I’m part of a(n unofficial) beer club now.
When I first decided to take on the Certified Cicerone exam, I figured I’d be going it alone. I live in a small-ish mountain town with only a couple of breweries. People here love beer, but I didn’t think any of them were as obsessed as I am. Of course that’s not true. If you build it, they will come—or something like that. My recent beer events brought the beer nerds to me, and since then I’ve been hanging with two beerious friends consistently.
We’ve brewed together, we’ve picked apart beer and food pairings, we’ve created blind tastings for each other, we’ve even played beer jeopardy, and yesterday, we explored six common off-flavors in beer. [Logistics: Cicerone Certification Program Off-Flavor Kit (made by Aroxa) for six people (there are three of us so we cut the ingredients in half and will do another round in a few months or so). The beer we chose was Tecate (next time we’ll do a different beer—suggestions?).]
We tasted our way through beer spiked with DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide), Diacetyl, Acetaldehyde, Trans-2-nonenal, Lighstruck, and Infection. Honestly, I’ve read about these compounds/flavors so much that I thought identifying each one would be a breeze. That was true for about half: Trans-2-nonenal wafted aggressively at me like cheap lipstick, the scent of Diacetyl bubbled up like freshly buttered movie theater popcorn, Lighstruck hit me like a sunny day on the grass of a beer festival.
DMS caught me off guard with its spectrum of descriptors: creamed corn, tomato sauce, shellfish? I tasted the iron-like tinnyness of canned tomatoes, but the off-flavor was more of a coating of the mouth rather than a drastic taste difference. Acetaldehyde made a little more sense—if you can readily relate latex paint to green apples. It reminded me of going to Blockbuster as a kid and finding the sourest candy they sold. It’s also like something you could pass out from if you inhaled too deeply.
Infection blindsided me. I was excited to try it because I LOVE infected beer (when it’s on purpose 😊 ). But I could barely perceive the vinegary, acidic spike. All I know is I’ve tasted accidentally infected beer before; I remember it like yesterday—a keg of Rolling Rock tapped with a picnic faucet (was that the culprit?) that tasted SOUR. You know what I did? Kept drinking it. Because I don’t mind a sour beer and Rolling Rock is disgusting on its own. Plus, no one else believed me (non-perceivers!) so I rolled my eyes and acted cool.
After finishing the tasting, I kind of felt like throwing up. Thankfully, a prompt sour brown ale from Jolly Pumpkin saved my palate.
Now, when I taste an off beer at a taproom or brewery, I think I’ll have the balls to tell someone. Without apologizing.