Day 36

Our noses got quite a workout today in Sensory Evaluation. First up, we continued with malts, evaluating the aromas of brown, crystal, French Coffee and Dark Chocolate malts. We also ate some of each, but I have to say, all I got from that was the taste of badly burnt toast. Maybe I ate too much burnt toast when I was a kid. We also tried roasted unmalted barley, and peated (smoked) barley. The peated barley got the most interesting range of descriptors, including pine tar, Islay Scotch, new leather, iodine, and fetal pig. The class quickly agreed to change “fetal pig” to “formaldehyde.”

After a short break to give our olfactory systems a chance to recover, Roger Mittag pulled out samples of foods and spices whose aromatics are often ascribed to various hops, things like fennel, pink grapefruit zest, lemongrass, peppercorns, anise, mushrooms and green tea leaves.

While waiting for our noses to recover from that, Roger shared with us that the way to clear your nose and bring it back to “neutral” was to smell the inside of your own elbow. I’m sure people passing by the classroom window were intrigued by the sight of all of us simultaneously lifting our arms to our noses.

Then it was on to the actual hops themselves–nine types of hop pellets, plus a sample of Willamette whole leaf hops and Hallertau extract.

The British and German hops elicited a few key descriptors, but the American hops really fired up our noses. Cascade’s aromatics were described as peach, lemon, rosemary and pink grapefruit zest. Willamette was sage, lemon tea and mint. Amarillo was orange peel, rosemary, lemongrass, lavender, and spruce needles.

At the end of the class, Roger and a few students tried tasting hop pellets. I, with the wisdom of years, declined the opportunity, but watched with interest as their heads almost exploded with the bitter taste.

With that ignoble hop experiment concluded, we met with Troy Burtch, Director of Sales and Marketing for Taps, Canada’s beer magazine. Taps has included several articles about Niagara College’s Brewmaster program in recent issues, including interviews with second-year students in the just released Fall 2011 issue . After talking about the magazine for a few minutes, Troy offered us all a year’s subscription. Free swag, great magazine, sweet!

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One Comment on “Day 36”

  1. Canageek Says:

    Actually the proper way to really clear out your nose is to take a wiff of bleach. It burns, but it really clears everything out. We used it in a lab when we had to detect changes in a reaction by smell. Note: Smell is not a good sense for science, it is far, far too unreliable.

    Also: At one point chemists had a list of names for smells, like we do with taste, but it has since fallen out of use now that we have more quantitative measurements. Some are still very evocative though, like ‘ethereal’

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