The Beer Boutique

It was a nice idea. Nice. Not great. But we went ahead anyway. I was committed. It was my idea, after all. Beer and literature. A combination for the swots. For the book-hidden noses. But boy, we didn’t expect anything like this.

I had read the book. Or at least enough to know that I liked it. I obviously liked the subject matter (it was about beer). And I wanted to meet the author. So a date was agreed.

But, you know what, as the date neared, and as normal life interfered with our meticulous event planning, our enthusiasm waned. What was he actually going to do? He can write but can he speak?

After a few inspirational ales (in particular the Hopfanatic Nohoplimit from Hungary, a Double West Coast IPA that makes you want to tear off your clothes and play air guitar atop a bus stop), the genius of teamwork appeared. What followed was a barrage of tweets, texts, emails and chat amongst our team. And a book signing had been transformed into one of the best events we’ve ever had at The Beer Boutique. Credit must go also to the great group of people we had in that night - some for the first time.

We created a battle to end all battles. Five rounds of blind beer tasting (i.e. you don’t know what you are drinking) to find the Best Beer in the World. Our choice versus his.

Each round was to be preceded by some chat from the man himself, Mark Dredge, about the style of beer we were about to taste and some stories from his round the world trip.

Round 1: Lager
This was the hardest part for Mark. A dry audience. He a stranger in their midst. Expectations high. Nae bother - turns out the lad can talk. We were about to start our Dredge-ucation. We were in safe hands. We were also about to go 1-0 down as Mark’s choice of Howling Hops Pils neutered our classic Rothaus Eis Zapfle. Moving on...

Round 2: Pale Ale
A great battle this round, with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale competing against The Kernel’s version. Both different. Both great, actually. The US maltier, sweeter version was almost unanimously beaten by The Kernel with most punters preferring the drier, hoppier London brew. One all...

Round 3: IPA
The most ‘important’ beer in the world right now. By this stage, the volume had risen. The chat was becoming friendly. And there was the odd disagreement. Especially over the origin of the IPA style. Not one for us to re-open here (we don’t care enough, to be honest). This was a popular round. Both beers went down well. In the end, it was Mark’s Cannonball from Magic Rock which pipped our Lagunitas IPA at the post. 2-1 down. Bugger.

Round 4: Belgian
We felt confident here. On safe ground. We know these beers. We love these beers. But we were torn ourselves which side to choose. It was Mark’s Rochefort 10 vs our aged Westvleteren 12. These are big beers. And with hindsight, this round tilted the earth slightly. It was all downhill after this. The aged trappist brew had transformed into a fruity, thick nectar. It was amazing. Very un-beer. It split opinion. The Rochefort was the great classic that we know and love. It tasted almost fresh next to the Westvleteren. In the end, the rarity of the Westvleteren won the day but it was close. 2-2. Game on.

Round 5: Rest of World
I’d love to report on this round but it had all become a bit too much by now. For the record, we had pitted Ducato’s Violent Femme against Hitachino’s Saison du Japon. But conversation was flowing. Mark was holding court. And the vote was abandoned. No one could even be bothered to raise their arms.

We called it a draw. Beer was the winner, as usual. We'd met some new friends that night. We’d chatted about beer. We’d tasted delights. And we left with a warm fuzzy glow inside. The kind of feeling that makes you glad to be working in a beer shop. Providing a community service. Providing a place to talk. A place to make friends. To meet friends.

Or maybe that’s just the beer talking.

Written by The Beer Boutique — April 05, 2016

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