A short time ago I was at the International Street Food in Udine, a three-day event in which there are various stands offering street food (sandwiches, grilled meat, etc.) and craft beers. I was there just one day, there were many people but absolutely not too many, the waiting time to order something was quite short. A wonderful initiative, I could eat something good and taste several beers.
This last fact made me think about one point: I notice that at public events it is practically impossible to see the beer tasting formats (the famous 4 or 5 glasses of 100ml). Let me be clear, I certainly did not expect them at a street food fair, where the central theme is food and not beer. What I wonder, however, is why breweries almost never propose it, if for issues of low practicality or for disinterest from the visitors’ side.
Those who like to taste beers and explore every aspect of them often prefer to taste many beers snubbing the pints. For this purpose the tasting format is perfect: I can take my four glasses, sit at the table and I have all the time I want to smell, taste, analyze those beers in every aspect. No one rushes you, and you can actually have one pint of beer but taste four different beers. Obviously just with draught beers.
At events this does not happen, not even at craft brewery stands. They usually offer two sizes directly, one small and one large. If one wants to taste the beers usually he is given a very small amount of beer in the glass so that he can taste and evaluate which he likes more and then order one of the proposed formats.
At the International Street Food I tried to ask the breweries if they could let me taste several beers before ordering a beer. Every brewery made me try any beer I asked for without the slightest argument. Even at the first stand at which I stopped the guys seemed almost excited to make me try everything, and they encouraged me to do it. So I finally got to try a lot of beers.
This mode of tasting, however, presents some problems. The first is that the amount of beer is absolutely not enough to make a serious tasting. The aromas are manageable, but to taste you have practically a single sip or at most two to try flavors, bitterness, mouth sensations, aftertaste, etc. Practically impossible (or maybe an expert taster can do it, but unfortunately I can’t). The second problem is a psychological issue. The tasting is done at the bar counter with the bartender who is standing there watching you and waiting if you want to order or taste another beer. I feel like I have to hurry because I’m wasting his time. I realize that probably this problem is just in my head and that they actually like the fact that I taste all of their products, but I’m done like that.
Returning to the fair, this was held in one of the largest squares of Udine, a huge grassy more or less round area with a pedestrian area and the street around. The stands were all arranged in a row between the street and the pedestrian area with tables on the grassy side. There were many stands that offered food of all kinds: sandwiches, arrosticini, grilled meat, potato skewers, paella, and much more. There were six stands offering beer. For the size of the event I would say more than enough, maybe even too many (no, they are never too many!). Exluding a first stand that in addition to cocktails offered Guinness and two other beers, there were five stands of craft beers. The number of beers available varied from stand to stand, but all were well stocked.
The guys at the stand called me excited on my way to taste their beers. I couldn’t say no, so I stopped to see what they were offering. There were 20 beers to choose from. When the bartender saw me slightly undecided, he suggested to taste as many beers as I want (he actualy said “you can taste all of them if you want”). I looked for the ones that most intrigued me (I remind you that in my head I was thinking that I’m wasting his time), some seemed really interesting. The guys were very happy and helpful, they have always answered in a complete and exhaustive way to all my questions consulting with each other in case of doubt. Good and very kind, I could try eight beers.
While I was choosing what to eat, I went to a stand called TreeBALE. Six beers on tap, they also made me kindly try four beers including a Weizen that I accompanied to a fantastic sandwich with burger, salad, tomato, basil sauce and buffalo stracciatella. Maybe I should have paired a weizen with a fatter sandwich, but the basil sauce and stracciatella made me too gluttonous
Following the line of stands I came across the DAFF: the stand said “Original Prague Beer” and looking on the internet turns out to be an Italian Contract Brewery. Unlike the other stands, in addition to the 8 plugs they also had bottled beer. Since I wanted to visit the other stands I decided to take a beottle to take away and enjoy at home, so no tasting here.
Although I have already tried some beers from the Flea brewery that are easily available at local supermarkets, I decided to stop at their stand to see what they had on tap. Eight beers available none of which I have ever tried. They also kindly made me taste three different beers.
When I wanted to leave already I realized that remains only one stand of craft beer, the Toccalmalto brewery one. I decided to stop there to complete the event. The guys made me taste three of their six beers on tap.
In conclusion I had the opportunity to try many beers even without tasting formats. The owners were all very kind and extremely helpful (someone even happy) to let me taste all their beers. In the end if there were tasting formats I would certainly have tried less beers. But again, it wasn’t a beer fair, so it was right exacltly as was. I am sure that almost all visitors wanted to drink a good craft beer without tastings, so I can understand that a tasting format would only be a useless complication.
So? Are these tasting formats useful or not? Hard to say, it probably depends on the location and situation. I’m sure that in a taproom they’re very useful and very appreciated by the customers, but in a public event maybe they’re just a complication and a waste of time.
But if you want we can discuss it in the comments below, I’ll be very happy.