Over the years I came to appreciate beer as a complement to nearly every meal. It graciously scrubs the palate between courses, or sets the stage for a new one. In the past 20 years the rise of the American microbrew has produced a new connoisseur: one who delights in the finer notes of a well-mixed hop-and-yeast waltz over the staccato salsa of a traditional paired wine.
I didn't know it at the time, but I quickly became a card-carrying member of the beer snob squad.
Since moving to Southern California, I've made several friends who brew their own. Their setups include beakers and burners that would make Dr. Frankenstein blush, and in the comfort of their kitchens they devise ales and lagers with the sophistication of a classical symphony. Each recipe builds on itself, and there is an order involved; as one might bring in the horns section too early, so too does the malt maestro calculate how and when his hops enter the song.
Home-brewers love to talk about their home brews. They love it so much that I can't often keep up in the conversation, getting lost somewhere between the positive and negative charge of yeast and the proper temperatures at which your copper-pipe contraption must cool the boil.
So I'm going to learn. This weekend I'm bringing several home brewers to my home to compare, contrast and collaborate on how the art of the brew is really done.
Did I mention I have no idea how to host a beer tasting?
For pointers I visited Tony's Darts Away on Magnolia. There's really no better collection of beer barons in Burbank than this craft-brew bar. My first lesson: Beer tasting is not as high-brow as one might expect if one compares it to wine tasting.