This year, in our Level 4 Master Beer Sommelier program, we are exploring beer & food in far greater depth than ever before. For the first time since the program was developed in 2009, we have introduced a beer and chocolate pairing workshop.
In this class, we took a hard look at 5 different beers and examined how they interacted with 4 different types of chocolate. Our beers included Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bench Strawberry Grove, Great Lakes Karma Citra and The Wolf of Glen Moray from Windswept Brewing in Scotland.
This class was a tremendous amount of fun and was very eye-opening but also succeeded in destroying our palates. I love chocolate but I had chocolate fatigue at the end. It didn't really last all that long since I delved back into the chocolate last night.
Prud'homme Beer Certification has been in BC for many years now and it continues to grow. We started off very slowly but the pace has increased in recent years. We have made a point of offering the program to business who value the educational platform that Prud'homme offers. The list includes several breweries like Central City in the past, Vancouver Island Brewery, Big Rock Brewery, Six Pints Specialty Beer Co. and valued retailers like JAK's and hospitality groups including the Victoria Pub Co. and the Donnelly Group (quite a few years ago)
Now, we are finally at the stage where a Level 3 Prud'homme Beer Sommelier program is being offered. I have the pleasure of guiding 7 enthusiastic and knowledgeable participants through the depths of this program. Vancouver will be my home once a month from September to December when we will be proud to announce our newest set of Prud'homme Beer Sommeliers.
The first class in September included a class trip to Vancouver Island. Our first stop was the Cedar Valley Hop Farm just south of Nanaimo where we were treated to an exceptional tour by Debbie and Kevin Lamson. We really could not have asked for more! They opened their farm to us and helped us to understand their business of providing hops to the local brewing community. We were also fortunate enough to be able to use their hop yard as our beer & food exercise where we deconstructed a smoked salmon sandwich and investigated how a variety of different beers interacted with each food element.
Our next stop was in Victoria where we were given a private tour of Phillips Brewing and Malting. Dan was wonderful in guiding us through the brewery and also into the malt house. A nice little sampling of great beers followed and then,...off again to our final stop - Ground Zero for the craft brewing industry - Spinnakers, where we thoroughly enjoyed a round of cask ales.
Next up...a brew day with Evan Doan at Craft Collective and a canning presentation from Evan Singer from West Coast Cannning. Of course, no Level 3 would be complete without a Beer Dinner hosted by yours truly - this one is going to be a Belgian theme at Biercraft. Sunday will bring an intense session of malt and hops presentation with a dark lager blind tasting thrown in for good measure.
I always appreciate the passion of those who venture in the Level 3 realm with me and this class is no different. Check in later for an update on the BC Level 3 class.
It's so easy these days to take a stand on something you truly believe in. The issue for me is that most of these so-called stands are based on opinion and not on fact.
I'm not sure why some folks inherently feel the necessity to support their decisions with negative commentary but it runs rampant through society not just the beer industry.
If you are a lover of local breweries and the variety of beers they produce, good. You are supporting the local economy, local entrepreneur and it's fun to have a favourite brewery. One of the great facts of beer is that is 100% fresher closer to home. Beer (unpasteurized) does not travel well and therefore needs to be consumed fresh.
However, this does not mean that other beers (produced by global brewers, foreign breweries) are crap. If we are measuring quality, it will be impossible to argue that a large brewery has poor quality beer. It can happen but it is extremely unlikely. Many of the beers produced by legacy or foreign breweries are lighter in flavour and aroma. Once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing - it's simply a recipe used to entice us to drink more. These thirst quenching beers appeal to a broad variety of consumers and their lack of body and flavour should never be confused with poor quality. Furthermore, pasteurization is a positive thing in brewing. If done correctly, there is absolutely no flavour change and it will protect the beer from degradation in poor storage and travel conditions.
The word 'craft' is so difficult to define these days as the acquisition of some micro breweries by larger brewers have blurred the lines. I think we should take a hard look at the use of the word and understand fully that 'craftsmanship' is an art that all brewers employ (small and large). Sometimes, recipe development and creativity are much more relevant and easier to do if you are a smaller brewer but it doesn't prevent any brewery from being innovative.
In an industry where beer sales and consumption is declining, we should celebrate great quality beer and consistency at the brewery. The line should be drawn between beer and other beverages, not between brewers.