Posts Tagged ‘ Beer Judge ’

Beer Tastings and The Weekend in Review

Crack open a beer. This will be a long one.

Over the weekend I got a bit ambitious and decided to cover two local beer tastings for my Examiner page.

On Friday I attended an Oktoberfest and Fall Seasonal beer tasting at Heinen’s in Aurora, Ohio. This was the first event I attended to kick off a weekend filled with trying new beers. While my decision to attend this tasting was last-minute, I enjoyed tasting a variety of quality fall seasonals at a low $10 admission price.

Here is one of Heinen’s Beer Specialists pouring Southern Tier’s Harvest Ale.

On Saturday I attended a Pumpkin Ale Blind Tasting at Vintage Estate Wine and Beer in Boardman, Ohio. Vintage Estate is rated the Best Beer Retailer in the world for 2010 by Ratebeer.com! For those who remember, I also mentioned Vintage Estate when I posted about Drew Nelson’s blog 365 Days…365 Beers.

From the moment I walked in to Vintage Estate I could see why it was ranked best in the world. From the moment I walked in Owners Phil and Sandy Reda welcomed me with open arms. These two love craft beer and are relentless about offering the best customer service possible.

Let me try to paint a picture for you of what Vintage Estate is like. The shop area has over 800 craft beers and a quality wine selection in stock. There is also the VE Tasting Lounge which has 12 rotating craft beer kegs, a wine bar, Ohio’s only mead bar, and a selection of single malt scotch.

Here was the draft beers available during my visit. Kegs at VE do not last longer than week.

Back in the shop there is a section of seating known as the VE Terrace. This gives you the chance to “sit while you shop”. If you buy a beer from the Tasting Lounge, you can freely walk around with it in the shop or relax at the terrace and have a discussion on craft beer. Or if you would prefer to drink a beer from the shop, you can bring it into the Tasting Lounge, purchase it without an opening fee, and drink it while you shop.

During the pumpkin ale blind taste, many people relaxed at the VE Terrace to discuss their thoughts with one another.

If you are looking for standard macrobrews like Bud Light or Miller Lite then do not look here. Phil and Sandy do not carry any of the mass market beers.

“We do not sell crap,” said Phil Reda.

Vintage Estate pretty much gives craft beer fans the full tasting/shopping experience. I could easily see myself walking around this place with a beer in hand discussing beer with someone else. And with no TVs in the shop or tasting lounge (that’s right. No TVs) you will actually have to interact with other people.

After talking to Phil and Sandy, the biggest thing that stood out to me was that they described Vintage Estate as a place a woman could walk into by herself and feel safe.

There you go ladies. A place where most men are so focused on enjoying their beer that they will forget to hit on you.

Vintage Estate’s Pumpkin Ale Blind Taste was an example of how much fun a visit at Vintage Estate can be. About 70 people registered for the event and participants ranged from certified beer judges to craft beer newbies. This pumpkin ale blind taste was the better of the two events, as participants had an interactive experience. Participants had the opportunity to judge each pumpkin ale and discuss them with fellow participants. While the results have yet to be posted, you can see how I judged the pumpkin ales here.

All pumpkin ales were served behind this super secret VE centerpiece!

So what did I learn from these two tastings?

Well, beer tastings are tough. While I enjoyed the pumpkin ale blind taste, I was disappointed in my inability to recognize Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale. I reviewed Punkin Ale about two weeks ago and gave it fairly high marks. At the blind taste, however, I gave it a low score and I could not pick out which of the ales was from Dogfish Head.

Perception also plays a huge part in tasting a beer. At the Heinen’s tasting, I was able to take a look at each bottle label of the beers I tasted. Unfortunately, I am guilty of gravitating toward flashy looking bottle labels and almost begin subconsciously judging a beer based on how well I like the label.

The truth is my favorite beer at the Heinen’s tasting had the lamest looking label. O’Fallon Brewery’s Pumpkin Beer had a label that looked like it was drawn by a first grader. It did, however, have awesome flavor and probably had the truest pumpkin scent of any pumpkin ale I have tried.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that perception plays a huge role in how your beer will taste. That is why it is crucial to enter all beers with an open mind and no expectations. Vintage Estate’s blind taste was a great exercise on how to properly judge a beer. By having no prior knowledge of the pumpkin ales, I was able to judge each beer with an open and honest outlook.

While I did get frustrated with missing Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, I truly enjoyed both tastings this weekend. Everyone’s palate is different and we all pick up different sensations in a beer. The tastings also served as an important reminder that perception has a strong presence when tasting a beer. As a beer taster, it is necessary to be aware of anything surrounding you that can affect how you perceive a beer.

I encourage you to check out my Cleveland Craft Beer Examiner page for more information on the beer served at both tastings. Heinen’s and Vintage Estate both have a great selection of craft beer. If you are looking for something new or something to help you stay warm during the cool fall season than look no further than these two shops.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

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