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Apr 24, 2014

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American Beer Month
Beer tasting 101

Glass Is In Session

Beer #1: Deschutes Brewery Pine Mountain Pils (Bend, Oregon)
Alternatives: Saint Arnold Summer Pils (Houston, Texas), Victory Brewing Prima Pils (Downingtown, Pennsylvania), Baltimore Brewing DeGroen's Pils (Baltimore, Maryland), Baderbrau (Goose Island, Chicago, Illinois), Brooklyn Brewery Pilsner (Brooklyn New York), Old Dominion Brewing Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils (Ashburn, Virginia), Sierra Nevada Brewing Summerfest Pils (Chico, California) Three Floyds Burnham Pilsner (Munster, Indiana), Lagunitas Pils (Petaluma, California), New Belgium Blue Paddle Pilsner (Fort Collins, Colorado), Full Sail Pilsner (Hood River, Oregon).

Style: American Pilsner
Although often confused with the macrobrewed versions of the style, craft breweries take the classic American pilsner and bring it back to its original, pre-Prohibition glory.

Similar in style to European pilsners, like Pilsner Urquell, these refreshing light- to golden-hued brews should be crisp, even hoppy in flavor, often with an effervescent or creamy body (mouthfeel) and a long-lasting head.

Beer #2: Tabernash Weiss (Longmont, Colorado)
Alternatives: MacTarnahan Brewing Uncle Otto's Weiss Beer (Portland, Oregon), Baltimore Brewing DeGroen's Weizen (Baltimore, Maryland), Frederick Brewing Wild Goose Spring Wheat (Frederick, Maryland), Stoudt's Weizen (Adamstown, Pennsylvania), Victory Brewing Sunrise Weiss (Downingtown, Pennsylvania), Rogue Brewing Half-A-Weizen (Newport, Oregon)

Style: Wheat beer
No lemon slice necessary, thank you. German-style Weiss beers are proof that different yeasts and grains can really do different things to your beer. In this case, you might detect vanilla, cloves and/or banana in both aroma and flavor.

These beers can range in color from a pale straw to an almost copper tone. Wheat beers (and particularly the German-influenced Weiss and Weizens) can be cloudy, thanks to suspended protein in the beer from all that wheat. A soft, grainy flavor from the wheat should be predominant. Hop flavor is low to none and hop bitterness is very low. The texture of wheat imparts a fluffy, creamy fullness. The beer often finishes lightly, but can be very carbonated.

Beer #3: Allegash Double (Portland, Maine)
Alternatives: Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.), Flying Fish Belgian Style Dubbel (Cherry Hill, New Jersey), Stoudt Brewery Abbey Double (Adamstown, Pennsylvania), New Belgium Brewery Abbey (Fort Collins, Colorado), Brooklyn Brewery Breukelen Abbey Ale (Brooklyn, New York)

Style: Belgian-Style Dubbel or Double
Rich malt aromas, that unmistakable Belgian yeast flavor (think: spices, cloves), and, often, raisiny or fruity flavors predominate.

Dubbels are typically darker in color (dark amber to brown) with little or no head retention and, often, a bit more alcohol presence. Dried fruit flavors often abound. There is usually very little hop presence in this style of beer.

By Belgian law, to be called a Trappist Ale, the beer must be brewed at a Trappist monastery. Home brewed and craft beer equivalents are often called "abbey ales."

Beer #4: MacTarnahan's Black Watch Cream Porter (Portland, Oregon)
Alternatives: Fish Tale Mud Shark Porter (Olympia, Washington), Deschutes Black Butte Porter (Bend, Oregon), Anchor Porter (San Francisco, California), Crooked River Brewery Robust Porter (Cleveland, Ohio), Frederick Brewing Blue Ridge Porter or Wild Goose Porter (Frederick, Maryland), Left Hand Brewing BlackJack Porter (Longmont, Colorado), Smuttynose Porter (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Style: Porter
Porters were created when a pub owner in England got tired of his customers ordering "an entire" -- which was a glassful mixed from of all of the beers he had on tap. The enterprising man brewed up a dark ale that was reminiscent of the "entires" he made up each day and named it after his demanding patrons, most of whom were -- you guessed it -- porters.

A roast malt or grain aroma, often coffee-like or chocolaty, should be evident when you sniff a porter. Hop aroma is moderate to low. These dark brown to nearly black beers often sport a nice, creamy head. You might detect a sharpness in the mouthfeel from the roasted malts.

Beer #5 Old Dominion Tupper's Hop Pocket India Pale Ale (Ashburn, Virginia)
Alternatives: Stone IPA (San Diego, California), Lagunitas IPA (Petaluma, California), Three Floyd's IPA (Munster, Indiana), Anderson Valley Brewing Hop Ottin' IPA (Boonville, California), Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (Healdsburg, California), Bridgeport IPA (Portland, Oregon), Full Sail IPA (Hood River, Oregon), Pike IPA (Seattle, Washington), Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (Lewes, Delaware), Fish Tale IPA (Olympia, Washington), MacTarnahan Brewing Woodstock IPA (Portland, Oregon), Il Vicino Brewing Wet Mountain IPA (Albuquerque, N.M.), Hog Heaven (Avery Brewing, Boulder, Colorado), Weyerbacher Hop Infusion (Easton, Pennsylvania), Victory Brewing HopDevil IPA (Downington, Pennsylvania)

Style: India Pale Ale
India Pale Ales were brewed as a way to help British soldiers enjoy their pints while colonizing India. The Brits found that their usual pale ales were not making the trip overseas very well. One brewer, realizing that hops are a natural preservative and that organisms can't live in higher alcohol content, boosted both in his original pale ale recipe. The boosted beer fared well on the trip to India, and the rest is hoppy history.

IPAs are the hopheads' delight. A prominent hop aroma of floral, grassy, or fruity characteristic is typical. A caramel or toasty malt presence may also be noted at low levels. Gold to deep copper in color, malt flavors take a back seat to the hop in these beers, but should be present enough to provide a balance and backbone for the hop profile -- as well as creating complexity and a medium-to-full mouthfeel.

One note: You will notice that I stuck this golden-colored beer between two dark ones in the tasting progression. No, I am not losing my mind. I did this to prove a point -- something that seems to be one of the biggest myths we uncover in my in-person tastings: Dark beer does not necessarily mean strong beer -- in either alcohol level or flavor.

Beer #6: Bell's Expedition Stout (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Alternatives: Alaska Brewing Alaskan Stout (Juneau, Alaska), Pelican Brewery Tsunami Stout (Pacific City, Oregon), Rogue Shakespeare Stout (Newport, Oregon), Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout (Lewes, Delaware), Deschutes Obsidian Stout (Bend, Oregon), Smuttynose Imperial Stout (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), North Coast Old Rasputin (Fort Bragg, California), Victory Brewing Storm King Stout (Downingtown, Pennsylvania)

Style: Stout
There is a huge range of stouts to choose from. I picked these examples because they tend to be the ones that deliver the most recognizable flavors. You should be able to detect some strong coffee or cocoa in these very fruity, richly complex brews.

An intensely flavorful beer, these very dark, often opaque black stouts possess toasty, fruity, and bittersweet flavors, with a notable alcohol presence. Often, dried fruit combines with roasty, almost burnt flavors. The hop profile can vary from very light to strong.

School's out

Once you have tasted all the beers in our lineup, you might start to have a better idea of which beers you tend to prefer. Perhaps you are a fan of those with dried-fruit flavor. Or maybe you are a sucker for citrus.

Not surprisingly, most folks find they like beers that are similar in flavor to other beverages they enjoy. But a lot of people also discover that they really like a style of beer they would have never considered before taking a tasting class.

Take this newfound information with you the next time you are heading to your favorite pub for a pint or to the store for a six-pack. Using what you learned in this class can help you set your own course for discovering new beers.

Also one other thing to note: Don't write off the styles you didn't appreciate as much during our tasting. I have found that my tastes have changed as I learn more about beer styles. I also find that I am very much a "seasonal" beer drinker. I love a stout in the winter. But just like a blanket on a hot summer day, it's just about the last thing I think about come July.

That's it, students. Glass is dismissed. Don't forget to keep studying. Somehow, I don't think you will mind doing your homework for this subject. Happy American Beer Month -- and thanks for playing!

- Return to introduction
- Return to tasting overview

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