Settle down class. Settle down. Right, welcome to Beer 501: The Wonderful World of Beer, a course for graduate students and advanced undergraduates pursuing a degree in any of the alcohol-related sciences. This course is designed to educate you about the wonderful world of beer. Today we'll take care of some administrative stuff and introduce the course.
First up, Beer 101: Chuggable Beers for College Students is a prerequisite for taking this course, no exceptions. Anyone not take 101? Good.
Now this course will meet roughly once a week, most likely on Fridays. Attendance is not mandatory, but grades are 100% based on participating in weekly assignments, so attending is probably a good idea.
I don't mind if you bring laptops to take notes, but I won't tolerate twitting, tweetering or whatever it's called during class. CPP, if you see anyone being a twit you have my permission to hit them on the head with a heavy blunt object.
If you're in this class because you have to be, not because you want to be, and want to sit in the back and surf porn sites on your laptops, I won't stop you, but please mute your computers. Yes, GR, I'm looking at you. Old Professor Schmirnoff will be in therapy for a long, long time after that Mexican midget and donkey porn incident in Vodka 220.
I'm not a cicerone. I have no formal training in the art of beer. But I am Australian and have sampled a great many beers from all around the world. I've also been known to brew my own beer. Good enough for me.
What Will Be Covered
We are going to talk about a wide variety of beers during this course. There is no formal syllabus. We will talk about beers by country, type or whatever else strikes my fancy. Yes, I will be making this up as we go along. Hopefully we will have a guest lecturer or two as we go along.
What Will Not Be Covered
Heavily fruit-based beers. Dross like Magic Hat #9 and Samuel Smith's Organic Raspberry. Abominations such as these are not worthy of the title "beer." Anyone who likes to drink these namby-pamby, frou-frou "beverages" best served with a little umbrella and slice of pineapple held in place by a cherry-skewered toothpick should drop this class now. Go on, bugger off.
Some beers brewed with a hint of fruit, primarily citrus, may be discussed.
What is Beer Anyway?
At it's simplest beer is brewed using just water, hops, malted barley and yeast. Other grains are sometimes used. Wheat is common. Others such as rice, rye and corn can be encountered. Some brewers will add hints of herbs or spices. Perhaps chocolate or coffee. But in the end, most of what you taste will come from the grain, yeast and hops.
The Beer Experience
Let's talk about the drinking of beer. It's an experience, not just something you chug down to get a buzz. Firstly, draught is best. Then bottled, preferably poured into a glass. Cans should be avoided if possible.
Beer should be savored. When you have a beer, before you drink, look at the beer. What color is it? Is it clear or cloudy? Does it hold a head? Is it heavy on carbonation, or are there few bubbles? All these things vary tremendously between beers and have a profound effect upon their taste. Then take note of the aroma. As you should all know, much of what we generically refer to as flavor actually comes from aromas. Think about what you can smell before you drink. Only then should you begin drinking. Hold that first sip in your mouth. Swirl it around a little. Enjoy the complexity of flavors. After you swallow take note of the after-taste - the finish. Take a second sip. Compare to the first. No, it won't always be just like the first. Enjoy the beer.
But wait, color, aroma and flavor are not all. The circumstances under which you are having that beer are important as well. A beer that tastes good when drinking alone can be elevated to very good when it is drunk in good company. Of course a really bad beer is always a really bad beer, but it's all in the experience and you should take note of that.
And that in fact brings me to your first assignment. I want you to describe to me, in the comments, the worst beer you have ever drunk. Not just what the beer was, but the circumstances that may have contributed to to it being the worst.
To get the ball rolling, let me tell you about my worst. When I first moved to the US I hung out with a local rugby team. A good bunch of lads who would drink copious quantities of very forgettable beer. Copious, copious quantities. After an early Fall game where the temperature approached 90F - hot for rugby - I piled into a car with five of the team for the one hour trip home. Being the smallest I was asked politely to sit in the very back of the station wagon. That is, I was thrown in the back. Along with a number of sweaty uniforms. Did I mention this was a Ford Pinto? And that I was in the very back, inches above the gas tank?* Anyway, it got rather hot back there with the smelly uniforms, so I was passed a beer. An Old Milwaukee. An Old Milwaukee that had been sitting in the hot car all day. Now this is a truly dreadful beer to begin with, but a hot Old Milwaukee in the back of a Pinto station wagon, where there's no ventilation, with freshly used rugby kit? I'll let your imagination fill in from there.
That's it for today. Don't forget you grades are based on participation, so do that assignment.
Next week: German beers. Not all are pisswasser.
* Okay, I'll 'fess up, it wasn't one of the exploding models. But it does make for a good story.