noodles & Pasta (6 recipes)
  • Brewery Farms (Rogue, Bell’s, NY farm brewery license program, Sean Paxton, Sierra Nevada, Stone)
  • Roots (7 recipes)
  • Building a Better Beer Garden: Advice from a Pro Brewer (advice from Aaron Rzeznik, landscape designer and brewer at Witch’s Hat Brewery, South Lyon, MI)
  • Squash & Vegetables (12 recipes)
  • Virginia’s Brew Ridge Trail (Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton; Devils Backbone Brewpub, Rosedale; Wild Wolf Brewing, Nellysford; 6 breweries, Nelson and Albemarle Counties www.brewridgetrail.com )
  • Grains (6 recipes)
  • Botanical Garden Brewfests (Fest-of-the-Ale at Missouri Botanical Garden (Oct); Fest-of-Ale (month of Oct) by Atlanta Botanical Garden; Chicago Botanic Garden festival; Oregon Garden Brewfest, Silverton)
  • Sauces & Soups (8 recipes)
  • Bière de Garde Jelly by Christina Ward, Milwaukee County Master Food Preserver
  • Fruits & Desserts (13 recipes)
  • Recipe Index
  • Ingredient Index
  • Photo Index, Participating Breweries

I have already identified several recipes of interest, including a Basil-Walnut Pesto and Udon with Ginger-Garlic Broth under Noodles & Pasta; Potato-Leek Cakes with Almond Cream Sauce and Manchego Potato & Chard Tarts under Roots; Sesame Miso-glazed Squash and Cauliflower-Chickpea Cakes under Squash & Vegetables; and Carrot Risotto Cakes with Spiced Plum Relish and Millet Flatbread with Manchego and Rosemary under Grains. No doubt, others will sound scrumptious when the proper ingredients are in season.

Pairings  

For the Udon with Ginger-Garlic Broth she suggests a black IPA or hoppy American stout. I might use less ginger; in fact, would, so maybe not so big. I’m thinking Firestone Walker Wookey Jack. The rye in that can add a little of its own spice.

For the Potato-Leek Cakes with Almond Cream Sauce she suggests “a yeasty Belgian strong ale with plum and caramel notes …” (127). Mmmm. Several possibilities here.

For the Sesame Miso-glazed Squash the recommended pairing is “malt-forward lager such as Vienna or Oktoberfest [which] balances the salty miso sauce” (159).

Once in a while the recommendations are oddly specific; I am not referring to the odd Rogue or Goose Island beer or so on as several breweries did support her with locations and/or photos. But, for instance, for the Millet Flatbread with Manchego and Rosemary the recommendation is “a golden ale aged in merlot barrels, or a farmstead dry cider with enough tannins to take on the Manchego and rosemary” (178). OK. We get two recommendations. But both are incredibly specific. I agree that either, but especially the merlot barrel-aged golden, would be exquisite. Not the easiest thing to put one’s hands on, though.

I would love to go to the Fest-of-the-Ale at Missouri Botanical Garden. [ I love MOBOT! I grew up in St. Louis County and visited MOBOT many times when a kid and made it back a couple years ago.]

The Bière de Garde jelly sounds quite tasty but it involves canning. [I must say, I adore this contributor’s title, “Master Food Preserver.” Of course, I just registered for our second year at the C.O.M.G.A. Spring Gardening Seminar.]

All-in-all, this is an excellent book of primarily fruit- and vegetable-centered recipes covering dishes of all sorts to pair with beer. And while these foods could certainly be enjoyed anywhere—without or without a well-paired beer—they would be even better in a beer garden among loved ones or friends. That is what this book celebrates.

I recommend it if you can get your hands on it. Seems to be used copies out there.

This post is cross-posted at my other blog, habitually probing generalist, for purposes of the below reading challenge.

This is the 16th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

Deschutes Street Pub

Deschutes Street Pub may be coming to a city near you. Well, seven cities after its test run here in Bend May 9th. Between 30 May and 14 Nov it will visit Philadelphia, Arlington, VA, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver and Sacramento.

Deschutes Street Pub logo

“We’re super excited to announce that we’re setting up shop in your town for one day! That’s right, we’re bringing our outdoor pub of epic proportions to each of the cities below for an all out block party. Crafted from reclaimed wood and steel, our Street Pub will be a one-stop-shop to try several of our beers – from the coveted Reserve Series rarities (think The Abyss) all the way to year-round favorites like Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Pair those beers up with culinary creations from our Executive Chef, Jeff Usinowicz, and live local music – and you have a street party that’s truly “crafted for community.”

In each city we’ll partner with a local charity so you’ll be drinking for a good cause. The amount of money raised will be determined by how much beer we sell. So, grab your friends and check out the Street Pub when it rolls through your town.”

A fine companion to Woody but on another level [Woody events]. The Street Pub uses 4296 feet of reclaimed white oak and 10,000 pounds of steel. It has 40 taps, which is quite a bit more than the Bend Pub or the PDX Pub or the brewery. Wow! Other than that—which you can learn from watching the video—there are no details, just a fleeting glimpse.

Let’s just say that they have my attention and I hope to be at the May 9th Bend test run.

Schedule available here.

Deschutes Brewery Blog post, “Street Pub – Crafted for Community.”

Beer Lover’s Gift Wish List 2014

This is my 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Wish List which consists of things I am recommending for assorted reasons. Some I own and/or have used and some I have not. I will make it clear which is the case.

[Note: Having ordered something from this list as I constructed it over the last couple days has reminded me why I need to post this earlier if I am going to. Some of these cannot arrive before Christmas at this point but some can. There are also many other, and more appropriate, gift giving opportunities than Christmas.]

1. First up is something we bought personally from the creator at Fall Fest in Bend. We had been looking for a bottle opener that fully respects bottle caps and was ergonomic to use. Beautiful is also a definite plus.

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by SJ Woodworks

Bottle opener by Steve J. Bonora of SJ WoodWorks  $18

It works beautifully. Here’s hoping it lasts a long time.

2. BottleTrade has several things but tshirts mostly. My favorite tshirt is the Hop Medley one. But my favorite item is the His & Her Stout Glasses. Check out that while you can get one or the other, you can also get a pair in all four possible combinations of His & Hers. That’s sweet and should be supported for that reason alone. I have a pair on order and maybe some as gifts too. They will arrive late for Christmas at this point but it is “the thought ….”

3. Educational and reference tools abound. The Cicerone Certification Program has several useful items that any serious beer geek who is trying to improve their knowledge base should appreciate.

I have a set of the Beer Styles Profiles Card Sets and I am also in the process of completing the Road to Cicerone German Course. Either that or the new British and Irish course would help anyone wanting to know more about the styles of those countries and certainly help anyone studying to become a Certified Cicerone.

4. Sadly I cannot afford to be a member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas but I am certified by them as a Beer Steward.  Their web store has loads of useful times from educational to entertaining and many items are on sale now until the end of the year. We have both the Flavor Wheel and the Defects Beer Wheel. We haven’t had a chance to put them through their paces yet but look forward to it.

The Flavor Wheel is the official flavor wheel as developed by M.C. Meilgaard, et al. for the American Society of Brewing Chemists, the European Brewing Convention and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

Beer drinker, homebrewer, professional brewer, brewery worker, bartenders, etc.: all should be familiar with this tool and, more importantly, its terminology and organizational structure.

5. I have been meaning to write about Michael Kiser and his Good Beer Hunting blog/website for a good while now and just haven’t managed it. Check him out. Seriously. Just leave here now and check him out. His shop is full of quality as is his writing and photography. No doubt his podcasting and events are too. I have the issues of Mash Tun and a print of the Hunter Gatherer by Andrew Wright.

I do not have a Beer Peen Hammer but “Good God!” if you’d like to get me one. Check out that post.

6. Perhaps stocking stuffers for next year: Hop-infused lollipops made from locally grown hops – cooked in small batches and hand poured LolliHOPS™ from Yakima Hop Candy. 

7. Our friend Bend Brew Daddy takes excellent, collection worthy, photos and he has a calendar out for next year. Photos of Central Oregon beers and breweries here and the Rest of the World here.

8. Beer Hunter: The Movie Michael Jackson on DVD. Is there anything else to be said? I do own and have watched this and the “special features.” Worth seeing for all beer geeks; worth owning for many of us.

9. Home Brew Club Membership. A homebrew club membership could be just the thing for the budding homebrewer or someone considering it. Sara and I are members of our local club, COHO.

According to the All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift guide there is currently a promotion on AHA membership. Join or buy a gift membership (reg. $43) for $43 and get a free book.

10. Beer books.

Bend beer Bend beer: a history of brewing in Central OregonJon Abernathy; The History Press 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Our friend Jon Abernathy’s Bend Beer was recently released. This is what I have had to say about it here so far.

“It is currently “the definitive” book on brewing in Central Oregon, but I know even Jon wants more answers to some things. There is more he could not fit due to space constraints. Such is book authorship.”

Vintage beer Vintage beer: a taster’s guide to brews that improve over timePatrick Dawson; Storey Publishing 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

My review of Dawson’s Vintage Beer.

“Vintage Beer by Dawson is an excellent introduction to cellaring beer. It is a quick read that will also bear close studying and better note-taking. Production values are high and it is well-edited.”

Cheese & Beer Cheese & BeerJanet Kessel Fletcher; Andrews McMeel 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Any fan of good cheese and beer should own, and make use of, this book. We picked up our copy from the author at a signing and tasting at the Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House.

Tasting beer Tasting beerRandy Mosher; Storey Pub. 2009WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

My review of Mosher, which I consider the core book in the Beginner’s Beer Library.

“Synopsis: This is an excellent introduction to beer, beer culture and history, and the tasting (not simply drinking) of beer. Highly recommended!”

11. Magazine subscription. All About Beer and Beer Advocate are probably the two leading beer magazines in the US. Both are worth reading regularly if you like to keep up on what’s happening in the wider world than your own backyard. I subscribe to both.

12. Spiegelau glasses. We have one of the IPA glasses which we got as swag at a Sierra Nevada tasting at Broken Top Bottle Shop and Ale Cafe. It does lovely things for the aromas of hop forward beers. That is enough to affect, and improve, the overall taste of these beers. It is not a massive contribution but it works. The glass itself is fragile and hard-to-clean (I handwash my glasses) but I haven’t broken it yet.

I would definitely like to try the new stout glass. [Link found via 2014 All About Beer guide but was well aware of the glass’ existence.]

13. $300 Yeti Hopper 30 cooler. OK. Honestly. I have no experience of this or any other Yeti coolers but having looked at their website I definitely want one! This could be most useful when buying beers on road trips to get them home at reasonably stable temps. It certainly could have many uses but that would be our most likely use case.

14. For other ideas see the following (some items on my list came from these):

  • All About Beer 2014 Beer Lover’s Gift Guide. As I said, got a few ideas and a few links from here.
  • 10 Gifts for the Serious Homebrewer from The New School. There are some seriously useful items on this list. I won’t waste your time and point you at the 1st part as it was mostly (80-ish%) stupid products. I’m hoping their upcoming 3rd list is better.

There you have it: my most recent list of ideas for gifts for beer lovers. There is always my Beginner’s Beer Library page for ideas as it evolves. No promises on how quickly that is, though.

Beer and Brewing vol. 8

Beer and brewing: National Conference on Quality Beer and Brewing, 1988 transcriptsVirginia Thomas; Brewers Publications 1988WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinderBeer and Brewing vol. 8 is composed of the edited transcripts of the National Conference on Quality Beer and Brewing, held in Denver, CO, June 1988 (ed., Virginia Thomas).

My 4-star goodreads review was short and sweet: A bit dated now but it is interesting to see when/where some ideas arose/evolved.

I’ll try to do a bit better here, although I’m not making any promises other than you get the table of contents and some of my notes.

Read 5-28 October 2014

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • 1. Ten Years of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian
  • 2. Sensory Evaluation for Brewers – Jean-Xavier Guinard and Ian Robertson
  • 3. Issues in All-Grain Brewing – Dave Miller
  • 4. Aroma Identification – Charlie Papazian and Gregory Noonan
  • 5. The Excitement Is Brewing – Hans Bilger
  • 6. Improved Record-Keeping – Randy Mosher
  • 7. Bavarian Breweries – Prince Luitpold von Bayern
  • 8. Making Amazing Mead – Leon Havill
  • 9. Brewpubs of Austria – Baron Henrik Bachofen von Echt
  • 10. Beer for Lunch – Michael Jackson
  • 11. Hop Flavor in Beer – Dr. George Fix
  • 12. Beer Formulation – Daniel Carey

Jumping in…

1. Ten Years of Homebrewing – Charlie Papazian

lists his 5 foundational texts for homebrewing [very perfunctorily] 4-5

He published Joy of Brewing in 1976

Mostly a personal recollection of his previous 10+ years in homebrewing and possibilities for the future.

2. Sensory Evaluation for Brewers – Jean-Xavier Guinard and Ian Robertson

Sensory Evaluation as a Research Tool

The Notion of Experimental Design

The Choice of the Proper Sensory Test(s)

     2 main types: analytical-laboratory and consumer tests

         analytical: if there is a difference b/w beers, & nature & magnitude of diff 20

         consumer: acceptance, degree of liking, and preference 20

     Analytical Tests

     Consumer Tests

         “Fortunately, the pioneering work of Meilgaard, Pangborn, Clapperton, Mecredy, Neilson, and others has given an edge in sensory evaluation to the brewing industry and the literature is now virtually error-free.” 24

     Statistics: Friend or Foe?

     Sensory Evaluation as a Quality Control and Trouble-shooting Tool

     Preparation of Reference Standards for Flavor Profiling

Includes a table of flavor descriptor and how to make them cheaply. Also provides proper citations for all of those pioneering works mentioned.

3. Issues in All-Grain Brewing – Dave Miller

Interesting and lots of possibly good advice.

4. Aroma Identification – Charlie Papazian and Gregory Noonan

Provides an introduction to the ASBC Flavor Wheel as developed my Meilgaard, et al., amongst other aroma identification issues and topics.

5. The Excitement Is Brewing – Hans Bilger

Another interesting personal story. This one by a German brewmaster in a tiny brewery in Kentucky.

6. Improved Record-Keeping – Randy Mosher

A report, of sorts, on the book The Brewer’s Workbook, which was being published. 101

Some nice things to keep in mind and other “fudge factors”

7. Bavarian Breweries – Prince Luitpold von Bayern

8. Making Amazing Mead – Leon Havill

9. Brewpubs of [in] Austria – Baron Henrik Bachofen von Echt [TOC and chapter title differ.]

10. Beer for Lunch – Michael Jackson

A lunchtime food and beer pairing led by MJ.

11. Hop Flavor in Beer – Dr. George Fix

Kettle utilization 191

12. Beer Formulation – Daniel Carey

Goes through the formulation of a Maibock.

Final comments:

As you can see, there is a great diversity of topics here. It is worth reading as a snapshot of a time and while there is still much valuable information in it, much of it is dated. For instance, the ASBC Flavor Wheel has been updated since then, I believe. [I have read most of the foundational literature—especially Meilgaard and Meilgaard with others.]

I found my copy used at Browser’s Bookstore, Corvallis, Oregon and paid a total of $3.00 for it. It was a good value at that price. Any more would begin to be questionable; for me, anyway. Updated information is widely available on many of these topics, often from many of these same folks.

Cicerone Certification Program [series] : General/CBS [1]

A couple weeks back, in a post where I noted that I passed my Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server test (16 July 2014; my profile page), I committed to writing a series of posts on the Cicerone Certification Program.

This is what I wrote:

I hope to write a couple posts in a small series on the Cicerone Certification Program and changes they just made and are facing, what they recommend for studying for the CBS and what I did for studying, some thoughts on their recommendations for studying for the Certified Cicerone test, some extractions from yesterday’s #RoadtoCicerone #beerchat on Twitter and, finally, what I have been planning for studying beer styles with friends.”

I did write the #RoadtoCicerone Twitter chat post

Series Introduction

This series should be 3-4 posts long: this one for intro and 1st level, another for Certified Cicerone, and one or two more for the 3rd level and alternatives/other certification programs. I may have more posts at some point about studying for the exams.

This post will cover the following, along with covering the Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server (Level I).

  • Intro
    • What it is
    • Levels

For each level the following will be covered:

  • Level – URL
    • what will be learned
      • syllabus (pdf) – URL
    • intended audience
    • costs
    • time frames
    • what is needed : books, computer, a/synchronous
      • Beer
      • Free study links
      • Books
      • Other stuff
    • Extra stuff / Miscellaneous

Introduction to the Cicerone Certification Program

What it is

What the program does: certification, education, assessment.

“The Cicerone Certification Program certifies and educates beer professionals in order to elevate the beer experience for consumers.” (Cicerone site)

“… the Cicerone Certification Program has become the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service. The Cicerone Certification Program offers independent assessment and certification so that industry professionals—as well as consumers—can be sure of the knowledge and skills possessed by current and prospective beer servers.” (Why Cicerone?)

The primary content of the program and its levels:

“The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to ensure that consumers receive the best quality beer at every service occasion. To facilitate this, those who sell and serve beer need to acquire knowledge in five areas:

  • Beer Storage, Sales and Service
  • Beer Styles and Culture
  • Beer Tasting and Flavors
  • Brewing Ingredients and Processes
  • Pairing Beer with Food

To encourage participation by those with various interests and ambitions, the program offers three levels of certification beginning with the simplest and building to the most complex and demanding:

  •      Certified Beer Server
  •      Certified Cicerone®
  •      Master Cicerone®” (Why Cicerone?)

Levels

So these are your 3 levels in the Cicerone Certification Program:

  •      Certified Beer Server
  •      Certified Cicerone®
  •      Master Cicerone®

If you wanted one

There are currently 7 Master Cicerones, 1544 Certified Cicerones and about 40,095 Certified Beer Servers listed in the roster.

Comments

Beer

Every level requires access to beer in many different styles, with the number of styles to be known increasing with each level. It is possible that you may already have a lot of this knowledge but unlikely you have it all at immediate recall. Technically, you don’t need to drink any beer for the Certified Beer Server level—as there is no tasting component on the exam (all online)—but it helps. There will be plenty of questions that, while requiring factual (and a little theoretical) knowledge, are answered best from experiential knowledge. Well, truly best would be experiential (tasting) knowledge strengthened by simultaneously studying and evaluating using the Cicerone Certification Program framework for beer styles. This is quite possibly the lengthiest part of studying, at least for the Certified Beer Server exam.

Cicerone Certification Program beer styles schema

The Cicerone Certification Program uses the same schema/format/classification for all levels of certification. They use the (BJCP style guidelines) for ABV and SRM number ranges for each style, and they use their own word-based scales for Color, Perceived Bitterness and ABV. You best learn both ways of referring to bitterness and color.

Assorted

Every level has its own syllabus, which is freely available, which you will also need. More resources are needed as you go up in levels. Of course, this also depends on how much prior knowledge/experience you have with the covered topics. There are also optional study materials/opportunities available from the Cicerone Certification Program that you can shell out for. It makes sense in some cases. I discuss it a bit below.

Professional qualifications

These are considered to be professional certifications and are priced accordingly. Cicerone.org is on record as stating that generally an employer is contributing something towards certification for their employee. Perhaps. Except when not. I discussed this a bit more with Cicerone.org via Twitter which you can see and read more of my comments at my Twitter Road to Cicerone #beerchat post.

Next I will cover the first level, which is the one I am certified at.

Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server (Level I)

What will be learned

“The Certified Beer Server requires competent knowledge of beer storage and service issues as well as modest knowledge of beer styles and culture and basic familiarity with beer tasting and flavors and basic knowledge about brewing process and ingredients. Knowledge of the Cicerone Certification Program’s levels and titles is also required.” (CBS page)

Syllabus (pdf) can be found here. This is only the outline. The full syllabus continues for nine more pages.

  • I. Keeping and Serving Beer
    • A. Purchasing and accepting beer
    • B. Serving alcohol
    • C. Beer storage
    • D. Draft systems
    • E. Beer glassware
    • F. Serving bottled beer
    • G. Serving draft beer
  • II. Beer Styles
    • A. Understaning beer styles
    • B. Style parameters
    • C. History, characteristics, and flavor attributes of styles by region
  • III. Beer Flavor and Evaluation
    • A. Taste and flavor
    • B. Identify normal flavors of beer and their source
    • C. Off-flavor knowledge
  • IV. Beer Ingredients and Brewing Processes
    • A. Ingredients
  • V. Pairing Beer with Food

Intended audience

“First-level certification exam for those who work with beer.” (CBS page) Since the Certified Cicerone is for “mature beer professionals” according to the founder, Ray Daniels, then I assume the Certified Beer Server is for not-yet mature beer professionals. Daniels asks “Can you think of anyone who should have a better knowledge of beer and its service than a beer writer?” and reminds us he started as a beer writer [See #RtC chat post]. 

So definitely beer servers, beer writers, folks in the industry aspiring to be “mature beer professionals.” Of course, these folks perhaps should be on their way to the Certified Cicerone. Bar/brewpub/microbrewery/etc. owners and managers. Wait staff. I imagine the case could be made for others. What do you folks think? [See more thoughts below at 3.7.2]

Costs

Exam alone: $69 USA, $79 International.

Exam format

“60-question multiple choice exam, administered online. A grade of 75% is required to pass. Candidates must also pass a short quiz about the Cicerone program. Each payment allows you 2 attempts to achieve a passing score.”

Time frame

Based on how much you already know about beer, styles and brewing, etc. it should only take a couple months of studying to be ready for the Certified Beer Server exam. Notice that the optional BeerSavvy online training gives you access for 90-days so they seem to think that’s about the right amount.

What is needed

  • No prerequisites.
  • Beer – this is needed at every level, unless you are already an expert on styles and your knowledge can be expressed in the schema they use to describe them (a combination of their own and BJCP).
  • Free study links – The Cicerone Certification Program provides some useful study links (yes, some of these are dubious/broken and I hope they update this document soon. I may well comment on these and suggest some alternatives in the future.)
  • Randy Mosher (2009). Tasting beer. Storey Pub.  [ My review ] – This book is pretty much mandatory. If not the primary reference source (the syllabus, probably) then it is the next most valuable. Read this book. A couple of times. I have. And will again.
  • Internet connected computer and an hour to take the test

Additional non-mandatory resources:

  • Cicerone Certification Program Beer Styles Profiles Card Sets. I have a set of these and they are great. They do contain every style on the Certified Beer Server exam.  although there may be some slight confusion: Imperial stout is listed in the American styles – Modern section of the CBS syllabus, while the card is Russian Imperial Stout and is in the British styles section. For the Certified Cicerone exam Imperial Stout is listed under both British – English – Dark Ales and American – Modern, but I am not sure whether they are considered equivalent for the exam. I’ll have more to say about these in the next post regarding the Certified Cicerone exam.
  • BeerSavvy from the Cicerone Certification Program

    “An online eLearning program covering beer flavor, service and styles in sufficient depth to prepare candidates for the Certified Beer Server exam. Study aids such as a downloadable flashcard file are included.”

    • $199 but includes CBS exam; “gives one person access to the streaming educational content for 90 days from the date of purchase.” (BeerSavvy)
    • Requires an Internet-connected computer
  • Some additional educational resources recommended by the Cicerone Certification Program. There are plenty of other potential resources also. Some a little less pricey.

Comments

BeerSavvy

I have no comment on the BeerSavvy online learning as I did not use it. If you are pressed for time and have limited capacity (for whatever reason) to compile your own study resources and guide your own studying then it may make good sense. There are possibly a few other cases where it makes sense. You are effectively spending $130 for training. I have no idea how long it takes to go through it once but it is probably faster than doing a lot of studying on your own.

Who do I think it is for?

This seems to me a very relevant question. I may (or may not) fit the standard idea of who should take the Certified Beer Server exam. I think I fit just fine, though. The larger question will be am I “in the mold” for the Certified Cicerone exam? Perhaps not. Yet. Maybe never.

Pretty much everybody in the beer industry, from all aspects of a brewery’s operations, to distributors, on to the retail service end, ought have the knowledge required of a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server. Many of those do not actually need to be certified though.

I see certification—at some level and from some organization—becoming more important. It will mean more in much larger cities, particularly with trendy bars and dining experiences more readily available. It will also become increasingly important in real craft beer towns like ours, Bend, OR, and others. People who know (and appreciate) beer will want those serving them, slinging it around (distribution of whatever kind), and those producing the beer to also be reasonably educated regarding beer. It is hard to say how much certification will matter in the future as there are too many unknowns and too many different beer scenes. I do think demand will greatly increase though.

Another source of folks to pursue these qualifications, even if they are “professional” certifications, are assorted hobbyists like me. Whether homebrewer, blogger, beer geek who wants to know more, or some other person, there are plenty of folks who are willing to learn and to pay for these professional certifications. This diverse group is clearly not any of these organizations primary market but they underestimate them to their own detriment.

If industry is going to begin requiring that servers and others become professionally certified then there must be a pay off for the industry. The easiest way that I see to drive that is to get consumers to care whether or not those responsible for providing and/or serving them beer are certified are or not. If it makes no matter, who will pay for training/certification, and why?

I think encouraging folks, like me (and not like me)—hobbyists, if you must—would help spread the word about the value of this sort of certification for the general consumer. I am most definitely a very-well educated, and certified, consumer of beer. There. I said it.

But there is always more to learn.

Previous posts

Wrap-up

This post provided a general intro to the Cicerone Certification Program and covered the 1st level, the Certified Beer Server. This is the level at which I am certified and the only one I am qualified to answer questions about the experience of studying and testing. But I can still provide answers to many questions on the next two levels and indicate where to get more. Next up will be a post on the Certified Cicerone.