Monday, January 7, 2008

A Bit of Beer Evangelism

We had our annual Epiphany Open House on Sunday. Colleen prepares a veritable feast of foods, savory and sweet, and folks come and go all day. In past years I've put out a wide variety of beers. That often led to a lot of time spent explaining the selections. This year I picked just three beers to serve, Brooklyn Lager, Clipper City Winter Storm and Sierra Nevada Celebration. I figured the Brooklyn Lager would appeal to even those who say they don't like "those weird beers." I would offer it as an example of what American beers tasted like before the big breweries watered down our beer. Give the guests a flavorful beer that wasn't over the top. The Celebration was there for those who were willing to take a chance on something with some hop kick to it, but again, not too extreme. The Clipper City selection was the "a little stronger" selection. (Truth be told, it was for me.)

We put out a bunch of shaker pints for folks to use, and I did offer a glass to all. I didn't want to put folks off with by getting too fancy with glassware. A few folks opted just for the bottle, and I opted not to push the cause.

With one exception, all of the beers were new to everyone who came. Most folks opted for the Brooklyn Lager and everyone who tried it remarked, often with some surprise, how good it was. In fact, we ran out as the evening progressed and I did end up putting out some random lagers from the fridge. The Brooklyn offering was a good stepping stone to the other beers and more than one person went on to try some of the other selections. It occurred to me later that this was the only one of the beers that folks could get around here year-round. Perhaps in the future I'll stick with beers with greater availability. I would hate it if someone discovered a new taste in beer and then let that go by the way because they couldn't go out and get more of it.

A number of folks went on to try the Celebration Ale. I didn't find any half-empty glasses around so that took that as a good sign. I think a number of people realized that a hoppy beer wasn't necessarily a bad thing. One guest, who had grabbed a Celebration without knowing what to expect, turned as he was leaving the party later and remarked with a smile, "That was a good beer." A convert perhaps.

Often the last to be tried by those who ventured past their first selection was the Winter Storm. Some interest was generated since it was the beer I was drinking. A number of people decided to split bottles so they could have a taste of it. I'm not sure if any of those went back for more, but a number seemed shocked that it wasn't so bad. We had some panettone out and, per my previous post, I remarked how well the Winter Storm and the bread paired. That led to a discussion of the benefits of beer and food together.

I had also set out a bottle of Bunratty Mead that I had purchased a while back. I'd never tried it nor really knew what to expect. I'm not sure if anyone who came by was familiar with meade, but many people were interested in trying a small taste. Most found it interesting, and a few had a bit more. The label states that the meade is believed to have "powers of virility and fertility" and this generated a bit of jovial discussion. The Bunratty is more of a wine than a beer. I don't think I'll be a fan of this either, but it's always fun to try something new.

I think sometimes in our eagerness to share our love of good beer with others, we scare folks off. All three of the beers served were extremely flavorful and great examples of craft beers. However I think none of them would be described as extreme. I know a number of folks left with a better understanding of what craft beer is all about. Of course, that wasn't the purpose of our celebration, but a nice side benefit.

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