I just returned from the first few days of Victoria Beer Week 2016 and one of my personal highlights was Sunday’s Beer School event. Beer school was divided into two parts similar to last year and saw participants learning how to judge beer, and learning the history of brewing on Vancouver Island.
The first session involved learning how to judge beer from Danny Seeton of Parallel 49 and getting to taste a whole host of different beers and styles to understand how beer judging works, what beer judges need to know, and what they need to do when judging at an event.
This topic is of particular interest to me this year as I’ve been invited to be a judge at the Okanagan Fest of Ale, April 8th and 9th in Penticton, BC. It’s a huge honour to be asked to take part and as you can imagine I’m both excited and nervous. In order to quell some of that anxiety I figured a crash course in beer judging was in order.
What made the event special for me was not just the practical application of the course material, but that the people who attended were interested in knowing more about how to taste beer. I saw plenty of people there on Sunday that were participating not because they were about to judge a beer festival as I was. Rather, these folks were there to understand where the different flavours in beer come from, and how to identify off tastes and smells. In short, how to enjoy their every-day beer even more.
Any course that lets you drink beer as part of the curriculum is going to have some buy-in regardless of the content, but Danny guided us through the process of being critical of your beer in a fun way. He helped us truly gain an understanding of the expected flavours in specific styles, and how to identify unique characteristics, unsuccessful experimentation, and even the undefinable.
The second half of the afternoon involved historian Greg Evans, taking us on a tour of the brewing industry in Cumberland and Nanaimo. Through Greg’s lecture we were able to experience and understand brewing life in in early British Columbia. We met the men and women that were the pioneers in our industry.
Brewers and breweries came and went since BC was first colonized, and Greg’s lecture took us from the mid 1800s through prohibition and beyond. It was truly a fascinating journey through the history of brewing in our province.
For two years running, I’ve managed to participate in Beer School at Victoria Beer Week, and if they offer the event again next year I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Regardless of the topic, learning about beer while drinking it gives you a new appreciation for everything we’ve gone through (and continue to go through) as people and as breweries to ensure British Columbians have the best quality beer in their glass.