Go ahead, call us snobby wankers. You wouldn’t be the first. We know you resent anyone acting all fussy and trying to treat beer like wine. But hopefully you will still love us, or at least respect us, after reading this.
Last night we finally hopped onto the bus that took us to the much anticipated Dark Side beer showcase at the Moutere Inn. The promise of seven big, bold, dark beers, all either brand-new, new-to-us or new-season batches, was the most alluring beer event going. And fuzzy recollections of last year’s raucous veritable brewers’ party added to the appeal.
This year was a bit more subdued and drew fewer brewers, but was a happy, full house of serious piss-heads and had a truly impressive collection of brews. We decided to take the beer a bit more seriously this time, and actually succeeded in evaluating six of the seven.
To protect our little taste buds, we tried to work our way up from the milder beers to the stronger ones. We also tried to keep somewhat level heads, so we tasted from half-pint glasses.
The Moutere Inn uses a flared half-pint, the kind with a small base and wide mouth. They are very generous and pour to the absolute rim. We can hardly complain, but it was a bit of a challenge for evaluating, since a brimming-full, flared glass gives no aroma whatsoever. You sort of have to drink half before you can smell anything. Add to that the “normal” serving temperatures, which are rather too cold for dark beers, and our skills were being tested.
Until we got to the bigger beers. Epic and Moa had sent barrel aged stouts, though they were still hard to compare with the Epic being a nice, smooth 6.8%, and the Moa a whopping 10.2% imperial version.
You could smell the Epic. The Moa fairly jumped out the glass. Even cold, even in a brimming, flared half-pint, it almost smelled as if you were drinking the tap-handle rather than the beer. Big wafts of oakiness were propelled out of the glass by plumes of sherry-strength alcohol. Hard to call it pleasant, but definitely noticeable.
One third down the glass, evaluations duly completed, we began chatting with Dave and Andrew behind the bar, and Andrew suggested that with all the whiskey and sherry comparisons, this beer perhaps should be served more like a spirit. Fritz jumped on the idea, gesturing to the top row of glasses, “Yeah, one of those!” Andrew indulged us, as he does, rolled his eyes, then pulled down a brandy snifter and poured a generous taste into it.
As each of us sniffed, it knocked our heads back, but in a pleasant way this time. The glass actually tamed the oak and alcohol, and brought forward all of the diabolically complex wine fruit character that had been lurking behind it in the regular glass. We had already observed the distinct wine cask fruit sourness and a touch of flavour, but this was indeed like an aged spirit.
Fritz of course dashed off to share the experience with our roomful of friends, old and newly minted. Dave groaned and shook he head, as he does, embarrassed by our outing of their indulgence of our snobbery. We were over three hours into the event, so no one could be accused of being sober, but every person, to a man (and they were all men), had identical reactions and descriptions of the two drinks. Even told it was the same beer, they were wowed by the disparity. One was sublimely intense, the other aggressively so. Many of them are just like you, and in no way wanted to acknowledge that a glass could make so much difference, but they were helpless to the facts. Some of them are probably rewriting history as we speak, convincing themselves that it was their level of drunk, it was the temperature, it was some trick, but it certainly wasn’t the glass that made such a difference.