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RBNAG '07: The grand tasting

Posted in Beer on 2007-11-18 17:53

Some of the beers for the tasting

For the grand tasting at RBNAG'07 we had gathered 87 beers to be sampled during the course of the evening. If tasting 87 beers in a day sounds like hard work, I should point out that this is not actually what we did. We had 10 or so Nøgne Ø beers during the lunch, plus a little wine and liquor before that, and then 87 beers for the grand tasting. But then most people skipped some of the 87 beers, either to save their strength, or because they'd had them before, so the exact total is hard to judge.

In any case, it definitely was a lot of work. We started around 1700 and finished a bit after 0100, by which that time nearly all of us were happy, tired, and quite drunk. We were 10 people at the tasting, and each had brought some of the 87 beers, which were a mix of commercial brews from all over the world, and some homebrews. Because of the number of people attending there was a rule stating that there must be at least 0.5l of each beer, so that all of us could have a taste. So most bottles were either 0.5l or 0.75l, but some brought pairs of 0.33l bottles. Many of the best beers in my cellar were single 0.33ls, so I had bought large bottles on my last two trips to make sure I had something to bring.

Busy tasting

To finish the beers in the given time we had in theory only 5-6 minutes for each beer. In practice we had even less, because time had to be set aside for breaks of various kinds. The quantity of each beer for each person was also quite limited, which was of course a benefit, since otherwise we'd be drunk senseless after a couple of hours. However, while we got through an impressive number of great beers, I felt that we were not really able to do them justice, and there wasn't really much time to savour each beer. Personally, I found that the best part of the experience was really the people.

One of the organizers, Yngvar, had sorted the list of beers in advance, to make sure that we had them in a sensible order. This worked fine, and it had the additional advantage that everyone knew what was coming when. For me, the highlights of the tasting were the two Polish meads I brought, plus some of the US imperial stouts that we tasted towards the end.

I'd heard much about the AleSmith Speedway Stout, a powerful US imperial stout at 12%, which was the last but one on the list, and I was really looking forward to that. I was finding it tough going towards the end, since I was both very tired and quite drunk, but I held out in order to taste this gem. I was not disappointed, and immediately after tasting it I just staggered off to bed.

Coming down to breakfast next morning was an interesting experience. In front of me on the table as I ate were four bottles of absolute world-class beers, each with a little left, and one of them was the Speedway Stout. After eating I was of course unable to not taste it again, and checked what I found against my notes from the evening before. I was happy to find that the notes seemed accurate, but also a little shocked to find that after the description of the aftertaste my tasting notes went on to say: "So fucking drunk. Now sleep." A fitting epitaph, I guess.

The morning after







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