Walter Mencken 2 p.m., Aug. 22
Validation for a Self-Confirmed Beer Nerd
I love beer. So much so, I’ve made a career writing about it. I’m not a hop-head or a Belgo-phile. I enjoy every single style of beer from palate-dazing double IPAs to sweet vanilla-tinged barley wines and cloven German hefeweizens. Having tried dozens of types of each over the past decade-and-a-half, I like to think I've developed a pretty good palate (otherwise, it was just a lot of recreational drinking…OK, I guess that’s not so bad). Last weekend, I had the chance to test my taste buds’ powers of differentiation by attending the latest session of BeerNerdz at downtown’s The Beer Co.
Founded by owner Eric Barajas, BeerNerdz holds monthly events where attendees are handed a scorecard listing eight-to-ten beers along with their vital stats (style, brand name, producer, alcohol-by-volume, level of bitterness) and a lengthy description of their color and flavor profile. At that point, event-goers are turned loose to roam The Beer Co.’s upstairs private dining space, where tables are set up with individual stations serving up a sample of each of the beers on the card.
Barajas and The Beer Co.'s idea of an "appetizer"...an entire pizza...four were served to our table of eight over the course of the night.
Volunteers pour the beers from unmarked growlers. The point is for attendees to use the description on the card in tandem with their palates to correctly identify as many of the brews as possible. Along the way, heavy appetizers are served to balance things out and provide a good means for breaking up all the drinking. It’s a fun setup for novices who haven’t been exposed to a wide variety of craft beer styles. Many on hand Saturday night were happily surprised that beer flavors are so varied and expressed an interest in learning more. I smiled at hearing that, knowing it was only a matter of time before their thirst would be as unquenchable as mine.
My score card from the evening...WTF is right. So close!
In addition to my scorecard, I had the benefit of having tasted all but one of the beers on the list several times. From the get-go, I knew the hardest thing to do would be to tell two high alcohol beers high in both malt and hop apart from each other—Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine and Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot imperial brown ale. As expected, they were my undoing. Mixing them up kept me from getting a perfect score, but I did walk away with second place, a t-shirt, and proof of the beer geek status I’ve touted for years.
Behold, Miss Perfection (left), the only taster to yield a perfect score. My hat goes off to her, but a part of me is worried she might also be a really good writer.
Even if you’re more into tasting than gaming, BeerNerdz has something for you. This session featured the highly coveted Alpine Exponential Hoppiness triple IPA as well as The Lost Abbey’s Deliverance, AleSmith’s My Bloody Valentine and Ballast Point Smoke Screen smoked Helles. To find out more about BeerNerdz events (as well as events involving Barajas’ non-beer-focused FoodNerdz enterprise), check out the company’s official website.
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