On a very soggy and windy Sunday afternoon we headed to Hoxton in search of the pub hosting The Craft Beer Social Club tasting. Easily found, we resisted temptation and didn’t order a pint there and then. We decided not to taint our palates; we were giving ourselves wholeheartedly to this new beer experience!
Justina was here to give the Germans and Belgians a beer loving rival. She claimed Britain didn’t embrace its fine beer heritage and we had just as much to be proud of as our European neighbours. The UK produces over 5000 different types beer. If we were being sensible (how many alcohol units am I allowed a day again!?) Justina has worked out it would take 15 years to get through them all! I was impressed and quite tempted to take on that challenge.
There were about 15 of us beer tasters and we were going to start off with a few of the 5000 that very day. We had pens and we had paper. We also had some malts and hops to sniff. By the way dark malt’s great, I loved the chocolatey smell and couldn’t get my nose far enough into the glass I was supposed to be passing round. We were told a bit about the 4 elements that make beer so darn drinkable. Water, malt, hops and yeast. Justina worked through the list dropping in facts about the process and history of each ingredient.
I was just about to do my beer’s-silly-chuckle as she started off with water, only for it to turn into a that-is-fascinating beer epiphany! There is a way of processing water for use in beer which makes the beer taste better. Apparently Burton-upon-Trent has a lot to brag about brewery-wise and it’s all due to the amount of sulphate in their water so people started to mimic it.
She claimed Britain didn’t embrace its fine beer heritage and we had just as much to be proud of as our European neighbours
It’s quite amusing to watch one person say “This is a session beer, right here!” and another say, “It looks like muddy water and tastes eurgh!” when they’re talking about the very same stout. Justina encouraged the debate and hinted at the main taste in the beers but never gave it away. We had fun discerning the citrus note in an ale, was it lime, was it pineapple? Nope, grapefruit! The range of samples we got gave us an experience of pale ales, stouts and lagers. A marking system gave the whole thing a game like feel and everyone seemed to be pleased with their new deeper beer appreciation.
I asked Justina Cruickshank, The Craft Beer Social Club’s creator, what she wanted people to get out of her range of classes. She explained the classes were “to let people learn and explore a great industry and heritage. The motto of the company is ‘Explore, Drink and Love’ We want them to drink the beer but really explore it and love it.”
My favourite bit of terminology I picked up from the class? Lacing. Nothing to do with spiking drinks more to do with the beer’s frothy head and how much it sticks to the side of the glass. My long-time love, Guinness, is the Queen of the lacing. Long may she reign! Unfortunately although Justina gave me a wealth of beer knowledge and facts I haven’t remembered them all. I think these tasting calls for another round...
Squeamish Nicola drank responsibly and learnedly at The Craft Beer Social Club