Think four beers are enough for a tasting session involving
seven people, only one of whom is a bona fide beer geek?
If so, you need to think again! ;b
The kind of hearty food we needed to imbibe
to make sure we wouldn't get wasted that afternoon!
It being a foodie gathering, the featured dessert
was on the fancy side though... ;b
I have a friend who told me more than once that "beer tastes like a burp". Determined to prove her wrong, I decided to organize a beer tasting session -- one that finally took place at her place yesterday afternoon.
With a number of foodie friends also present, this meant that we also had plenty to eat (including fried chicken wings, fried sweetbreads, a three cheese macaroni and cheese, a brussel sprouts dish to make sure we had some greens that day, and a dessert that involved cranberry juice and the kind of preparation that totally is beyond me!) along with enough people to make it so that we could try a fair number of beers -- though, in the end, we still fell two beers short of the total number of beers I had thought we would be able to sample!
Geek that I am, I had a definite idea of the order for which the beers I brought were to be sampled. For the record, it went like this:-
1) Kagua Blanc - Designed in Japan, featuring Japanese ingredients (including yuzu), but brewed in Belgium. Tastes citrusy and refreshing, so it can be a shock to find out that it's an 8 ABV beer! I had wanted to start the session with a bang -- and if there was one beer that I'd say was an unqualified hit among pretty much everybody present at the beer tasting, this would be it. So... maybe sometimes the first is the best! ;b
2) Yards IPA (India Pale Ale) - The first microbrew I was introduced to after returning to the US (specifically Philadelphia) from Tanzania in the 1990s was the Yards ESA (Extra Special Ale). This was my first taste of the Yards IPA -- and I expected a hoppier version of the ESA but one which still wasn't as hoppy as the West Coast IPAs; and that's what we did in fact get with this 7 ABV ale that was complex rather than predominantly bitter tasting.
3) Founders Centennial IPA (India Pale Ale) - This Michigan ale was another beer that I tasted for the first time yesterday afternoon. Although brewed in the Midwest, I used it as an example of an aggressive West Coast (as opposed to milder East Coast) IPA -- because it's a pretty intimidating 65 IBU (i.e., is pretty heavily hopped!) as well as 7.2 ABV beer! People were split on this beer -- something which confirmed for me that not everyone really wants their beers to be super-hoppy (and consequently bitter)!
4) Fuller's Past Masters Old Burton Extra - Wanting the beer neophytes in the group to have a base ale to compare the IPAs and such with, I opted for an old school English ale -- so old school, in fact, that it's actually a revived style! The second most expensive beer (at HK$40) among those sampled yesterday afternoon (with the Kagua Blanc topping the price list at HK$55), I have to say that I found it kinda boring. Especially with a 7.3 ABV, I expected more bang for my buck but, instead, got something more solid than spectacular tasting.
5) Flying Fish Red Fish - Like with Yards' beers, I developed a taste for Flying Fish beers during my time in Philadelphia. In the case of this brewery that originally was located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, it was their XPAs which I adored -- and still would be my number one choice of session beer, when available. But for this tasting session, I went for the stronger tasting as well as more alcoholic (as in 7, as opposed to 5, ABV) red ale that is my favorite of the four English style ales tasted that afternoon.
6) Sierra Nevada Porter - This is another beer that's from an American -- in this case, Califronia -- brewery I've been long familiar with, but which I don't know as much as their signature beer (in this case, the very drinkable Pale Ale). If truth be told, porter beers for me come across like a weak compromise -- specifically when you're pining for a stout but thinking you want something less strong on the day (maybe because it's too hot out -- that sort of thing), and this particular 5.6 ABV example of the style did little to change my mind about the matter!
7) North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout -- Until last week, I didn't know that this California beer was available in Hong Kong -- and until this week, when I finally allowed myself to sample it again, I had not tasted this beer for some 12 years... since the winter of 2002-2003, in fact! Without exaggeration: I have to say that this is one of my favorite beers of all time -- if not the very one. I love its complex taste, its succession of coffee, chocolately, malty and other notes. Sadly though, I've found few fellow fans of this 9 ABV beer in Hong Kong. I think it's too heavy for many folks -- and I have to admit my surprise that what I knew as a seasonal (specifically winter) beer is now brewed and available all year round in its native US!
8) Lindemanns Pecheresse - There's no two ways about it: for me, this Belgian peach lambic is a chick beer -- and it's not just because it's a 2.5 ABV beer either. Rather, this 30% peach juice infused beer is way too sweet for my liking. On the other hand, I predicted that my (formerly?) anti-beer friend who said that "beer tastes like a burp" would like this best of all the beers she consented to taste yesterday afternoon -- and I was right! ;D