Beer Sensory Analysis Course

It was 9th September 2021, me and my friend Giovanni had just arrived at a pub known as Birreria Bunker. The waitress welcomed us and took us upstairs, were the publican Danijel was waiting for us. We were the first ones, but soon more people started arriving. While we were waiting for them I started distributing brochures, pencils and notebooks. When they all arrived Danijel presented himself and welcomed us to the Bunker. This is just the beginning of a long and amazing experience: the Beer Sensory Analysis Course created by Homebrewers Gorizia association in collaboration with Birreria Bunker.

Target of that course was to taste and learn the characteristics of the various styles of beer, learn to observe and taste a beer and recognize flavors, aromas, mouth sensations, qualities and defects of a beer. The entire course was organized in 12 lessons, in each of which four beers belonging to a particular category of styles were analyzed. And to take this experience to a higher level each beer was accompanied and paired with a dish with an explanation of the chosen food pairing. I think all this is enough to make you understand what a wonderful course it was. And although it was an amateur course, the level of professionalism of Danijel and his staff was extremely high.

The first tasted beer was the longest one: together with a glass of the famous Pilnser Urquell, Danijel gave us also four evaluation sheets, starting to explain point by point how to evaluate the indicated characteristic.The evaluation consist in ten descriptors:

  • Head: evaluate the foam quality, consistency and retention
  • Appearance: evaluate if it is crystal clear or hazy
  • Olfactory intensity: just how strong is the aroma of a beer
  • Olfactory composition: here we tried to identify the aromas present in the beer
  • Carbonation: simply carbonation level of the beer, evaluated on the basis of how strong it is perceived on the sides of the tongue
  • Body: sensation of palate fullness, evaluated by moving the beer from one side of the mouth to the other and observing the hardness of the movement
  • Bitterness: simply the bitterness intensity perceived in the mouth and in the aftertaste
  • Taste balance: here we tried to identify the flavors present in the mouth from entrance till aftertaste and define if they’re well balanced or not
  • Nose richness: here we tried to identify the flavors that remains in the nose after the sip
  • Olfactory persistence: how much time after the sip the flavors are perceived in the nose

It seems easy right? Believe me it is not, especially the aroma/flavors identification part. But during the 12 lessons we managed to train our noses a lot. We stayed almost an hour on the first beer before continuing with the other three. Danijel told us about the characteristics of the beer, its history, the characteristics of the style and what we can expect from this beer, confirmed by our first analysis. This was the beginning of the first lesson on the first group of styles: Pilsner, Lager and Keller.

I admit, after the first lesson I liked the course but it still didn’t seem amazing, the beers tasted were quite poor in flavors and the paired dishes very simple, but in a short time I changed my mind, the quality went up very quickly. Unfortunately I don’t write down all the paired dishes, but I want to present now the whole program of tastings to let you understand that levels of quality and professionalism have been reached:

  1. Lagers:
    • Pilsner: Pilsner Urquell (4,4% ABV)
    • Lager: Heineken (5% ABV)
    • Lager: Augustiner Edelstoff (5,6% ABV)
    • Kellerbier: Schmucker (5% ABV)
  2. Strong Lagers:
    • Märzen: Schlenkerla Rauchbier (5,1% ABV), paired with smoked Speck meat and Scamorza cheese
    • Märzen: Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen (6,3% ABV), paired with a traditional dish from Trieste: Porzina, senape e kren (boiled pork meat,  mustard and horseradish)
    • Bock: Engel Bock Hell (7,2% ABV), paired with beef burger, caramelized onion and cheese
    • Doppelbock: Moretti La Rossa (7,2% ABV), paired with a Sacher cake
  3. Wheat beers:
    • Witbier: Hoegaarden (4,9% ABV), paired with a stick with mozzarella, pineapple, ham and orange
    • Weizen: Alpirsbacher Weizen Hefe Hell (5,5% ABV), paired with  a Milanese cutlet and fried potatoes
    • Dunkel Weizen: Franziskaner Premium Weissbier Dunkel (5% ABV), paired with smoked sausage and cooked potatoes
    • Doppelbock Weizen: Riegele Augustus Weizen Doppelbock (8% ABV)
  4. English Ales:
    • Bitter: St.Peter’s Best Bitter ( 3,7% ABV)
    • Pale Ale: Wold Top Anglers Reward (4% ABV)
    • Brown Ale: New Castle Brown Ale (4,7% ABV)
    • Strong Ale: Bulldog Strong Ale (7,1% ABV)
    • Special unscheduled surprise, one of the students brought the Rhanerbräu Crazy Bear Beer, not an English Ale but a Pilsner
  5. Stouts and Porters:
    • Irish Red: Murphy’s irish red (5% ABV), paired with toasted bread with aged cheese
    • Porter: St.Peter’s Old Style Porter (5% ABV), paired with onion soup
    • Stout: O’Hara’s Irish Stout (4,3% ABV), paired with mussels
    • Imperial Stout: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout (7% ABV) paired with a Panforte cake
  6. IPA:
    • Session IPA: Lagunitas Daytime IPA (4% ABV), paired with tosted bread with stracciatella cheese, spinach, tomatoes and olives
    • IPA: Brewdog punk IPA (5,4% ABV), paired with Orecchiette pasta with turnip tops
    • New England IPA: Lupulus NEIPA Cryo Hop (7% ABV), paired with curry meatballs
    • Double IPA: Brewski Mangofer DIPA (8% ABV)
  7. Belgian Ales:
    • Belgian Ale: De Koninck Bolleke (5% ABV), paired with veg pancakes with argula
    • Saison: Saison Dupont (6.5% ABV), paired with polenta, blue cheese and mushrooms
    • Belgian Blonde: La Chouffe Blond (8% ABV), paired with eggplant, peppers and BBQ ribs
    • Belgian Strong Ale: Duvel (8,5% ABV), paired with a not-fried coron bleu with potato cream
    • Special unscheduled surprise, Duvel Tripel Hop Citra (9,5%), a belgian dry-hopped beer
  8. Abbey Beers:
    • Blonde: Affligen Blonde (6,7% ABV), paired with pasta with mushrooms
    • Dubbel: Grimbergen Double Ambree (6,5% ABV), paired with pork tenderloin with prunes
    • Tripel: Tripel Karmeliet (8,4% ABV), paired with mixed cheese plate
    • Quadrupel: St.Bernardus ABT 12 (10% ABV), paired with cookies and Panettone brought by one of the students
  9. Trappist Beers:
    • Blonde: Orval (6,2% ABV), paired with vegetables lasagna
    • Dubbel: Chimay Rouge (7% ABV), paired with BBQ Ribs and potatoes
    • Tripel: Westmalle Tripel (9,5% ABV), paired with Westmalle cheese
    • Quadrupel: Rochefort 10 (11,3% ABV), paired with blue cheese and tart
  10. Sour Beers:
    • Gose: Original Leipziger Gose (4,5% ABV), paired with lemon chicken
    • Flemish Sour: Douchesse De Bourgogne (6,2% ABV), paired with Trieste’s Jota
    • Lambic: 3 Fonteinen Armand & Gaston (6,7% ABV), payred with oysters
    • Kriek: Cantillon Kriek (5,5% ABV), paired with black cherries pie
    • Special unscheduled surprise, Lindemans Kriek (3,5% ABV) to feel the difference of a kriek with fruits (Cantillon) and with syrup (Lindemans)
  11. Final night, Danijel’s favourite beers:
    • Founders Mas Agave Clasica Lime (Imperial Gose, 10% ABV), paired with salted raw prawns
    • Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (IPA, 6,4% ABV), paired with curcuma vegetables
    • La Rulles Stout Rullquin (Sour Brun, 7% ABV), paired with pulled pork
    • Cuvee Van Der Keizer (Imperial Brun, 11% ABV), paired with blue cheese and cranberry pie
    • Baladin Xyauyu Fumè 2018 (Barley Wine, 14% ABV), paired with  a chocolate and whisky pie

As you can see the level rised up lesson by lesson. The most attentive of you will have noticed some details: first, the pairings were made so as to start from the appetizer to get to the dessert. Second, in some lessons there was also the fifth beer, sometimes surprise others to make us learn something. Third, there was only 11 lessons: and tou’re right, in fact the 12th night was the final exam of the course, where Danijel gives us gave us each a different beer in a completely black and not transparent glass. The goal of the exam was to analyze the beer blindly and guess what style it is: everyone of us did a great work for our and Danijel’s satisfaction. After the exam the president of Homebrewers Gorizia gave us the diplomas and after that we tasted some beers brought by students and ate some unpaired dishes.

That’s all, as I said at the beginning it was an amazing experience, an amateur course done at an extremely professional level, with a very prepared, helpful and experienced professor, amazing classmates, great beers and great dishes. it was absolutely an experience an experience that could not be lost and I’m very happy to made it: I learned many new things, I learned and improved my tasting skills, I had an introduction to the world of food pairing and I met many great people.

Homebrewers Gorizia and Birreria Bunker let me tell you: you’ve done an excellent job! Thanks!

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