Before delving into the specifics of the event, I would like to set the stage with a brief excerpt from an account by Tyler Colman of a blind wine tasting he attended a couple months ago — which happened to feature famed wine critic Robert Parker:
Although Parker did not rate the wines yesterday, his top wine of the evening (Le Gay) was the lowest rated in the lineup from his most recent published reviews... Wednesday night, Parker upended the order of his published ratings of the wines and, in the process, could not correctly identify any of these wines.
Ruminate on that for a moment. A man who reviews wines for a living ranked as his top pick in a blind tasting a wine that he had rated the lowest of the group when he could see the label. Furthermore, he could not correctly identify a single wine.
While I do write this column every week with the intent of helping Birmingham Weekly readers identify some beers worth seeking out, I do not review beers for a living. However, my favorite IPA is well known to all of my friends: Sweetwater IPA.
Furthermore, I did publicly announce several of my other favorites a week prior to the tasting. On the Free the Hops online community, I posted that Good People IPA was my second favorite because of its unique hop profile, and that Great Divide Titan, Boulevard Single Wide and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale were essentially tied for third.
The event took place at The J. Clyde, and the beers were served to us in four rounds of three beers, poured into five-ounce snifters about half full. Each snifter was labeled with the number of the beer, and all participants received different beers at different times, so we wouldn’t be swayed by others’ comments about what they were drinking.
I correctly identified Sweetwater IPA just by the aroma. I also correctly guessed the identity of Good People IPA, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and Hitachino Nest Classic Ale.
We all rated each beer on its appearance, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel — on a scale of one to five. Sweetwater was my highest-rated beer, Two Hearted Ale filled the number two spot and Good People IPA, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and Great Divide Titan were in a three-way tie for third place on my sheet.
The differences in the beers were startling. It’s remarkable how broad a spectrum of flavor and aroma can be achieved by using different specialty malts and different hops in varying amounts at different points during the brewing process. Blind tasting is both fun and enlightening and I highly recommend it as a way to increase your knowledge and appreciation of beer.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com