Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eagle Rock Brewery - Women's Beer Forum

One of my local beer spots, Eagle Rock Brewery, has started holding "Women's Beer Forums" every third Wednesday of each month. For $10, you can show up and try a tasting flight of four different beers that so far have been themed for the evening.

The first theme in March was affectionately called "Fru Fru" and highlighted fruit beers -- the idea was partly a play on how women seem to be directed and/or gravitate toward fruity drinks, but none of these beers were sickly sweet. The first was Ephemere Apple, a white ale brewed with apple as an adjunct (apple was actually added separately to the brewing process, as compared with notes that are present simply because the particular strain of yeast adds that flavor to the beer.) As someone with a soft spot for white ales, I enjoyed this beer and thought it was a nice way to open the flight. The second beer was Eagle Rock's own Limbo, a summer saison brewed with citrahops and Brettanomyces. This beer was freaking delicious. The citrahops gave essences of tropical fruits, and the Brettanomyces contributed a piney, earthy funk (in a good way) that gave a dry twist to the finish of the beer. The third of the flight was an old favorite of mine, Dogfish Head Aprihop, an apricot IPA. As I'd found apricot ales to be among the first beers I remember enjoying, I am especially fond of the apricot addition to my perennial favorite beer style, the IPA. Lastly, we tried Maui Brewing Company's Coconut Porter. As this was available to go, I bought two cans (yes! it comes in cans!) The coconut is delightfully subtle, but what really drew me to this beer was that it woke my nostalgia up in a major way by reminding me of Double Rainbow Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream , which to this day is the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had. And I'm not really a big ice cream person, but if someone handed me a bowl of this I would eat it happily.

Last week, I attended April's Forum which was themed "Spring Flowers" -- we would be sampling beers with floral notes. The first was Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales' Saison IO, which was brewed with rose hips and rose petals as adjuncts. As I'm increasingly finding myself a bigger and bigger fan of the saison style, I really enjoyed their rose-infused take. Secondly we tried  Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale. It was a very light, mild beer that was (unfortunately) a bit skunky by the time it got to us on its journey over from Scotland. It didn't make  much of an impression compared to the rest of the beers we tried. The third beer was Elysian Brewery's Avatar Jasmine IPA, which was AWESOME. The hops were woodsy and citrusy, but the real star was the jasmine, which was reminiscent of drinking jasmine tea, but in a beer. None of the flavors overpowered each other, and the synergistic product was a truly beautiful beer. The last beer of the evening was Craftsman Brewery's Sour Lavender Ale. Craftsman is located in Pasadena, so we're lucky around here to have access to their beer, as they don't bottle their products. The Sour Lavender ale is a special seasonal beer that I rather liked, for a sour, which is a style I usually don't favor. I liked the lavender element, and I also didn't find it very biting or bitter for a sour, which was nice.

I like the idea of the women's beer forums because it gives women an easy opportunity to learn a bit more about beer vocabulary and try different styles. For some reason, despite the origins of beer being attributed to women, beer has become something of a men's domain in popular culture. It's not as profound in the beer geek / craft brewing world, but there is still something of a disparity in numbers between male and female aficionados, not to mention craft/micro brewery ownership -- again, surprising, since there is at least some evidence to demonstrate that women are at least as good, if not better, than men at detecting certain taste elements in beer.The bottom line is that there is definitely room for women in the beer world, and given the popularity of the two beer forums so far, as well as the alleged eagerness of the participating breweries to provide their brews just for the event (this was the case at least with Craftsman and Elysian, and particularly in the case of the latter, which is based in Washington and doesn't ordinarily ship beers here at all) it seems that the beer world is ready and eager to accept more women into the sausage fest.

It's a nice opportunity for women to first learn the tools to be beer geeks in an accommodating environment, as there is ample research that demonstrates any number of psychological burdens women often experience when trying to participate in male-dominated environments (Impostor syndrome being a particularly common and damaging one.) It's therefore perfect for a woman who is just becoming interested in beer, but might feel intimidated walking into an established "beer bar" and trying to establish some kind of repartee with bartenders and bar owners about which beer she might want to try while having limited experience in the matter. I know I felt that way -- I'd tried beers I know I liked, but other than "It was golden, and Stone made it" I felt very lost at the beginning of my beer journey. I still feel like there are some styles I'm pretty established in, but others I don't have a taste for at all. Slip me into a conversation about the minutiae of which glassware is most appropriate for certain styles, or about the brewing process itself? I'm not really up on all that - yet. I've already learned a lot about brewing from the Forums, for instance the tidbits about adjuncts vs. yeast and hop flavor contributions. I now feel like I can hold my own with a lot of dudes, the majority of whom -- surprise! -- don't actually know jack about beer at all, but are just loud enough to seem like a commanding presence in these types of conversations.

Given all of that text and whole-hearted recommending of the ERB forum, I thought I'd end on a song of the day that I've been playing a lot lately. I love her voice and the particular eccentricity of this song really does it for me right now.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to come with you one of these months. Maybe not May, because that will be rather close to quals, but perhaps June. :)