Tag Archives: glassware

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

A belated Happy New Year to all ye faithful Tempest readers! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season filled with plenty of good cheer.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I’m back at it after my Kentucky adventures tracking the shy and retiring Pappy and the increasingly elusive Weller.IMG_2231 For this, my first post of 2015, I’m going to share some tips that have helped me become a better drinker over the years. No, not the “Dude! I just slammed ten tequilas and I’m just getting started” kind of drinker, but a more informed and engaged beer enthusiast.

Tasting beer, wine, saké, and spirits is one of life’s more enjoyable rituals, but it’s also an aptitude you can hone with a bit of practice. True, some people have a keener sense of smell than others, and some people have a more refined palate. But despair not! A modicum of attention to what you’re drinking and how you’re drinking it cannot help but enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of what’s in your glass.

Glassware

Glasses are as good a place to start as any. A Hefeweizen’s towering foam cap is epic in its proper vessel, and the Chimay chalice adds a certain gravitas to your drinking session. Fortunately, though, you don’t need to go out and buy a whole cabinet-full of glassware, nice as it all looks on display.

If you buy one new glass in 2015, make it the versatile tulip glass. Its bulbous mid-section will contain the most vigourous of Belgian beers, and its tapered rim concentrates the aromas of those IPAs so many of you love to drink. You can also use it as a snifter for your barley wines and imperial stouts.IMG_2583 The tulip glass is a far better option than the standard pint glass, which, despite the fond attachment we may feel for this iconic drinking vessel, does a poor job of showcasing the aromas of a well-crafted beer.

Serving Temperature

Now that you’ve acquired shiny new glassware for your precious elixir, give some thought to the temperature at which you’ll drink your beverage of choice. In North America, it’s been hammered into our heads since birth that beer is to be drunk ice-cold. Warm beer? That’s what the Brits drink. Old cultural habits and stereotypes die hard.

I know it’s difficult with that beer sitting there calling out to you to drink it, but let’s resolve in 2015 to wait for the beer to come up to its ideal temperature. (To get a sense of the temperature ranges over which you can drink your various styles of beer, check out Ratebeer’s extremely useful “Serving Temperature Guide.”) Our patience will be rewarded with more complex hop aromas and a more intense malt character.

Try this experiment with two bottles of Fuller’s ESB. Chill one in the fridge, and store the other bottle as close to cellar temperature (13C/55F, give or take a degree or two) as you can. When you drink them side by side out of your new tulip glasses, I’m betting that you’ll get more out of the bottle that has been resting at cellar temperature. As for all those barley wines, Doppelbocks, imperial stouts, and Belgian quads? It pays to throw to the wind all those inhibitions we may feel about drinking warm beer.

Eat and drink with a catholic embrace

Or, if you prefer, drink promiscuously. Drink every beer style you can get your hands on. Drink wine. Drink rum. Eat chocolate. Order some coffee from a good roaster. Learn more about the art of the cocktail.IMG_2340 There’s a whole world to be explored beyond craft beer, and all of it will augment your understanding and appreciation of beer.

Earlier this year, I asked Cornell flavour chemist, Gavin Sacks, about what he does to get the most out of his research and tasting sessions. His advice bears repeating:

Remember that there are no unique flavor compounds or flavors to be found in wine or beer. So, try to smell and taste lots of things, not just wine or beer. Go to a perfume shop or a candle store or an auto parts store and sniff everything. Buy a bunch of obscure fruits from the local Asian market and taste them.

Compare and Contrast

Flights are the way to go. They also make for a great excuse to get your friends together for some postprandial entertainment. Here’s Sacks again:

Never, ever taste a single wine or beer at a time. Humans are lousy at doing sensory evaluation on a single product in a vacuum; we’re much better at doing comparative studies.

If you’re just getting a handle on what kinds of beer you like, flights enable you to sample a wide range of styles. If you’ve been drinking craft beer for some time, you can arrange a flight of, say, stouts to see which iterations of the style you like more than others. It goes without saying that flights also allow you to try a number of beers at a bar or brewery without getting totally hammered. Spend some time with the beers, and take a few notes.IMG_0508

Tasting Notes

Drink. Write. Repeat.

Whether you’re an Untappd junky or whether you prefer to write your notes in a notebook, take notes on at least a third of the beers you drink this year. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll develop your abilities to describe how your beer smells and tastes.

While you’re at it, pair the BJCP Style Guidelines with your tasting sessions to get a better sense of both what the brewer was trying to achieve and what flavour and aroma characteristics you might encounter in your bière de garde, Altbier, or American pale ale. Then write down your impressions. With a little practice, your sensory memory will grow into a well-stocked repository of aroma and flavour descriptors.

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Should you find the “practice” element of beer appreciation too onerous on occasion, just grab a beer out of your fridge or cellar and kick back. Becoming a better drinker isn’t meant to be hard work, after all.

Cheers to a healthy and prosperous 2015!

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Related Tempest Articles

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks

How To Become a Beer Liaison: An Interview with Genesee’s Sean Coughlin

Images

Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY

Tulip glass

Barrels at Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY

Flights of beer at Ithaca Beer Company

All images by F.D. Hofer.

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© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer Enthusiast

If you’re like me, last-minute holiday shopping is a fact of life. December 18? Plenty of time! Whether you’re of the last-minute persuasion, or whether you’re still scratching your head wondering what the perfect gift might be for the classy imbiber in your life, Tempest’s annual holiday wish list has you covered. And even if the über-cool DrinkTank growlers are on back order till February, an I.O.U. with a picture of a growler tucked into a stocking might just be your ticket.

Glassware

Time to branch out beyond that old pint glass. You won’t have much difficulty in finding glassware that is deeply rooted in the culture of a particular locale, or that offers enhanced gustatory and aesthetic pleasures.Pauwel Kwak (rakuten-com) Nothing beats the look of a well-poured Hefeweizen, but for sheer uniqueness rivaled only by the British yard glass and the German boot, here’s my choice: the bulbous Pauwel Kwak glass with its own wooden stand. Brouwerij Bosteels, which brews Pauwel Kwak and markets the accompanying drinking vessel, claims that the apparatus was designed in the nineteenth century by an innkeeper named Pauwel for coachmen who would pass by his inn. The design made it easy to hand the glass to the coachman, who could set the stand securely beside him for the ride. Apocryphal or not, the stories you’ll dig up about the glass are sure to be augmented by more recent stories of you or your friends trying to drink out of the set-up without wearing your beer.

Lebkuchen

For those who like to experiment with food and beer pairings, Lebkuchen from Leckerlee in NYC makes for an ideal dessert that complements the rich, caramelized fruit-accented malt notes of Doppelbocks and barley wines alike.Leckerlee - Lebkuchen Tin Lebkuchen is a seasonal baked good that originated with the Franconian monks of the Middle Ages. Akin to gingerbread, regional bakers distinguish their wares with honey, aniseed, coriander, cloves, allspice, almonds, or candied fruit. Lebkuchen is a fixture of many a Christkindlmarkt stall across the Germanic countries at this time of year, where it is often served as an accompaniment to mulled wine. The baker behind Leckerlee’s Lebkuchen went straight to the Franconian source for inspiration, spending a year developing her recipe for these tasty Nürnberger Lebkuchen.

Beer Is OK Bottle Opener

You’ve got the glassware now, and some kind soul has given you some fine beer. No doubt, you already have plenty of bottle openers kicking around, but what’s the harm in having one more, especially if it comes in the shape of the State of Oklahoma? And really, how many other U.S. states or Canadian provinces lend their shapes so well to bottle openers?IMG_2052 You don’t even have to be from Oklahoma to appreciate the merits of this opener worth its weight in the metal from which it’s crafted.

DrinkTank Stainless Steel Growler

Not only do DrinkTank’s variously-hued growlers look impressive, they are, according to the company, “cast from high quality 18/8 stainless steel and do not sweat due to a double wall vacuum insulation design.” If you’re like me and stuff books and beer into the same backpack, you’ll readily appreciate this feature. You can choose from eleven colours and finishes, and you can even trick out your growler with a CO2-charged Keg Cap that’ll keep your beer fresh for up to five days.

DrinkTanks - ProductLine_revised (www-drinktanks-com)BeerLoved

If you’re still completely stuck, BeerLoved.com stocks a wide range of beer-related goods, apparel, gadgets, and munchies, many of which run in the $20-$50 range. Chillsner (beerloved-com)How about a Chillsner by Corksickle to keep your beer cool on those hot summer grilling days? BeerLoved carries plenty of perfect stocking-stuffers in the under-$10 price bracket as well. Raspberry Lambic Caramel Sauce, anyone? Hint: When you try to leave their site, they give you a “second chance” coupon good for 10% off.

And a Few Books

Garrett Oliver. The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food (2003). With so many quality beer offerings to choose from these days, it’s no surprise that craft beer types have begun to pay more attention to pairing the tastes and aromas of beer with what’s on the plate. Brooklyn Brewery maestro, Garrett Oliver, obliges those who want to go well beyond beer and bratwurst, offering up a cornucopia of pairing possibilities in his Brewmaster’s Table. Got a Rodenbach Grand Cru you’d like to feature with dinner? Oliver lets you know why this particular beer complements game, “especially wild wood pigeon and partridge.” No wild wood pigeon in your neighbourhood? No problem. Gamey liver patés will do just fine, as will tangy dishes like ceviche and pickled herring. The Brewmaster’s Table is book to which I return again and again, and not merely for the beer and food pairings. A pleasure to read.

John P. Arnold. Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology (1911; reprint issued in 2005). For many a craft beer drinker with a casual interest in reading about the liquid in his or her glass, beer writing originated with Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter extraordinaire.Arnold - OriginHistBrewing 1911 (amazon) Sure, Jackson played an inestimable role at a crucial juncture in combating the host of mass-produced lager that threatened to confine less-popular beer styles to the proverbial dustbin of history. But just as we’ve been drinking beer for eons now, Jackson, too, has his predecessors. John P. Arnold, a one-time student at Chicago’s Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology, penned his magisterial Origin and History of Beer and Brewing on the occasion of the institute’s twenty-fifth anniversary. More than a mere overview of scientific developments, Arnold’s work is a cultural history of an order rarely attained in contemporary writing about beer. I stumbled across Origin and History of Beer and Brewing in Cornell’s Rare and Manuscript Collection while doing some research on the pre-Prohibition hop industry in New York State, and was even happier to find that it had been issued as a reprint in 2005. (Don’t be put off by the sole two-star Amazon review of this reprint. The author of the review has clearly failed to grasp the difference between 1911 and 2010.) This gem is a connoisseur’s book –– a history of the brewing industry that is a primary source in its own right. Perfect for the beer-drinking scholar on your list.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

More Tempest Gift Ideas

Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer-Drinking Bookworm

Accoutrements and Provisions for the Classy Imbiber

Images

Pauwel Kwak glass: www.rakuten.com

Lebkuchen tin: https://www.facebook.com/leckerleenyc

Beer Is OK opener: F.D. Hofer

Growler Line: www.drinktanks.com

Chillsner: www.beerloved.com

Arnold’s Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: www.amazon.com

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© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.