Just a friendly reminder that our August specialty beer debuts this long weekend. In honour of John Graves Simcoe (first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), Ed has once again crafted the Simcoe Hopped Ale.
This is a burnished amber ale with some subtle caramel notes. The addition of Simcoe hops from the west coast give this beer an abundance of pine/citrus notes. As the beer moves over the tongue, there’s even a hint of nectarine. It’s a fresh patio beer, with a little more malt character than our Pale Ale and IPA. According to Ed, “If you like real West Coast beers, this one is for you.”
Simcoe hops originate in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a dual-purpose hop: great for aroma, but also for bittering. They impart lovely earthy and pine/resin notes, perfect for summer! As well, Ed has dry-hopped this beer. Usually, hops are added during the boil, to extract oils and resins and integrate it into the wort (isomerization). When dry-hopping, they are added at different points in the fermentation process. Because they’re not boiling, you’re not extracting any oils, but you are getting even more of that hop aroma.
Have a great long weekend…with great, responsibly-consumed beer! 😉
Hot enough for you? This scorching summer continues; we’re very happy that the Black Creek Brewery is kept quite cool! As befitting these warmer months, we’re still exploring the lighter end of things with our bitters and pale ales (the Simcoe Hopped Ale is our next specialty beer – out for the August long weekend – its hoppy character should cut right through this humidity!).
Last time, we talked about cicerones here on the Growler. An important part of being a cicerone is learning to taste beer. Let’s continue the discussion and break down one of our Black Creek beer tastings, step by step!
Step 1: Appearance
First impressions count for a lot, and sight is an important part of the overall sampling experience. Pour your beer into a clear glass (at the brewery, we’ll do this for you). Take a good look at it. Hold it to the light.
What colour is it? Pale gold, copper, pitch-black? Can you see through it?
Look at the clarity: can you see my smiling face through the glass, or is it clouded? Hint: our beers tend towards cloudiness because they’re unfiltered—and the further down in the growler your sample was, the cloudier it will be!
Our naturally carbonated beers don’t have much head, but make sure you note it in modern beers!
Step 2: Swirl
You’ve seen people swirling wine glasses before, right? Same idea: swirling the beer around your glass releases aromas and nuances you wouldn’t catch otherwise. Just a few gentle swirls will do it, and don’t worry about looking pretentious: this is exactly the behaviour we encourage.
Step 3: Smell
Our senses of taste and smell are closely linked. Don’t be afraid: give your beer a good sniff. How intense is the smell? What aromas do you notice?
More malt-oriented aromas? (Grains, nuts, chocolate, coffee, caramel, toastiness, sweetness)
More hop-oriented? (Citrus (often grapefruit for us, particularly in our IPA), earthiness, resins, pine, floral and/or spicy aromas)
Step 4: Sip
And now, it’s time to taste the b—do not chug it! Slow down and enjoy your drink. We’re friendly people, I promise. Take a small sip, but don’t swallow it right away.
Start with the beer on the tip of your tongue and move it slowly through your mouth. Different flavours will trigger taste buds in different regions of the tongue, so enjoy the different sensations as your beer travels over the tongue.
In tasting notes, I frequently mention “mouthfeel.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this term refers to the way the beer feels in one’s mouth: that is, its weight and texture. Is it thin and sharp? Smooth and rounded? Does it feel heavy or light?
If you’d like to be really thorough, some people suggest exhaling while tasting; this is called “retro-olfaction.” Essentially, beer is warmed by being in your mouth, which causes more aromas to travel through your nasal cavities. It’s a different way to experience the beer’s aromas than the preliminary sniffing.
Got all that? Good—swirl the beer around your mouth once, letting it touch every part of your tongue, cheeks, and palate.
Step 5: Finish
We’re not done yet! The finish is highly important. Swallowing lets the very back of the tongue and throat experience the beer. How does the flavour change?
As well, note any flavours that linger after the beer has left your mouth. Are they bitter and/or floral (more hoppy), or more rich and grainy (leaning towards malts)? How intense are they?
Give it an extra second—sometimes, you might be surprised by how long the finish lasts. For me, sampling BadWolf Brewery’s stout epitomized the necessity of waiting. I’d swallowed my beer, and I thought the finish was over—only to have another surge of chocolate flavour catch me completely off-guard.
Take a moment to let all these impressions settle.
Now, the most important question of all…
Does this beer work for you? Do you feel it, love it? Do you want to keep drinking it?
Remember: no right or wrong answers, just the one that works for you.
The wine world has sommeliers. The tea world has tea sommeliers. What about the beer world? Are there beer sommeliers?
You bet. And they even have a special name: cicerones. (Say: SIS-uh-rohn)
The word cicerone originally meant a guide or someone who conducts visitors (so hey, we’re all cicerones here at Black Creek Pioneer Village!). Today, it usually refers to a Certified Cicerone: someone who has proven their knowledge of beer styles, flavours, and service under the Cicerone Certification Program. This is a certification body created by Beer Expert Extraordinare Ray Daniels.
There are four levels of tests: for Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, Advanced Cicerone™, and Master Cicerone®. And it’s tough stuff: of the 75,000 people who have undertaken the Cicerone Certification Program, only eleven have achieved the title of Master Cicerone.
Naturally, my knee-jerk response is, “Then I shall be the twelfth,” but we’ll see.
What do cicerones need to know? Short answer: everything. Longer answer: brewing techniques, beer and brewing history, beer ingredients, beer service, glassware, draught systems, beer tastings, and food pairings. Essentially, cicerones are experts in every aspect of the beer experience: from the technical, to the historic, to the artistic.
So, you wanna be a cicerone? The first level—Certified Beer Server—is an online test that takes about thirty minutes. Anything past that has to be done in person at one of the Cicerone Certification Program’s testing locations. And to be a Master Cicerone? You’re looking at two days of examination, including eight hours of written tests, two hours of oral examination, and two hours of beer tasting and evaluation.
To get us all started, I found this short sample quiz, courtesy of the Cicerone Certification Program. How well did you do?
Want to improve your score, or practice for those advanced titles? Drop by the Black Creek brewery this summer. We can all share our beer knowledge together, and add a few more samples to your beer tasting repertoire!