Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tasting and rating beer with the Flying Disc Crowd

The Ice Bowl - Cedar Creek Disc Golf Course - Cohasset, MA

On the night before most major sporting events you will find the serious competitor studying film, or meditating in a Zen-like trance inside a hyperbaric chamber, or maybe receiving a deep tissue massage, or working out, or nibbling on a specially formulated mix of nutritious supplements (or by injecting massive quantities of steroids if you are Roger -Rocket Booster-Clemens or Alex-Aroid- Roidriguez). All of these athletes adhere to a routine of readying the mind and body for the rigors of tomorrow’s anticipated sporting event.

On the other hand we have the Total-Mind-and-Body Immersion training activities specifically created for the Night before a Regional Flying Disc Golf Tournament. Each focused competitor comes with his or her own unique training formula. Some prefer lagers. Some prefer ales. While others opt for high levels of training formulas such as potent Belgian Trappist Ales, Baltic Porters, Imperial Stouts, or other beers of the extreme potency. Some of the competitors find that a special blend of “herbs” in addition to beer is key for optimal mental focus.

There are three or four annual Golf Disc Tournaments at Cedar Creek and each tourney requires an equal amount of concerted preparation on the eve of the event. Such preparations were in abundance for the 2011 Ice Bowl this past February 13th, except this year the event organizers added a slight twist. They decided to assemble a semi-organized Beer Tasting and Rating Seminar, sponsored by yours truly.

The logic behind a Beer Rating Session was, “Why just guzzle down loads of beer preparing for the Ice Bowl when we can, carefully examine the beer and take notes about the Visuals, Aroma, Taste and Drinkability of the beer before we guzzle it down?” Makes sense!

The criteria for the tasting/rating were that the competitors would select an everyday beer that they enjoy regularly and then my son, Ben and I would select a beer of a similar style, but of a notably different or even superior quality. We supplied the tasters with a simple rating sheet that included the name of the brewery, the beer style, the alcohol by volume level and a 1-5 Rating of Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel, and Drinkability. Purposely left out, were the typical descriptives used by beer judges at competitions. This would force the tasters to dig a little deeper into their creative minds to come up with their own unique descriptions on each beer. Al, one of the top-rated competitors in the disc golf tournament chose Newcastle Brown Ale as his beer. Not a bad beer, but easy to trump, IMHO. Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale should do the trick. Ben, a three-time champ at the course chose Samuel Adams Nobel Pils. Not so easy to compare to, let alone beat. PJ chose Ommagang Rare Vos, Belgian-style Brown Ale (but this beer was chosen as one of “the closest to pin” rewards for the next day’s tournament, thus it was out of play). So, somehow we chose to go a sort of diagonal route and selected a Brooklyn Local 1. What? A Strong Saison? Yes, that’s right; I lost focus and allowed the tasting to meander off course. At this point it was decided to simplify the tasting and just taste and rate the Local 1 without thought of comparisons. Hey, it’s our beer-drinking thing! It was the natural course of events. Folks had been eyeing it. Why fight it? Next up was Saint Martin’s Brune, a Strong (8% alcohol by volume (ABV) Dark Ale from Belgium. The last beer rated was Green Flash West Coast IPA, a fairly potent (7.3% ABV) India Pale Ale via San Diego, CA.

In the only head-to-head competition, Newcastle vs. Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown, the Nut Brown was a near unanimous winner with Al (surprise) giving Newcastle the tie. A lot of love was given up to the Nut Brown. Most commented that it was more flavorful, or maltier. The words “earthy, more carbonate, nutty and caramel flavors” was used to describe it.

Next was the Brooklyn Local 1. Pleasurable smell, slightly sweet, wine-like, strong, citrusy, and effervescent, along with “Strong-Consumer Beware” was noted.

The St. Martin Brune received these comments: “Caramel Color, Strong but Smooth, semi- sweet, malty, and I like it”

The tasters had this to say about Green Flash West Coast IPA; “Transparent with caramel tints, Strong hoppy scents, hoppy and floral taste, Dry, but smooth strong aftertaste, and delicious!”

In all fairness to the results, several rating forms went missing, while another got soaked in beer and was illegible.

Anyway, with the “official” tasting complete, we could all kick back and enjoy more beer. With beer-concentration out the window, it was agreed that course designer and owner, Mark’s chili paired extremely well with whatever beer we chose to drink. An impromptu band was formed, music played, witty banter exchanged, and more beer was consumed. The impeding tournament a minor concern.

The following morning was clear and cloudless as the bright sun reflected harshly against the snow-covered ground (yes, it was a bit painful). Wind gusts at around 25-30 mph and temperature hovering at 20°F. The snow was over a foot deep and crusty in places and soft in others, making for some uncertain footing. Perfect conditions and weather for the Ice Bowl!

Ahhh! Tee time at 11:00am, group photo, collect your discs, grab a little of the dog that bit you and we’re ready to compete at a “high” level.

Quote: “Boughs have their fruit and blossoms

At all times of year

Rivers are running over

With red beer and brown beer”. - William Butler Yeats