This weekend, I went to a beer tasting with a small group of beer lovers. There were seven of us in total, and each of us brought a few bottles of beer that was either new to us or that is hard to come by in the Ottawa area. We had more than 15 different beers to sample.
So many, in fact, that we didn't have a chance to go through them all.
So many, that I lost track.
So many, that I forgot some of the last few glasses.
Some of you might think that this was just one big piss up, but I assure you that we didn't each drink one bottle of all that was on offer. We shared bottles, from growlers down to your standard 341-ml bottles. We had no more than four to six ounces per tasting. And sometimes, a sip was all it took.
So while we sampled a lot of beer, I probably consumed no more than three or four pints. Tops. And I had a designated driver.
Years ago, when my wife and I hosted or attended wine tastings, we typically had no more than six wines to try, and that was a good thing. You could concentrate on a variety that was easy to keep track of. Some wines would be memorable; others would be decent; once and a while, you'd encounter a wine you'd want to forget. But with six bottles, you remembered them all.
I made a lot of mistakes at Saturday's tasting, but first and foremost my biggest blunder was not writing anything down. Not taking names, details, and tasting notes. I had planned on writing down my findings, but once we sat down and dug into our first beer of the evening (a seasonal blueberry wheat ale), I decided that instead of "working" I would just enjoy the evening. Just socialize. Just experience the moment.
The company was great, but I still wish I had at least photographed the bottles so that I could refer back to them.
But because a lot of these beers are not available in many areas, including my own, I was thinking that it would be pointless to give you details.
So take this post as a cautionary tale: if you're going to do a tasting, keep track of what you have.
Here are some of the beers that I did find fascinating:
- Blueberry Wheat Ale, Ashton Brewing: this was a nice light-flavoured beer to refresh our palates and warm us up.
- White Horse Ale, Mill Street: I first tried this unfiltered ale from a cask at the National Capital Craft Beer Week festival. It has a great balance of creamy spice and hops. It's one of my standard pints at the brewery's Ottawa pub. Drinking it from a growler felt special.
- Milk Stout, The Duck-Rabbit: pass the chocolate-chip cookies! This was an amazingly creamy stout with a slight sweetness that reminded me of chocolate milk. It was my favourite dark beer of the evening. From North Carolina.
- Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale, Mill Street: this was a beautifully flavourful pumpkin ale that had a great balance of spice and real pumpkin. I'll be reviewing this beer properly in an upcoming review of pumpkin ales, so I almost skipped the tasting of it this weekend. I'm glad I didn't.
- Venskab, Beau's: this is a creamy-smooth Belgian Tripel-style ale. Aged on ice-wine-soaked oak chips and then aged again in Canadian white wine barrels, there is a nice fruit and yeast flavour. Beautiful.
- 90-Minute IPA, Dogfish Head: I first had this massive IPA in a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina a couple of months ago. Afterwards, I made it my mission to find more. I picked up a couple of 4-packs in Washington, DC. Love it.
- Ten Fidy, Oskar Blues: my wife summed up this stout with three words: "It's a committment." This beer was so dark that no light passes through it. Heavy licorice and molasses flavour and a whopping 10.5 percent ABV made this the heavyweight of all stouts.
We tried other wheat ales, other IPAs, and other stouts (I had a pumpkin spruce stout that was simply overkill). And while I didn't take notes, didn't take names, I learned a lot. My tasting skills were put to the test and I feel I held my own. I was in good company with people who knew their beer and liked to share.
I overloaded my tastebuds. I learned that we have to limit the number of beers we try in a tasting. Towards the end of the evening, I was tasting previous beers in the ones I was putting to my lips. I had too much.