… now the hard work can begin. We finished two days of serving beer to people at the Green Dragon, which was a lot of fun work. We got 250-275 samples, which is decent, though I’d wished for more. A cold snap that hit last night and persisted through the day probably depressed the turnout somewhat.
The experiment involved serving a flight of pale Continental lagers (Czechvar, Heineken, Stella Artois) and a flight of American craft ales with significantly different levels of bitterness (Fat Tire, Mirror Pond, Ninkasi Believer) to see if people could identify/spot duplicate samples and test some theories about beer experience and preference for bitterness.
Interestingly, my prediction was (and is) that no group would do much better than chance at identifying duplicates in the lager group. But having returned home, and reflecting on the weekend of serving blind tastes, I decided to do one of my own. We had (and will continue to have for some time, I expect) some extra bottles of Heineken and Stella (we mixed draft and bottled servings for the second day of tastings) and I asked Laurel to open them and pour me two servings of one and one of the other, into the same colored-sticker-labeled plastic cups we used all weekend.
Despite my expectations, I was able to identify the duplicate samples without even tasting the beer, just through the nose. That’s not to say that either beer had a particularly nice or interesting nose. The Heineken just had a forward, sweet-smelling nose that was easy to spot in two samples. It was equally sweet on the palate.
It’s possible to make a pilsener that appeals to the beer geek in me. In the last six weeks I’ve enjoyed Heater Allen Pils, Trumer Pils, and Victory Prima Pils. These beers are testaments to the idea that a fine beer can be subtle and delicate, free of the bombast and thunder of many great beers. But Heineken is an alcoholic soft drink, in my opinion, and while there’s nothing wrong with a soft drink now and then, my personal palate moved on from regular consumption of soft drinks a long time ago.
I guess it’s preferable to my hypothesis that these pale lagers are literally indistinguishable, at least.