By Bobby Bush
There are ten Flying Saucer Draught Emporiums scattered across Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. Stephen Beaumont, author and beer writer, dropped by Charlotte for the 7th stop on his Spring Beer Tasting tour. Raleigh was next on a whirlwind beer tasting promotion for the multi-tap beer bar.
A professional writer for 13 years, with five beer books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Stephen certainly knows his way around a beer. And that's exactly why 50+ people gathered in the backroom of Charlotte's Flying Saucer for a tutorial on tasting.
As famed beer author Michael Jackson puts it, "beer promotes digression." And digress Beaumont did as our first taste waited anxiously (well, we were anxious) in the hallway. Finally, served in wine goblets, Pilsner Urquel, the "first blonde lager" was served, along with a discourse on malting technique. The crisp, bitter-finishing Czech pils only whet our appetites for more.
Franziskanner Dunkel Weiss was served with goat cheese. This banana and citrus toned cloudy copper German wheat beer was smooth, as far removed from bitter as a beer can be. Using Portland, Oregon's Widmer Hefeweizen as an example, Beaumont discussed the Americanization of wheat beers. Next up was Jahrhundert Bier from German brewery Ayinger. This 100th anniversary lager, in the Dortmunder Export style, was hoppy for a German brew. Served with bratwurst and kraut, this golden beer played perfect foil with the spicy mustard and sausage. After all, we learned during a treatise on Munich and the surrounding countryside, "German beer and German food grew up together."
Our first American-brewed beer of the evening came from Portland, Maine. Shipyard Fuggles IPA, done in English style with UK noble hops, accompanied smoked cheddar cheese. The combination was not particularly inspiring. The cheese was wax-like and the beer only middle-of-the-road when it comes to bitterness, though that's the English version's characteristics.
From North Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg, California came cloudy gold, white foamed Pranqster. The western version of Belgian Strong Golden Ale, citrusy and spicy, brought forth a monologue on the importance of smell in tasting and on Belgian ales in general. Another California brewery, Anderson Valley from Boonville, followed with Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout. Escorted by brie cheese, the chestnut black stout was smooth with slight harsh tannin effects. Thanks to the oatmeal, the malty coffee nose and dark dark chocolate finish was almost as creamy as the cheese. Rogue Brewing (Newport, Oregon) Santa's Private Reserve, orange-brown in hue and hoppy throughout, was beer number seven. This ultra-hoppy brew was a pleasure to drink.
So far, all of the beers served were pretty ordinary for great NC beer bars. Beaumont surprised the still-eager crowd with a great nightcap. Serenaded with Beaumont's tales of barleywine and beer balance, we sipped ever so slowly on Anchor Foghorn. Richness met richness, as chocolate truffles coated our mouths with joy, chased by the full body and lush flavor of the Foghorn, which finished each swallow with a tangy reminder.
This mid-March gathering of beer, beerdrinkers and Beaumont made for a pleasurable beer experience. If you haven't already, check out Flying Saucer (beerknurds.com) and Stephen Beaumont (worldofbeer.com). Tell 'em Suds sent ya.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush