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Beer School: Brews Of Germany

For the benefit of my experience, I have decided to post the tasting notes from the Map Room class. As usual, the class was hosted by Brewmaster Greg Browne. He is an Australian who knows a ton about beer. He makes the 1.5 hours quite enjoyable with stories about the regions and styles of beer.

So the event took place last night at 6pm. We tasted 10 beers. For snack food, they had fresh (but not hot) Bavarian pretzels with sweet mustard. All very tasty.

1) Reissdorf Kölsch

  • Draft
  • 1st Impression: Refreshing
  • A Cologne style beer. Actually an ale, but lager-like in that the fruit is muted. There are many varieties that all vary by brewpub (in the Cologne region).
  • In the region, generally served in 200ml cylinder glasses. Don’t worry if that doesn’t seem like a lot because the wait staff is constantly carrying trays of these glasses. They mark your beer coaster per beer and that becomes your bill.

2) König Pils

  • Can
  • 1st Impression: Tastes just like PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon)
  • Lagers are the typical German beer and this is a typical example of a lager. After several sips, the beer was better than PBR (which doesn’t say much), but I thought it wasn’t nearly as good as the first beer.
  • Other classic pilsners are Bitburger and Warsteiner.

3) Schneider Edel-Weisse

  • Bottle
  • 1st Impression: Bananas
  • This beer was the best so far. The freshness of the bananas/cloves really makes the beer quite yummy.
  • Typically served in a bottle so that it can be highly carbonated. (which I think helps with the freshness quality)

4) 1809 Berliner Weisse

  • Bottle
  • 1st Impression: Sour!
  • He used fancy words like ‘citrusy’, but this beer really smelled terrible. We were given some red or green syrup to sweeten the experience. Though the color changed and it tasted better, I couldn’t really get over that horrible smell.
  • I personally had the red syrup which was dubbed “Himbeer”.

5) Spaten Oktoberfest

  • Bottle
  • 1st Impression: Boring
  • I wish I liked this style more (given how much the host waxed lyrical), but at the end of the day, it reminded me of a Brown ale. And I really don’t like Brown ales (with the notable exception of any beer that is aged in a bourbon barrel).
  • Fun fact: Only 5 companies are allowed to make an Oktoberfest beer at the festival
  • Fun fact: The dark color that Americans associate with this style only occurs here. In Germany, the beer has a much lighter color. The hosts theory is that they can sell more of it to Australians (who as we all know love Fosters).

6) Uerige Sticke Dusseldorf Altbier

  • Bottle (w/ resealable cap)
  • 1st Impression: Amazing Flavor (pepper/spice)
  • Sticke means secret which apparently means in beer terms that this beer was a special treat. I thought this beer was pretty special too. Really awesome.
  • Dusseldorf is right next to Kolsch, but they have entirely different beer styles. Apparently, they don’t like each other very much either. Wouldn’t be uncommon for a person of one region to have never tried the beer of the other region.
  • Fun fact: Up until 5 years ago, you had to actually go to Dusseldorf in order to get this beer.

7) Kostritzer Schwarzbier

  • Bottle? Draft? (we saw a bottle, but not sure)
  • 1st Impression: Light stout, roasted
  • Schwarz means black and (surprise, surprise) the beer is very dark/black in color.  It really isn’t like a stout at all.  The black color gives that impression but that’s where all of the similarities end.  It is very light and lager-like.  Probably because it uses lager yeast.
  • It was very drinkable.

8) Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock

  • Bottle
  • 1st Impression: Malty/Smoky
  • At first, he cited this beer as being 7-8% ABV, but we later determined it was only 6.7%. That is funny because it tasted very alcohol-y. Or it could just be that I’ve had one too many high alcohol Belgian beers and my taste buds are biased.
  • Fun fact: Bock = Goat. So lots of goat pictures/paraphenalia on the bottle.

9) Schneider Aventinus

  • Bottle
  • 1st Impression: Bananas
  • It was our second Schneider beer of the night.  So perhaps not really surprising that they both tasted like bananas.
  • This is considered a “holiday” beer probably because of the 8.2% ABV.
  • Delicious beer.  Would have been good to end the class with this one, but I wasn’t the host.

10) Schlenkerla Fastenbier

  • Draft
  • 1st Impression: Nose: Smoky/Bacon Flavor: Tar/Bitter
  • It’s safe to say that the majority of the class didn’t like this beer.  If you’ve never had a smoky beer, this would be a rough introduction.
  • I’ve had a lot of smoky beers, but the best probably has to be the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.  This wasn’t close to that (and not because it wasn’t barrel aged in bourbon).  It really just was too bitter to be good.

Cathy (the comic strip) is dead. What now?

When I first read the news that Cathy was no longer going to be published, I did a little dance for joy.  I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to read/enjoy it in the paper funnies section only to be consistently disappointed.  Which of course leads to the desire of the removal of the strip so that it could be replaced by something far funnier.  All of that being said, I wonder if it really will get replaced.  I don’t read the paper funnies anymore.  It was one of those activities that occurred Sunday morning at the parent’s house.  And I only tend to look at a couple of more adult mature comics that I find online (eg xkcd, basic instructions).  So I think humor will live on, but probably not as much in the paper news.

I want to always work with great programmers

From a write-up about one  of the failures of yahoo:

In technology, once you have bad programmers, you’re doomed. I can’t think of an instance where a company has sunk into technical mediocrity and recovered. Good programmers want to work with other good programmers. So once the quality of programmers at your company starts to drop, you enter a death spiral from which there is no recovery.

Just learned something about the origin of New Trier

This is an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article:

In 1850, the Germans who settled in the Wilmette area named their township New Trier after the German city of Trier. That city was settled by a Gaulish people called the Treveri and was also known as Treves — which is why New Trier High School athletes are called Trevians. Little did the Illinois settlers know that Trier would soon be known as the birthplace of communist icon Karl Marx.

Apple lovers are not necessarily fanboys.

I think that Apple has a design philosophy that is second to none. Hence, I buy their products. I think their products are great, so I talk about how cool they are to other people. Are there problems with the devices and features I wish they had? Absolutely! And I will admit it freely. But just because it lacks some feature doesn’t make the device crap.

I’m not going to give a big list about everything I wish my mac/iPhone/iDevice should do. It really doesn’t matter. Products will come and go and there will always be critics. As a critic, it is your responsibility to be critical. Just don’t be a dick.

New Blog Title

After eating a muffin made by a co-workers wife, I pointed out how it needed less sugar(ie blueberries) and more cinnamon. As I tend to make these type of observations, I decided to take his suggestion on the new blog title. So in the spirit of “what grinds my gears”, get ready for Swallow says!

Napa Day 7: Last drinking day

After our monumental 7 winery marathon, it was time to chill out more while wrapping up the required wineries.

We had an appointment to go to Judd’s Hill at 10:30 so that meant we had more than the usual time to kill in the morning. I wasn’t up for running (and neither was Su) so we decided to head over to the Bouchon Bakery and see if their morning pastry/coffee/etc. was worth it. We were not disappointed. I had a spicy hot chocolate and a pain au chocolate and they were spot on in flavor and texture. Su had a regular coffee and said it was satisfactory. After the brief eat, Ken and I tried out the morning hot tub. Very relaxing.

And then it was wine time…
We tried the current releases at Judds and generally speaking none of us was impressed although Ken picked up something. Thankfully they had a 2002 Cab that actually had enough flavor and quality make it worth buying.

Next on the list was Luna. Historically speaking, Luna has been very generous with their pours and inclined to open a lot of rare bottles. In short, we drank a lot because the generous traditions were upheld. The hostness was a garrulous girl from Petaluma(Lagunitas) and kept us talking and drinking for at least an hour and a half. We ended up ordering a decent amount of wine (but not Hanna levels). Todo.

At this point we thought it would be a food idea to get some food so we decided to give the Soda Canyon store a try. They had a nice mix of sandwiches and side salads.

We had just enough time to be a little early for the Pine Ridge cave tour. The guide was good but really just too long. We did a barrel tasting of unblended wine. You could taste the potential but wouldn’t be drinkable until some post processing. The tour wrapped up at the tasting room where I spent more money. Got a really good deal on a case of the 2004 stags leap cab.

The tour sort of zapped us and it was kind if getting late but we tried to squeeze in one more tasting. With regrettable hindsight, Ken and I went to the Napa Valley Cellars/Folie à deux tasting room(Su smartly stayed in the car). The wine was horrible in every way possible but at least it cost 5 bucks per tasting.

Whether the bad wine or the lack of water was the factor I wasn’t feeling great so I tried to go for a run. In summary: mission failure.

Since we had our final dinner at Bistro Jeanty, I rallied and made it without regret. That onion soup is just amazing.

There were ups and downs but overall a good finish for wine country.