Thursday, January 28, 2010

How do you get to better beer? Education, education, education.

Education is vital to the expansion of the better beer perimeter.

To me, it’s axiomatic. One may come to better beer without knowing much about the brewing method, beers styles, geography, history and culture, and that’s perfectly fine.

However, the more one knows about these matters, the greater the possibilities. Enjoying a flavor is the starting point. Knowing who, why and wherefore helps to place the flavor in context. Beer education provides the back story, and helps to grow the love and to expand the savvy of the consumer. It transforms casual adherents into torchbearers. I believe in it wholeheartedly.

These days, I’m in the position of devoting much time to selling the products of my own brewery, and both understandably and financially, I’m bullish about NABC. At the same time, I’m determined not to neglect the mandate to educate about beer – all beer, and not just ours. My goal has always been to act as fair broker for information about the whole world of better beer, hence my twice monthly columns in LEO and quarterly contributions to Food & Dining, not to mention daily blogging, facebooking and tweeting. Questions? I'll answer them if I can, and if I can't, I'll try to point in the right direction.

Thus, the good news: February’s “Here’s to Beer” class has 15 students, by far the largest enrollment in this, the third running of the IU Southeast continuing education course. Both the university and the Publican are ecstatic. The class begins on Wednesday, February 3, and will be repeated in April, so if you missed it this time around, another chance is coming. Class dates for April are the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, all Wednesdays, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and at the NABC Pizzeria & Public House, 3312 Plaza Drive (just off Grant Line Road) in New Albany. Contact IU Southeast for registration information.

More good news: I’ll be delivering a talk on beer to the Irish Society in Louisville on Tuesday, February 2. It is entitled, "Themes in Irish Beer and Brewing." There will be elements of beer in a general sense, with an obvious focus on the Anglo-Irish experience, and an effort to provide at least a partial answer to the question: Irish and German immigration occurred roughly simultaneously, and as such, why did the German brewing tradition take hold in America, and not the Irish?

Because of these two commitments next week, there’ll be a slight delay in the advent of Office Hours with the Publican. There’s just no time to get this off the ground on February 1, so instead, I’m moving it back a week to an inaugural date and time of Monday, February 8, 6:30 p.m. in the Prost area of the Public House.

Office Hours is intended as an hour-long weekly skull session with samples, freewheeling and self-contained, with a modest sampling charge for participants and the opportunity to eat and drink before, during and after the session. Some topics will be announced, while at other times, the topic of the night will be determined on the fly. Expect occasional guest speakers and impromptu entertainment. We’ll have fun, then see where Office Hours goes after a couple of months on the air.

Finally, it is my hope that there can be more one-off classes like “Porters: A History of the Style” at the Liquor Barn last December, and in conjunction with these educational considerations, I’ve commenced the (as it turns out) Herculean task of reformatting the Public House beer program and converting the beer list to reference by style rather than national origin – not an original thought by any stretch, but a necessary one. In doing this, I’m using style definitions from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), which in turn are used in Cicerone training.

Education can be tiring. Is it time for a beer?

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