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The Beer Circle » Tastings » An Adventure in Family Beer Tasting

An Adventure in Family Beer Tasting

Editor’s Note: The tasting sheet includes a reference to Sierra Nevada producing “Colorado” beers – this is obviously incorrect, and stems from a general transcription error way back in 2010.  Sierra Nevada is located in Chico, CA, and makes some pretty awesome beers.  We’re sorry, Sierra Nevada, and thank you, astute reader, for pointing this out.

I come from a long line of light beer drinkers.  Eager to slog down hearty quantities of triple-hops-brewed yellow fizziness, most members of my family are quick to reject offers of “those dark beers”.  While I’ll never turn my nose up at My-Namesake’s Lite, I’m often looked at with confusion as I crack open a Dogfish Head or Sierra Nevada brew at a family gathering.  This confusion eventually led to curiosity, with a few family members beginning to consider broadening their horizons.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love using common craft selections to introduce strictly-Bud/Miller/Coors drinkers to the wider world of taste that’s available to them.  I’ve done things like this before with groups of friends, typically to great effect, and when my family heard of this, they asked that I put together a tasting for them over the Christmas holiday.  Happy to oblige, I wanted to offer them a good, accessible example of each of the major styles.  My strategy was as follows: I wanted to begin with two very good “Gateway” beers – Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils – which I describe as the “lawnmower beer”, that is, what your Miller Lite should taste like.  Once we try that, we move onto the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, offering delicious hoppiness without the bite of IPAs, and so on.   The list is below:

(Abridged) Tasting Sheet

The (Abridged) Tasting Sheet

The sheet included some basic information on each of the styles, a brief description of each beer (many blatantly stolen from the brewers’ websites), a Beeradvocate score, as well as a very cursory guide on tasting.  Everyone from my grandmother to my cousins participated in this one.  The results were both encouraging and disheartening, with a little bit of hilarity mixed in.

For example, Taster #1 found that Sierra Nevada Torpedo’s “Throat Spray” taste was rather offensive, but, as a wine drinker, was delighted by the similarities found in a Belgian-style ale such as Tröegs Mad Elf.

Wine Good, Throat Spray, Not So Much.

Wine Good, Throat Spray, Not So Much.

 

Taster #2 was offended by anything even remotely hoppy, I surmise.  Fortunately, Sierra Pale Ale’s aftertaste wasn’t entirely awful, I suppose.  “Cologne” was never a flavor that I got from Dogfish Head’s 60-Minute IPA, but we each have our own tastes, right?

No Hops, Please

No Hops, Please

 

Some other tasters began to demonstrate certain patterns:

Bitter

I was careful to watch for the "Bitter Beer Face".

 

Our College Student Reveals Himself...

Our College Student Reveals Himself...

..and even shows off his artistic talent.

..and even shows off his artistic talent.

I think this taster might have mixed up their Mad Elf with their palate cleanser.

I think this taster might have mixed up their Mad Elf with their palate cleanser.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening is this: one taster who has been drinking light beer for generations found greatest delight in, of all selections, New Belgium’s Trippel.  She’d never even heard of a “Belgian ale” before, but as an experienced baker, knew what coriander was, and was excited by its presence in her glass.

I found this positively exciting, and look forward to sharing more with this beloved taster.

I found this positively exciting, and look forward to sharing more with this beloved elder taster.

I never intended for this to turn into an experiment, but that’s precisely what happened.  It also made for a fun night afterwards. I had no idea that preferences would be so varied, or that acceptance of different styles would be so different from when I held tastings for groups of friends. Ultimately, what my findings revealed is that they are ready and willing to learn more – but perhaps with an audience that has been drinking yellow-fizzy for decades and generations, we need to move a bit slower.  I look forward to repeating this experiment with a perhaps smaller, more refined tasting list.  Suggestions?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

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Written by Garrett Miller

Garrett brings a somewhat different perspective on beer to the table. While always thrilled to try any new, exotic brew that finds itself his way, Garrett finds that he's often quite satisfied with reliable, common craft choices. As such, Garrett is a fan of trying and reviewing these (admittedly less expensive) beers, and using them to introduce the exciting, flavorful world of craft beer to those not-yet-acquainted. Garrett’s favorite styles are IPAs and bourbon stouts, but won’t turn his nose up at anything. Find Garrett Miller on Google Plus

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