Good friends help you move. But really good friends teach you how to drink beer and appreciate it by imbibing large quantities of many different kinds and letting you have sips of each and while you ask plenty of questions. And then they do it again. And again.
Because when you say to a good friend ”Hey, I’m moving…Can you—‘ they grit their teeth and nod reluctantly. But when you say,
Ears perk up and smiles tug at the corners of mouths.
My crash course in Beer stood me well during the beer tasting at the Inn at Cedar Falls presented by artisan brewer, Matthew Barbee of Rockmill Brewery. The brewery is certified organic and brews in small batches of one barrel at a time that enables each beer produced to shine. The brewery uses spring water on site that has been found to be nearly identical to the mineral content of the water in Wallonia, Belgium. This similarity in waters has provided the inspiration for the brewery’s four brews.
The meeting room at the Inn was set up in anticipation of our arrival for the beer tasting. Glasses gleamed at each place around the circular table waiting to be filled with golden liquid. Along the bar, the four types of beer Rockmill Brewery produces—Witbier, Saison, Dubbel and Tripel--were standing in sets of three along the bar. The bottles were all dark colored to protect the beer and I immediately noticed the unusual closure on the bottles. Each bottle was corked and wired shut similar to a champagne bottle.
Matthew explained as he poured the first round of Witbier that the reason for the cork and wire was because his beer contained high levels of CO2 at a level similar to champagne. I raised the glass, sniffed the aroma and took a sip. My palate is not yet developed enough to detect the notes of coriander and citrus that were present in the Witbier but it was light and refreshing. Plenty of little bubbles danced over my tongue.
Saison was a medium gold color with a fruity aroma. Its initial taste was strong before it mellowed and became smoother. This beer’s flavor comes entirely from the yeast; there are no added spices.
The third beer we tried proved to be my favorite of the three. Dubbel is brewed with malts that are imported direct from Germany. Its color is deep and thick foam sits on top. The bitterness is very slight and instead a sweet taste shines through that Matthew says pairs well with dark chocolate.
Despite Dubbel being my favorite, it is Tripel that is the current best seller at Rockmill Brewery. It is complex; the taste at first is sharp and then it softens into a meaty sort of taste. Tripel functions well as an after dinner beer because it pairs well with cheeses and desserts. And…it’s actually a dessert! Jeni’s Ice Cream has used the Tripel brew in the Rockmill Golden Ale & Apricots Ice Cream.
I may have needed a cram-session in beer drinking (and who’s up for more teaching? I’m up for more learning!) but I did not need any for olive oil tasting.
The olive oil tasting presented by The Olive Orchard was a surprise but a very welcome one. The Olive Orchard brought four of their twelve oils for us to sample. Two were flavored and the other two were not.
The first to be sampled was a Chilean Olive Oil. Little cups with a portion of olive oil poured in each were passed to each of us. We were encouraged to roll the cup between our hands to warm the oil, smell it and then sip it.
Sip it straight.
Several of us looked rather askance at this but I’ll admit it here if nowhere else: I’ve tasted more than my fair share of oil by dipping my finger in it and licking it off. That’s not quite as hygienic as the little cups but how else can you get the pure unadulterated taste of the oil? Bread may be the perfect conveyance for the oil to your mouth but it also masks some of the more subtle flavors of it.
The Chilean had a green taste with a slight peppery aftertaste. It slipped over the tongue quickly. By contrast, the Sicilian olive oil we tasted was bursting with fresh green flavor and had a very strong peppery kick at the end. Yum! The Sicialian oil felt a little thicker in viscosity. For my personal use, I think I would use the Chilean as a dipping oil and the Sicilian as a drizzling oil.
The Olive Orchard’s flavored oils are a little different than other flavored olive oils. The oils are not infused but instead the additional flavors are pressed with the olives. We sampled the Garlic Olive Oil and the Basil Olive Oil and I can’t decide which one I like better. By pressing the additional flavors instead of infusing them into the oil, the flavor is bolder but yet feels lighter. The oil does not feel weighed down and lost by extra flavors but instead combines in a perfect fusion. Both the garlic and the basil flavors held their own so well that when used I am sure the oil would be strong enough to carry the dish all on its own. Bruschetta would not need to be rubbed with a garlic clove first and a Caprese salad could omit the basil altogether.
I brought home a set of the flavored oils and you can be sure I had my own private tasting!