The sound of our own voices

A cou­ple of weeks ago, we got an email out of the blue invit­ing us to speak at the Eden Pro­jec­t’s food and drink fes­ti­val. Yes­ter­day, we gave the first of two talks on how beer is made and how to spot the influ­ence of malt, hops and yeast on the taste of beer.

There are few nicer places to spend a grey day than the Mediter­ranean bio­me at Eden and it was there, sur­round­ed by fra­grant cit­rus trees, that we did our turn. We used St Austell HSD to demon­strate ‘malti­ness’; a Ger­man wheat beer to demon­strate the impact of yeast; and Oakham Green Dev­il IPA to illus­trate the pow­er of hops. We also passed around dried hops for rub­bing and sniff­ing and pale malt for nib­bling.

It was great fun for us, not least because it gave us the chance to talk about beer with peo­ple who aren’t as obsessed with it as we are. (Not yet, any­way.) We had fret­ted over whether our talk was too basic or even patro­n­is­ing but it seems not. Mem­bers of the audi­ence:

  • gasped in amaze­ment at the aro­ma of the wheat beer, as if we’d per­formed a mag­ic trick
  • gasped a bit more, and laughed in joy, as they smelled and tast­ed Green Dev­il
  • asked us whether dark beers were stronger than light ones, as they’d always believed
  • were entranced by dried hops, com­ing up for sec­onds – “they smell like Jamaica, if you know what I mean, nudge, wink, say no more”.

We’re doing the talk again next Sat­ur­day and can’t wait. There is a bit more work to do, though, as we need to come up with a good answer to the ques­tion which left us scratch­ing our heads: “How come there are hun­dreds of new brew­eries but few­er and few­er pubs?”

Those who are in the Corn­wall on their hols and like Sharp’s beers might be inter­est­ed to know that, for the dura­tion of the fes­ti­val, Eden are also offer­ing what looked like the full cask range, avail­able in tast­ing ‘flights’. They also have the full bot­tled range, and we can per­son­al­ly vouch for the excel­lence of Sharp’s Bel­gian-style Hon­ey Triple and Quadru­ple Ale.

This was a pay­ing gig. The beers were bought by the Eden Project from our short­list. We haven’t been giv­en free sam­ples of any of the beers we used; but we did­n’t pay for the Oakham Green Dev­il that knocked our socks off the oth­er week, which was donat­ed by the land­lord of the Star Inn from his per­son­al stash.

10 thoughts on “The sound of our own voices”

  1. Real­ly glad to hear it went well. Agree that explain­ing to a non-beery audi­ence can be a chal­lenge, but a real­ly reward­ing one.

    I still know com­par­a­tive­ly next-to-noth­ing about beer and brew­ing but 99% of what I do know, I’ve picked up as a result of mug­ging up in the process of organ­is­ing beer tast­ing evenings for fam­i­ly and friends.

    The most valu­able les­son I’ve learned though is about how chal­leng­ing some flavours can be to peo­ple who don’t nor­mal­ly stretch beyond a half of Car­ling. I had naive­ly assumed that the qual­i­ty would show through, and peo­ple with nor­mal­ly dis­cern­ing tastes honed on wine or fine food would appre­ci­ate any­thing I put in front of them. The sight of a lot of retired solic­i­tors from Sur­rey pour­ing glass after glass of Can­til­lon Kriek down the sink was enough to change my mind.

  2. Good post. I am try­ing anoth­er vari­ant as Ron P is being brought over to do pre­sen­ta­tions with me and oth­ers for three days at a fest. It is all for char­i­ty so I am not get­ting paid in cash myself but the peo­ple sit­ting and watch­ing us will have paid to get through the door. Then, we will be cir­cu­lat­ed through the event, too, the results of which I expect will be a huge beery thought tidal wave that will over­whelm me.

  3. How come there are hun­dreds of new brew­eries but few­er and few­er pubs?”

    All the new brew­eries have been start­ed up by the thrown-out smok­ers, duh!

  4. Guezel

    What a great point. You can’t expect peo­ple to leap straight into chal­leng­ing flavours with 100% suc­cess, nor to extrap­o­late what ” I like” into “that’s great beer.”

  5. Phil. In your case? God knows. Only kid­ding. Seri­ous point even though you miss mine, yours is one if my favourite blogs. Top stuff.

    Alan. As you were!

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