I recently enrolled in beer school—more specifically, the Desert Edge Brewery’s monthly, one-session “Beer School” which is so modestly advertised that had I blinked on my way to the restroom at The Pub, I would have never seen the flyer announcing it. Beer and school both being loves of mine, how could I lose?
School is in session. Playing teacher to our class of eleven is Desert Edge Brewery’s boyish brewmaster Chris Hass, whose ease typifies the micro-brewing professional. As is true for most brewers, making beer is a life passion and a labor of love. Hass can’t contain his enthusiasm for brewing: “I love educating people about beer.”
Lesson No. 1: Brewing the beer. In the depths of The Pub, my classmates and I listen to what we later learn is CO2 bubbling from the several 755-gallon tanks that surround us, a scene reminiscent of “Der Invention Room” in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Hass explains the brewing process. Talk of barley, grain, yeast and hops ensues. Enzymes, sugars, starches, and fermentation. Light malt, caramel malt, and chocolate malt. Lagers ferment for 1-2 weeks at 50-something degrees. Ales for 3-5 days in the low 60s. Details flow over me like ... beer.
As interesting as the formulas, the facts, and the finer points are to a room full of—let’s face it—beer geeks, the group awakens from its lull as soon as Hass announces that it is time for the long-awaited beer tasting. We retire to a cozy room on the second floor. My fellow pupils and I ceremoniously gather around a table, preparing for what feels like a rite of passage in beer appreciation.
Hass instructs us that we will taste the beers from lightest to darkest and taste dishes that complement each beer’s unique qualities. I have no idea that I am about to enter beer nirvana.
Lesson No. 2: Pouring the beer. Having been served up several pitchers of beer No. 1, an American wheat, Hass demonstrates the art of the pour. Up until tonight, I thought I was all that for pouring beer with no head. To my surprise, I learn that with most beer “head is good,” in that experiencing the aroma is part of enjoying beer. After the pour, I compare my mediocre head to that of my classmates with mild envy.
Lesson No. 3: Tasting the beer. I learned when I was pretty young that different parts of your tongue are primed for certain tastes, but it becomes very obvious when tasting beer. For instance, I experience beer No. 1, the sweeter American wheat, in the front of my mouth. On the other hand, I taste beer No. 2, the more bitter pilsner, in the back of my mouth. That Hass calls attention to this wonder of science, I am happy to add another dimension to my beer-tasting enjoyment.
Lessons No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, and I start losing count because by now I am drunk, but I know that Hass is imparting all sorts of brewing lore, something about monks and a pair of German brothers. Meanwhile, the parade of beer and accompanying food continues: the alt, the steamer, the bitter, the UPA, and the stout. I am beginning to reach the limits of my gluttony. My inner beer lover faces a crisis of conscience as I leave glasses half-full, tasty beer untouched.
And then, seeing his understudies begin to slow, Hass throws down the gauntlet: the Kona Coffee Stout, paired with Kona Stout Chocolate Layer Cake with Stout Syrup. It’s death by Kona Coffee Stout, a beer so creamy and delicious that The Pub regularly doles out Kona Coffee Stout floats for dessert.
Dedicated student that I am, I muster just enough will to drink beer.
BEER SCHOOL, Desert Edge Brewery, Trolley Square, Every first Thursday of the month, 7pm, 801-521-8917