Drink a brew

By Hyacinth Miles

Personally I think the world would be a much better place if everyone listened to more public radio. Recent polls indicate that compared to people who get their news from Fox News or MSNBC, NPR listeners have better personal hygiene and are better able to do complex mental arithmetic.

So WUKY’s annual fundraiser “Blues, Brews and BBQ” sounded like all kinds of fun. I could hang out with other devotees of public radio, see a great concert, drink too much in public, and eat meat.

I’m not exactly a connoisseur of beer. Basically I don’t really know anything about it. It’s made of hops, right? (What are hops?) Luckily, the “Blues, Brews and BBQ” program included a primer for the understanding and appreciation of beer.

The information in the guide ranged from basic “All aspects of the flavor, taken together, are the taste of the beer,” to the generally incomprehensible “Cloudiness or haze [in the beer] can be a good omen when in the presence of a high male content or a bad sign when caused by lactic acid bacteria.” Male content? Were they talking about my date?

The guide also gave us advice for enjoying a beer, some of which I actually understood: “A beer that lacks any taste feature deprives the drinker of much of the potential enjoyment.” Okay, got it. A beer should taste like something, alert the guys at Bud Light. Other guidelines took a few readings to understand, “The aroma is the nasal sensation produced by the ingredients of the product, and the bouquet results from the by-products of fermentation.” So aroma comes from the ingredients and bouquet comes from the process. Good to know, but I had scant hope of ever being able to tell the difference myself.

To make things just a little more complicated, the primer also listed the beer styles recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program. There are 24. And they are all described using words like malty and rich, clean and smooth, except for Bock which has the word ‘gunk’ in its description. (Mmmm, gunk). Each of the 90 or so beers, not including the wines or malt beverages, featured at “Blues, Brews and BBQ” fit into one of these categories.

Armed with this guide and the certain knowledge that I would never understand beer, I headed over to the Paddock Park at the Red Mile. The first thing I noticed when I got there was, undeterred both by the casual sound of “Blues, Brews and BBQ” and by the mention of “paddock” on the ticket I had resolutely overdressed. Think of a chubby Sex and the City character at—well—at any party where everyone is wearing jeans and tevas.

Undeterred, I hobbled over to the nearest booth (must walk on my toes, must not let heels sink into ground and pin me like a small rodent in headlights). “I want some alcohol.”

“We can do that,” said the woman behind the table, and handed me a cup.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Ninety varieties of beer is a lot of beer, even in little plastic cups. There were some beers that I really enjoyed, especially the three Japanese beers: Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo, and 33 Export, a Vietnamese beer, and the numerous fruity beers. (What can I say, I’m a chick.) There were also some beers I was less impressed by, but considering what a beer philistine I am, my dislike might be the highest compliment I could pay a beer. As such I would like to recommend something called Biere du Boucaniere on both the grounds that I disliked it and the fact that it has 11% alcohol. Sara, my DD for the evening, and I wandered down the buffet of beers. After a few dozen of the little cups, even the most exotic of them starts to taste like—well, like beer. Which was fine with me at that point.

“I love beer.” I said emotionally, staring at the bottom of my glass.

“Let’s get some food.” suggested Sara.

It turns out I love BBQ too.

This whole experience has motivated me to learn a little more about beer, like what hops are. There is a vast amount of information about beer on the internet. Some of it is even in English, although the Google translations of the German pages can be more fun.

The definition of beer is, depending on your source, any alcoholic beverage made by the fermentation of sugars, usually malted barley. The term beer is even derived from the Anglo Saxon ‘baere’ which means barley. Hops, in case you are wondering, are a perennial climbing vine, with an acidic flower that is used to give bitterness to the beer.

Perhaps this knowledge will help you enjoy yourself as you kick back over the weekend. However you choose to enjoy your beer I urge you to follow the advice I found in this German website:

“But still a recommendation—perhaps the more important—you allow me to make it you: to guide a vehicle after to have drunk 33 Cl. of this beer could become blurred your glares, therefore used much precaution and…good drink!” n