Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

I love how Chris Fairchild does the beer education nights at Total Wine in St. Petersburg, FL!

Chris Fairchild, Total Wine St Pete

As a new Certified Cicerone, Chris brings both knowledge and first hand tasting experience to the classes, and it is obvious that you don’t have to do too much arm-twisting to get him to enjoy a good pint.  (While Chris admits to being a wine lover first, with time and maturity he might gravitate over from the “dark side”.  LOL!)

It does make a difference to take a class from someone who actually enjoys the beverage and is committed to craft beer (as opposed to someone who either doesn’t drink or simply slings beer at a local bar no matter what’s on tap.)  That’s why I came back for class #2 last Thursday night:  “Beyond Pilsners and Pales.”  (See prior post from Belgian beer education night.)

Once again it was well worth the meagre $15. (cover) charge for the class.

A group of about 15 local craft beer newbies was treated to a full expanse of 13 (yes a baker’s dozen!) craft brew samples that ranged from the rare “Ola Dubh” by Harviestoun in Scotland (an 8% ABV whiskey cask conditioned ale that retails at $11.99 for a 12 oz bottle!) to the Weybacher “Blithering Idiot” Barley Wine (11.1% ABV) to the Lagunitas “Hop Stoodpid” Double IPA (8% ABV).  A geographic and palate pleasing 2 hour tour, complete with gourmet cheeses and Guiness-marinated pork ribs (yum!)

Here’s the highlights, my tasting notes, and a slide show of what we imbibed:

  • Duvel Belgian Golden Ale, Bottle Conditioned Belgian Stong Pale Ale, by Duvel
    (8.5% ABV)
    Belgium
    750 ml bottle
    Pale Straw color, fizzy (more carbonated than any of the others we tried)
    Perfumy, sparkling, I tasted Chamomile (like the tea)
    Reminded me of a Perfume-like Hoegarden beer
    Chris remarked that this one would be well paired with the Lobster Cream Spread (I agree that worked well!)
  • “Bam Biere” Bottle Conditioned Farmhouse Saison Ale, by Jolly Pumpkin(4.5% ABV)
    Dexter, Michigan
    750 ml bottle
    Copper color, cloudy – SMELLS sour – reminded me of a “wet puppy”!
    Tasted flat and I had a hard time getting over the smell (it was the talk of our side of the class!)
    Chris suggested that this would be good to pair with goat cheese and apples… but I just did not like this beer (second from last in my books!)
  • “Muffin Top” Belgian Style Tripel IPA by Clown Shoes
    (10% ABV)
    Ipswich, MA
    750 ml bottle
    Gold and cloudy, nice hoppy IPA smell
    Tasted perfumy and floral with caramel notes, but not my favorite IPA of the night (it came in 4th favorite and after all it was an IPA)

    Loved the label image!
  • “Maibock” Bottle conditioned Maibock, Smuttynose
    (somewhere around 7% ABV… site doesn’t even show this!)
    Portsmouth, NH
    750 ml bottle
    Gold and clear with bubbles (carbonated)
    Not really memorable (I didn’t even take notes on this one!)
  • “Arrogant Bastard” American Strong Ale, Stone Brewing
    (7.2% ABV)
    San Diego, CA
    750 ml bottle
    Amber colored with a pine-like aroma
    More head than the previous beers, molasses flavoring
    My 3rd favorite of the night (behind Hop Stoopid and Bells Hopslam!) – every Stone beer has a distinctive smell (at least to me) that you “know” is from Stone brewing
    I agreed with Chris that this paired well with the aged white cheddar they provided.
  • “Ola Dubh” Whisky Cask Conditioned Old Ale by Harviestoun
    (8% ABV)
    Scotland
    11.2 oz bottle
    Color of root beer (darker brown) and creamy consistency (legs!)
    Distinctive scotch aroma with a nutty, woodsy, toasted taste
    I’m not a scotch drinker so I wasn’t smitten with this one – but the scotch drinkers in the group LOVED IT!
    Chris suggested it would be a luxury dessert to pour this one over vanilla ice cream (at $11.99 for this small bottle, I would prefer other indulgences!)
  • “Trois Pistoles” Belgian Strong Dark Ale by Unibroue
    (9% ABV)
    Chambly, PQ (Province de Quebec) Canada
    750 ml bottle
    Dark caramel to brown color with “legs”
    Definitely a Belgian influence to this one – and it smells distinctively like a Unibroue (which is a good thing!  Has a similar essence to other Unibroue’s like Blanche de Chambly!)
    Perfumy and floral – I liked this but I was in an IPA mood so it ranked #5 of the night (only because it wasn’t an IPA…) Has a rich taste that lingers – Yum!
    Pair with dark chocolate (high cocoa content – I’d splurge for the 75% or above dark!) or brownies…
  • “Guiness Foreign Extra” Export Stout – not the draft one – Guiness Brewing
    (7.5% ABV)
    Dublin, Ireland
    11.2 oz bottle
    Dark brown to black coloring with a different aroma (more sweet) than regular Guiness – reminded me of a British pub smell
    I am not a great Guiness fan – but I could definitely enjoy a pint of this one!  It reminded me of an expresso-lite (maybe an “Americano”) coffee with an aftertaste that reminded me of London Pride beer.  Definitely “meaty” and would go well with boiled pot roast or boiled steak!
  • Blithering Idiot” Barley Wine, Weyerbacher
    (11.1% ABV)
    Easton, PA
    12 oz bottle
    Honey/Caramel/ hint of pink-orange color
    Fruity with a sour tart aroma
    Aftertaste that reminded me of a ripe banana, and definitely had wine essence
    Hibiscus color with a distinctive, sweet taste (I cannot recall it, but I’ve tasted it before) but not like the lambics or fruit beers
    I would order a 6 oz pour rather than a pint of this because it was “just too sweet” for me!
  • “Hop Stoopid” Imperial Double IPA , Lagunitas
    (8% ABV)
    Petaluma, CA
    750 ml bottle
    Pale straw coloration, clear
    Cleaner smelling than other IPA’s but with a IPA nose and good head to it
    Nice IPA aftertaste!  My favorite of the night!
    Paired nicely with the sharp English cheddar cheese!
  • “Dogzilla” Black IPA, Laughing Dog
    (6.9% ABV)
    Sandpoint, ID
    750 ml bottle
    Black in color with a large “head”
    Thank goodness it tasted better than it smelled – which didn’t take much!  OMG – I could barely get this past my nose and it was definitely a conversation starter – we argued whether it smelled more like baby oil or band aids being ripped off skin or wet dog or a combination. We finally labelled it “girl repellant”!
    I had purchased a bottle last week but it is now a gift for my son.  I wouldn’t buy it again even with the IPA label.
  • Bells “Hopslam”, Bells Brewing
    (10% ABV)
    Kalamazoo, MI
    12 oz bottle
    Golden color, with Fresh citrus notes and definitely hopped!
    My second favorite of the night – I’d definitely buy a 6 pack of this one.  Nice to end on a “high note”

For upcoming education nights – visit Total Wine (www.totalwine.com) and click on their calendar.  Enjoy the slide show below and hope your next pint is a good one!

Respectfully,

An unOfficial Beer Goddess.

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