Beer: The art of the brew
know much about it? Like it anyway.
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