Beer tasting is a thing. There are experts in it. There’s the internationally-recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). There’s the Cicerone Certification Program, primarily aimed at servers but also covering tasting knowledge at higher ‘levels’. There have been long-winded arguments between beer and wine lovers about which is more interesting and complex (our vote: relax, don’t worry, have a drink). For those of us without the time or wherewithal to become officially certified, but want to expand their knowledge of alcohol, we have a solution: cram.
It was only after we returned from our grand trip to Colorado, and began posting pictures, that we started tallying the number of different beers we had sampled during the trip. Two dozen? A hundred? The final count was 130 different beers in three weeks. Dozens of stouts, porters, pale ales, brown ales, and enough IPAs to make even hop-heads weary. When you taste that many beers in that amount of time, and pay attention, you start to learn something about beer.
Our method was simple but effective. At each brewpub or brewery, we would order their sample flight. Occasionally, brewpubs would have two beers which were identical but with one change (such as Maple and Imperial Nut Brown Ales from Tommyknocker). When these opportunities arose, it allowed us to isolate the one change the brewer had made in the beer. Otherwise, having an APA on Thursday for lunch and another for Friday at dinner allowed easy comparison, and developed an understanding of popular styles by sampling multiple examples.
Alcohol tourism is essential to this acquisition of knowledge because, unless you live in Portland or Asheville or somewhere with a similarly high brewpub per capita, you just won’t be able to encounter the breadth and depth of beer styles. So, hit the road, and experience all the range of styles craft beer has to offer!