By Kurt Epps—The PubScout
It should come as no surprise that beer writers get asked to review beers, and, through various contacts from NJ to AZ, I had accumulated quite a store. While I could evaluate a single beer from every source, and maybe have two or more if it was particularly outstanding, I realized that I would have quite a few “soldiers” standing at the ready, but no war to send them to.
So, with my motto of “good beer, good people” in mind, I concocted the idea of the very first PubScout’s Beer Tasting. Why not invite some of my faithful followers over to help me assess these beers?
My schedule dictated that it had to be a Sunday, and my whim dictated that it be all male, what with football on and all. So I went through my contacts list and invited an eclectic mix of manly men who had shown an interest in beer, especially in following my blog. Space limitations in my home dictated that the assembly consist of about 10-12 alpha males, one of them to be my middle son attending college who just turned 21. It’s reasonable to assume that, given his lineage, he had been exposed to beer long before this, but you know the deal—once you’re legal, it’s cool to be able to do things like this without the annoying fear (or exciting thrill) that you’re doing something wrong.
I invited a couple of wrestling coaches, friends, neighbors and motorcycle friends. To preserve their anonymity, the attendees are listed by initials: MG, JG, KM, MOK, DC, DR, HM, RD, KE, JF, LD, and RA. In all, these hardy souls sampled and evaluated twenty-four beers each in four hours. They were not certified beer judges, so the evaluation system was relatively basic—as it should be whenever average joes like us assess a beer. I provided them with prior homework on beer evaluation—to be completed before they came to “class,” and on a scale of one to five, they had to score beers on Appearance, Nose, Mouthfeel and Taste, using indicators like “olfaction” and “retro-olfaction,” on which they had been previously briefed.
My faithful soul-mate, Donna, did yeoman’s work in helping me prep for this, especially in providing the food, and her role as “Scullery Wench” deserves special commendation, as we had to rinse and clean glasses after every beer. We had a few mishaps, but in all we functioned like a well-oiled machine in the Scullery. A film crew from Montclair State University was on hand to capture the event. I’ll advise through this blog where to access the film when it becomes available.
The beers, in order, were as follows:
· Saisons—Hennepin and The Bruery’s Saison D’Lente
· Hefeweizens—Flying Dog, Troeg’s and SanTan (AZ)
· Golden Ale—Epic Brainless, Flying Dog Tire Bite
· Pilsner—Beach Haus (Pt. Pleasant, NJ) and Pilsner Urquell
· Pale Ale—Dale’s, Devil’s Ale (SanTan)
· Amber—Great Divide’s Avalanche, SanTan’s Epicenter and Flying Dog’s Amber Lager
· Black Lager—Kostritzer, Winter Rental
· IPA—Harpoon, Flying Dog, Climax
· Porter—Zywiec, Flying Dog Imperial Porter
· Stout—Yeti (Great Divide), Belgo Anise (Stone) and Ten-Fidy (Oskar Blues)
Keep in mind that not every beer had to be the taster’s favorite, but they had to evaluate it according to style. It was not take a swig, swallow and say “It’s good or it’s crap.”
Whether they choose to drink that style privately is their call. Using the categories to establish an average “Overall” assessment, the results, acquired through review of their completed judging sheets and a show of hands, revealed some very interesting info. The highest scores had to have at least six hands that rated the beer “4” or higher. One beer was actually unanimous at a near-5 rating from everyone.
The three top choices were two offerings from the East Coast Beer Co., makers of Beach Haus and Winter Rental, and the unanimous choice as top beer of the tasting was Zywiec Porter, a beer that sells at Dan Ratti’s Oak Tree Discount Liquor store in South Plainfield for just $2 for a 16-oz. bottle.
In all, it was an excellent afternoon, full of loud—at times raucous—testosterone-filled laughter as the invitees got to know each other better. Twenty-four beers had something to do with that, I’m sure. But all expressed their sincere thanks and indicated that they had learned much about beer appreciation during the four hour session. Some were kind enough to arrive bearing gifts, and for that courtesy, I thank them.
When the official session was over, we retired to the front porch for some fine conversation, more beer and a few Alvarez cigars, as The Scullery Wench has strict orders about cigars in the house.
This was an All-Peno-American event by my choice. There will be one that includes Breasted-Americans somewhere down the road, so don’t fret, ladies.
But please don’t whine.
As everyone knows, Whine doesn’t get invited to a beer tasting.
If you'd like to be invited to the next one, send me an email at email@example.com.