Day 2

Today we were introduced to the tasting lab (more about that in a future post) for Sensory Evaluation with Roger Mittag. No, we didn’t taste anything today–it was all theory.

Roger is the founder of Thirst for Knowledge, through which he runs beer appreciation classes and events. He has a very discerning palate, and a background in marketing.

The first message he brought to us is that at some step of the way, we are going to be marketing our product to consumers. When that happens, we will make more sales by being upbeat and positive about beer, rather than trying to create a division between the Light Side (craft beer) and the Dark Side (large multinational breweries).

Roger showed us some pictures–the famous Grolsch swing-top (yes, yes, it’s evil green glass, try to get past that for the moment), a bottle of craft brew with the labels askew, a beer with a thin head in a dirty glass, and a beer with two fingers of foam in a very attractive glass. From comments around the room, we began to realize that impressions of our beer start before the bottle has even been opened, let alone tasted. Roger’s point was that we as craft brewers have to look how we present our beer–taste isn’t enough. We need to entice with the eye, the ear and the nose as well as the taste buds. Does our packaging look attractive and professional? Does the bottle open with a pleasant swiff? When we present the beer, are we using a clean glass of the proper type? When we pour, are we allowing enough head to develop in order to maximize the beer’s aroma?

Roger’s next point was in the same vein–when we are promoting our beer to the consumer, we can’t use the same language that we use with beer geeks. “Malty” doesn’t mean anything to the average consumer. Do we mean “breadiness”, “honey-like”, “biscuity”, “toffeeish”, “nutty”, “chocolate”, “coffee”? Likewise the word “hoppy”: would the descriptors “floral”, “grassy”, “citrus”, etc., make more sense to the average person?

Then it was on to a fair bit of theory about all five senses, and some discussion about the proper environment to evaluate beer. (Turns out that a bar is usually the worst place, due to the low lighting, noise, and distracting smells.)

Due to a scheduling error, it was a short class–however, next week the tasting starts. (But if you think tasting beer is going to be a walk in the park, the class starts at 8:30 am, and we can’t drink coffee for at least an hour beforehand. The horror, the horror!)

Afterwards, there was a short get-together at the campus beer store to welcome Neil Kellett to the campus. Neil was the first auditor of CAMRA, the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale, started back in the 1970s as a reaction against the proliferation of fizzy refrigerated lager. In honour of his visit, some of the 2nd-year students had brewed up a batch of cask-conditioned double dry-hopped IPA. Really good beer, and a testament to what can be produced by students after only half of the course has been completed. I was so impressed, I bought a growler–a 2-litre refillable bottle–to take home. Now I am truly torn–there’s enough in the growler to fill four pint glasses. Do I keep it to myself to savour over the next few days, one glass at a time, or have a few friends over to share it? Decisions, decisions.

Frequently Asked Question of the Day: Did you really quit your job to go back to school?

It wasn’t like I suddenly stormed out of my office the week before classes started, shouting “I QUIT!” (Although that would have been pretty cool.) No, reality was much more prosaic: once I had been accepted into the Brewmaster program, I handed in my resignation with several months’ notice.

However, I think the implied question being asked is actually “Why would you quit your job?” The short answer is this: peace, love and grooviness, baby.

The long version: as a boomer old enough to remember flashing the peace sign, I believe that work should be meaningful at all stages of life. If work isn’t meaningful, regardless of whether you’re 20 or 50, then find something more meaningful. (Word of advice: Come up with a good plan before you quit. Just sayin’…)

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2 Comments on “Day 2”

  1. Canageek Says:

    Just for the record, we have more then 5 senses. For example, we have a sense related to which way we are oriented by how gravity is pulling on us, a sense that tells us where our limbs are, pain (Which is not actually the same as touch), as well as a bunch of internal sensors:

    You know, just for the record. I don’t think you can sell beer with any of those however.

  2. Canageek
    I’m not sure about beer and those other senses. When I pass through a new town I always orient myself by the bars, lcbo’s and beer stores, and after I stop at one I feel a lot less pain.
    I have even been tempted to defy gravity from time to time.

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