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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Beer Tasting Toolkit

Sometime in the summer of 2010, a nice lady from Chronicle Books approached me with an idea for a book. It would be a follow-up to their Wine Tasting Party Kit, a blind-tasting primer for novice wine fans. You know where this is headed, right? Indeed, just in time for Father's Day, Chronicle has released The Beer Tasting Toolkit, which I wrote. Actually, "wrote" is slightly misleading. This is really a box set of materials designed to lead novice beer drinkers through a blind tasting and it comes with a short booklet I wrote. Behold:

About Blind Tasting
I probably don't have to tell anyone who reads this blog this, but blind tasting is one of the most powerful tools we have to understand beer. Once you remove the cues given to you by a bottle of beer--the name of the brewery, the style, the cost of the bottle, the design on the label--you are left with only what your senses can tell you. For those of us who fancy ourselves expert tasters with genius palates, nothing restores the humility like a nice blind tasting. For people new to beer, it helps reveal the complexity of beer. With no cheats available, you have to immerse yourself in the aromas, flavors, and textures of the beer. This heightens experience and allows you to really get to know your beer. It's indispensable to sample beer this way from time to time--you become a much better beer taster.

About the Toolkit
The book/box is really aimed at people who haven't done blind tastings before, but there are some handy features to it even for the experienced. (I'd like to take some credit for these, but that all goes to Chronicle, who thought through the materials and had them made--yet still it's my name on the box. Go figure.) It comes with handy numbered sacks that accommodate everything from a stubby to a 750 ml bottle--though those jeroboams of St. Feuillien are out. This is always the hardest part of a blind tasting, figuring out how to keep bottles secret and not get them confused.

There are also tasting notepads, a short-hand guide with key aroma and flavor terms, and of course my booklet. It is definitely for the beginner--those of you who read Hieronymus, Pattinson, and Mosher will find no new material. It's designed to walk people through the basics of style and beer elements and also to offer some blind-tasting suggestions. If you're wondering whether it's for you, I'd say this: for readers of this blog, it may well be a better bet for that beer-curious person in your life. The one who has developed a hankering for the occasional porter or kolsch but isn't sure where to go next.

You can buy the book in a variety of places, but the key here is of course to buy the book. Remember, its use involves the consumption of tasty, tasty beer. How can you go wrong?
Buy it virtuously!
Buy it locally!
Buy it in person!
Buy it cheaply!


  1. Nice! Congratulations. Now, if only it came with the beer...

  2. You've got to be kidding! Will this be a free-bee with a Mr. Beer brewing kit? :-0