Between Missing Weekend #1 and Missing Weekend #2 (report still to come), I attended my eighth beer tasting at Tria Fermentation School. The session was called Beer is Divine, and it was led by Chris O’Brien, the author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. O’Brien talked about ancient beers and how early peoples used beer to get all, well, transcendent—or, as some might call it, closer to god.
We first tasted three pleasant beers from Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. The Dogfish Head Pangaea, made from ingredients from every continent, struck me with its traditional hoppy smell and flavor. It’s a beer I could probably enjoy one right after the other, preferably over some good conversation. I liked the Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir a little less; it had a very light grape-y flavor, apparently attributable to the presence of Muscat grapes in the recipe. (If I’m going to have grapes, which aren’t one of my favorites, I’ll just have wine, thanks.) My favorite of the Dogfish beers was the Chateau Jiahu, based on an old recipe from northern China. The Chateau Jiahu also smelled a little grape-y to me, but I got more honey and citrus flavors on my palette. It’s what I’ll want to sample when I visit Dogfish’s brewery in Milton, Delaware.
I probably enjoyed three European beers a bit more. Particularly appealing to me was the kick of the strong Paulaner Salvator, a beer I’ve had before. Salvator is a doppelbock—in other words, it’s a Lenten beer, meaning it was designed to be strong and hearty enough to keep the monks going when they were fasting. I also savored the Eggenberg Samichlaus, a beer featuring Christmas spices that was deliciously paired by Tria with chocolate. My favorite beer of the evening, though, was probably the Orval ale, the product of a Belgian Trappist brewery. It had an incredible, complex smell (floral and citrus-y, I suppose), and it offered just about the right amount of bitterness in the finish. Highly recommended.
Ironically, though, for the second time in a row, it was a mead—once again, Makana Meadery‘s ¡Qhilika African Herbal Blossom Mead—that I loved best. O’Brien talked quite a bit about mead, particularly the meads (or t’ej) he drank during travels in Ethiopia. Honey, O’Brien noted, might have been the world’s first fermented product.
I’m keen on trying out several different meads. The ¡Qhilika, which is profoundly spicy, is probably not that representative. I can’t imagine, though, that there’d be enough interest to justify an entire class devoted to meads.