Sunday, April 30, 2006

Little Adventures in Chicago #2: Educating a wannabe beer snob

A while back I lamented the fact that Chicago has very few microbrews. For that comment, I received two things:
  • my very own beer-making kit
  • an invitation to Goose Island's "beer academy"
The beer kit intimidated me. The art of brewing beer requires two things I lack, patience and cleanliness. So one of these days I'll take the kit over to art attack's house and we'll brew in his basement.

I wasn't intimidated by the prospect of going to the beer academy, though. How difficult could it be to sit around and sample a bunch of different beers in the company of people who like to sit around and drink beer? So I paid my $15 and prepared to be educated on the finer points of German-style bock.

Most Americans, I'd say, know very little about the vocabulary of beer other than "light" and "without the orange." The people that attend the monthly academy at Goose Island's Clybourn location, on the other hand, are well-versed in phrases like "bottom-fermented" and "spicy malt" and "liquid bread." Turns out most of them brew their own, and actually attend the academy to learn something, not just to drink. So, the intimidation level increased when I realized that people would actually be sniffing and swirling their beers before sipping (not chugging).

I was so perplexed that I forgot to take pictures.

But I did take notes, and here's what I learned:
  • "Bock" means goat in German. Perhaps this type of beer got its name because it has the kick of a goat.
  • Then again, perhaps it got its name because it tastes like goat piss.
So there, I learned something. And here are my detailed notes on all the beers I tasted that evening:

Hofbrau Maibock (7.2%), originally brewed in 1614:
seltzer-like, a little skunky, sour ... not a very strong flavor
(Note: I learned later that what I consider "skunky" is actually supposedly sweet.)

Goose Island Myebock (6.8%), made with 26% malted rye (whatever that means):
more flavorful, much more powerful aftertaste

Capital Blonde Doppelbock (7.5+%), a bronze winner from Madison:
I don't like it. I will never order a bock at a bar.

Einbecker Ur-Bock (6.5%), from the Saxony region of Germany:
When I was young, this is what I imagined all beer tasted like -- yuck. (I remember finding an old, old bottle of Special Export in the basement and finally cracking it open. It was nasty and almost made me puke just smelling it. After years and years of beer drinking, I think I would probably still react to Special Export that way. But anyway, this Einbecker was a flashback to that day when I was 9 or 10.)

Stieglbock (7.2%), from Salzburg, Austria:
Getting worse ... when I was in college, I got sick on a six pack of bad beer ... that's what this reminds me of. (Looking back on that six pack, I knew when I was drinking it that there was something wrong with it. So why did I keep drinking? I guess I probably didn't have enough money to dump the bad stuff and buy more. So I drank and dealt with the consequences later.)

Goose Island Traditional Bock (6.8%), which apparently has "nearly the exact same starting gravity and alcohol as the Myebock" (beer has starting gravity, good to know):
Good and surprisingly light-tasting with a really weird aftertaste. (At this point, I should admit that I'm not a huge fan of Goose Island Honkers. But of the 11 beers I tasted at the "academy," the Goose Island samples were by far the best. Probably because they were fresh and out of kegs, not from bottles that had been sitting on shelves somewhere for who-knows-how-long. But still, I did gain a lot of respect for the Goose Island brand.)

Sam Adams Chocolate Bock (5.5%), which is brewed with something-something "nibs":
Now THIS is sweet! thick, syrupy ... can't say I like it, but I don't hate it. (Upon reflection, I could never drink more than a tiny little 2-ounce glass of this stuff.)

Paulaner Salvator (7.5%), "originally brewed by monks in the 17th century to help sustain them during Lent":
me no likey ... nice colors though ... if I drink more, I'll puke (Question: Why does beer this old and with this much tradition taste like it's been sitting on a shelf somewhere since the time it was first brewed?)

Goose Island Aviator (8.5%), with four months of extra age:
not bad ... like a not-sweet cola?

Eggenberg Urbock Dunkel Eisbock (9.8%), with a starting gravity of 23'plato (wow):
strong and horrible

And there you have it. An evening tasting weird beer. Educational. And a good way to discover that you are (or are not) a beer snob. Cheers.


Anonymous art attack said...

sounds like you would have been better off just sniffing and swirling those beers Well at least you now know what type of beer you do not want to brew in your bathtub.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jenska said...

I think you mean OUR bathtub...

1:59 PM  
Blogger ap said...

that's what I thought, too

2:29 PM  

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