beer festivals bottled beer

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 replies on “The sound of our own voices”

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.

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.

“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!


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.”

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