Hippo Manchester
September 29, 2005

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Beer: The art of the brew

Donít know much about it? Like it anyway.

By Mike Roy 

Itís that time of year again ó the time for festivals and fairs, the time for a last hurrah in the open air before winter tucks us in.

However, while state fairs have their charm ó contests for growing the largest squash, pigs that have eaten themselves into near cardiac arrest and carnival rides that sway in the breeze after being constructed overnight by personnel that could anchor a 12-step meeting ó theyíre really not my glass of beer. (What, did you think I really drink tea?)

Iím a big fan of art and culture. In small doses, of course. Usually a few ounces at a time. Beer, yes beer, is my favorite art form, bar none (pun very much intended). In my mind beer is the greatest form of art, better than any painting, music or poetry. A brewer is an artist like no other. He will not only allow you to view his masterpiece but also consume it. When was the last time The Currier allowed you to do that?

Unlike many artists who work in near solitude, brewers (especially pub brewers like me) work right in front of your eyes and nose. Beer is an art form that nearly everyone can learn to enjoy, as long as they have an open mind and a willingness to accept different interpretations. Itís also a very economical form of art. After all, when was the last time you took home a handcrafted painting for around a dollar?

Brewers work in a greater realm of senses then any other artist, allowing you to not only to see, smell, taste and feel but also hear what a beer is saying to you. Beer comes in a wide color spectrum and, no, it should never be defined as light or dark. Think straw, golden, amber, brown and black and many combinations in between.

Beyond some great scratch-and-sniff stickers of the 1980s, art is frequently left without a scent. Yet with beer, its scent, its aroma can tell you more about it than any other facet, more than its color. Aroma is the precursor of what lies ahead in a beer, whether it be distinguishable fruit, floral or spice notes, or a scent thatís reminiscent of fresh baked biscuits. What we smell, as well as what we taste, is always very subjective. We perceive four tastes ó bitter, sweet, sour and salty ó yet we might not all agree on the strength of each.

To feel a beer one canít simply touch the packaging it might be sold in. You have to engulf the art. You must take it in and allow it to wash over your palate like the tide. Is it thin or full, prickly with carbonation or silky, slick/oily? Think about your art as youíre taking it in. Your transcendence will only begin when you truly appreciate the piece.

Today marks the start of my favorite art festival in the world, the Great American Beer Festival, where more than 350 artists from all over the country come together to share 1,669 different works in 69 recognized styles. Here art is consumed one ounce at a time, literally, because thatís all you need to get a good feel for a beer. You donít have to travel with me to Denver to experience this type of culture. There is art all around you. Support your local artists, consume their craft and wonder what this world would be like without art.

Mike Roy is the brew master at Millyís Tavern at 500 Commercial St. The Beer Cellar appears semi-monthly in the Hippo. If you have suggestions for future columns, questions or comments on The Beer Cellar, e-mail Mike at Beergasms@aol.com