I’m not going to be modest about it – I know quite a bit about wine. Not even close to everything there is to know, of course, but I’m fairly clear on the basics which I think helps me enjoy my nightly tipple just that little bit more.
But although I’ve drunk it since – well, probably before I was legally allowed to do so, I actually don’t know all that much about beer. Going to festivals is a bit haphazard and when I find a beer I like, I tend to stick to that one and not venture too far away. I have vague knowledge of liking lagers and IPAs, but what that means and whether I would like other styles, is a closed book.
Lucy Corne, SA’s foremost beer guru, and I have a friendly rivalry going back several years now as to which beverage is best – beer or wine. I know that she secretly drinks red wine when no-one is looking and she knows that I like the odd ale, but when it comes to knowing the other’s drink, she has the jump on me having actually completed a wine course way back in the day. She’s just launched a similar level beer course called Know Your Beer and I decided that since I don’t really, this is the course for me.
Keen to know more?
Lucy runs KYB upstairs at Banana Jam Café in Claremont and the course lasts six weeks for a couple of hours a time on a Tuesday night. I, and several other enthusiasts, learnt the difference between ale and lager (yeast), between lager and pilsner (same thing really, but hops mostly), what is Reinheitzgebot (what you say when you sneeze in Germany. Kidding, it’s the German purity law), wit, weiss, wheat, weizen and more. We learnt inelegant words such as ‘Gruit’ and ‘Dunkelweiss’ and of course we tasted a range of styles both from SA and overseas.
What struck me was the amount of similarity between beers and wines, not just in terms of production, but also in the vocabulary and the way they are described. Of course, there are huge differences but things such as using lees, different yeast strains, oxidation and use of oak are common to both drinks and were discernible in the beers with a little help. And if you actually taste beer rather than just drink it, you’ll find you can put your wine-tasting skills to good and productive use!
Do I have enough confidence to send back an off-beer yet?! Mmmm – maybe not but I certainly feel confident enough to have a tentative conversation and that’s a start. So if you want to Know Your Beer as well, the next course is running in October and I guess I’ll see you then for Round 2!