As we go from beer to beer, the slow, careful sipping and thoughtful, probing observations reveal how it’s not just about critiquing each beer—there’s a tremendous amount of palate training going on as well. That of course, follows a cursory examination of each 2-3oz sample against the light, with many then proceeding to wrap their hands around the lip of their cups as they slowly, deeply inhale.
If it sounds like a wine tasting, that’s because they’re looking for the exact same things: to be able to taste both subtle and pronounced flavors, as well as how those flavors carry through with each sip towards a brewers ideal. “Nose, front, body, tail-end—that’s exactly what we’re going for,” Belkowski says.
To be able to hone your technique, you have to know what you’re tasting. So, the few people who did not brew for the meeting were getting something more than just free beer.
Jim Tully, another newcomer with years of experience—22—pours from what looks like a giant Sriracha bottle fitted with a carbonator cap. His brew: a honey wheat ice bock of “8 or 9%” alcohol that he proudly terms the buzzcatcher.
Much more so this time, the responses fall along philosophical lines, as the beer hardly offers up any major flaws.
Honey and wheat come through forcefully in the aroma, yet, as with the Mild, the flavor is graciously subdued.
“He got that right,” Brian Crawford, says, a statement of as much pith as any of the highly technical critiques lobbed across the table here. As for those analyses, that’s exactly what Crawford has been picking up since his first meeting a few months ago.
“I’m just a sponge right now, listening,” he says, as he bides his time to start brewing on his own.