Monday, September 22, 2008

From Pils to Grut Beer, and Beyond

LearnAboutWine, an LA-based wine education company, has also been routinely hosting unique, non-wine classes/events that seemed very interesting, so I contacted Ian Blackburn (the owner) and he invited me down to their German Beer Tasting event with beer scribe Tomm Carroll on Sunday (disclaimer: I joined this event for free per Ian's invitation).

Although LearnAboutWine started out holding events at different restaurants, they have now acquired Loft218 and hosted most of their classes there, which logistically probably works a lot better for them.

Loft218 is actually a loft in industrial downtown LA. You have to buzz in to get into the building, but the setup that Ian has created was a wonderful white tablecloth setting that took me somewhat by surprise.

They had also set up a cheese and dried fruits platter that can be paired with the beers we were drinking, including some wonderful dried cherries from France, smoked gouda, and gruyere.

So. Beer. Before this, I didn't know much at all about beer. Sure I drink hefeweizen, and sure I have a few beers that I like. But my knowledge about different beers extend only to the difference between lager and ale. So after tasting these twelve german beers at this event, I came to learn more about beer than I thought there was to know.

And luckily they gave a handout of the beers with description, history, etc, and I took notes! Because after about 3 oz X 12 beers, I was definitely feeling a buzz ... Let's get on with the beers, shall we?

1. Reissdorf Kölsch
From the town of Cologne (Köln), hence the name. A very light and dry ale - a nice one to start off with.

2. Bitburger Pils
A very dry and bitter beer, IMO ... I didn't like it that much although I got used to it after a few gulps.

3. Hofbrau Original Munich Helles
First lager of the day. Bitter, but maltier than #2.

4. Bayrischer Banhof Berliner Weisse
Arguable the most interesting beer we had! Originating from Berlin, this wheat beer is surprisingly sour, due to the additional lactic fermentation (on top of yeast fermentation). A lot of people would be turned off by it and that's why it is typically served with some woodruff or red raspberry syrup. In our case, we were given some woodruff syrup ("waldmeister").

I actually liked this beer the way it is. Although sour, it had a nice crisp taste with a clean finish that is refreshing. The waldmeister does cut the sourness and adds a nice fragrance, but I think I prefer the taste of the beer itself.

5. Bayrischer Banhof Leipziger Gose
This might be my favorite beer of the day. A wheat ale made with coriander and salt, this beer reminds me of champagne. It's on the sweeter side, but a little malty and you can taste the salt in the finish.

6. Schneider Edel-weiss Hefeweizen
Let's learn some German: "Hefe"=yeast, "Weizen"=wheat.
A nice ale that is a little acidic.

7. Spaten Oktoberfestbier (Märzen)
The original Oktoberfest beer, this was named Märzenbier because it was brewed in March. Since this beer predates refrigeration and the cold temperature is necessary to brew lagers, they had to brew in the winter.
Amber-colored, medium-bodied, but crisp and a little bitter. I thought this went well with some of the smoked gouda.

8. Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock
Named so because the last cases leave the brewery towards the end of May. A sweet, heavy, and a little malty, this pretty brown-colored beer is at the same time dry & crisp as it has a sharp, bitter finish.

9. Uerige Sticke Dusseldorfer Altbier
A very dry beer. Acidic and bitter. A pretty strong beer with ABV of 6.5%

10. Köstritzer Schwarzbier
This is a dark lager beer that has a roasty, coffee-like aroma, but is surprisingly light and acidic with a dry finish. Because of this, it is aptly known as "the black beer with the blonde soul."
Because of the slight chocolaty flavor, this beer paired very well with the dried cherries!

11. 13th Century Grut Beer
A wheat ale made with ginger, caraway, rosemary, anise, and other spices. It has a nice, strong, "spice" aroma and doesn't taste at all bitter. One of my faves of the day.

12. Aecht Schlekerla Rauchbier
My very first smoked beer. Unpasteurized and made entirely from smoked malt, this beer has a very strong smoked nose. Take a whiff and you'd think you were smelling smoked jerky. It has a lo~ng malty finish, and (as you can imagine) paired well with the smoked cheeses.
I definitely would not drink this on a casual basis. Might be nice for a bbq party though.

Although the class is not cheap ($50 if you register in advance), I thought that it would be worth it, since it isn't just about drinking the 12 beers and eating cheeses, but also the information you get out of it. Not sure if it is worth $75 though, so please do register in advance.

It was a very informative class where I got to try not only beers I've never had before, but beers I never even knew existed.
We also learned a lot about the histories of German beers and of the different types of beer. We all had a great time (the alcohol helps, I'm sure). We also got a souvenir glass :)

Ian has set up an enjoyable class setting and also a series of great classes!
I'm really looking forward to the Port, Chocolate, and Cheese class in December (I hope it won't sell out after telling you guys this ...)!

He has also started a more comprehensive, perhaps more geared towards trade professionals, credentialing program, that he calls the LAW school (and you take the BAR exam at the end -- cute).

LearnAboutWine is definitely a source of great events in Los Angeles, on top of a resource of wine knowledge. I hope to see it maintain and expand its unique series of classes! I've also heard great things about Ian's knowledge on wine and so will probably drop by for a wine (perhaps wine & chocolate? :) ) class.



So many interesting beers! I'm particularly interested in the Gose type of ale. Did they tell you where to get these beers?


Hi jepot!
Yes! Many of them you can apparently get from Red Carpet Liquor (400 E Glenoaks, Glendale) - I believe including the Gose although I'm not 100% sure (Tomm Carroll also has a provided he uses).


Time to schedule a trip to Red Carpet sometime this week.
Thanks burumun!


wow, by the looks of it you had a great tasting at the event. Did you get a press pass for this too? I need to figure out how to do that for future events.

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