Enjoy brews, but wish you knew more about how beer is made? Or perhaps you don’t like beer but wish you did. On Thursday, July 16, at 4 p.m., join Virginia Tech professor Sean O’Keefe and Port City Brewing Company’s Quality Control manager Crystal Fraley for a virtual beer tasting and fireside chat called “Farm-to-Glass: The Science Behind Beer.”
Register here to take part in the free discussion and submit your questions in advance here. We asked O’Keefe and Fraley a few questions of our own ahead of tomorrow’s event. Pick up a Port City Brewing variety pack at your local beverage retailer or at the Alexandria brewery to taste your way to a new favorite, and see their answers to our questions below.
What will you teach in the virtual session?
O’Keefe: We’ll be talking about beer and a little bit about Port City. We have plans to taste four of the beers Port City makes. It covers a rang of styles from wit to Pilsner, the most common beer in the world. They’re nice beers to talk about. I look forward to hearing more about Port City. I like their style of making classic beer styles well.
What is the first thing newbies should know about tasting beer?
Fraley: Pour it into a glass … You’re judging a book by its cover every time you taste it. Look at the head retention, then the smell. You have to go through every sense before you taste it.
O’Keefe: Brewing is like cooking; your grandmother has ingredients that she takes to her grave. There are expected profiles, but every IPA tastes different.
What should casual drinkers know about beer science?
O’Keefe: I always go back to the ideas that there are two kinds of beers: beers I like and beers I don’t like. That generally relates to flavor profiles. There are many people who don’t like the super hoppy beers that have been popular for the last few years. There are plenty that people can still enjoy. When you’re talking to casual drinkers, there’s not shame in liking Coors Light … If you don’t like a particular style, look for other ones. Find a style that makes you happy.
What are your favorite beer styles from a scientific perspective?
Fraley: Most interesting to me are definitely wild fermentations. I come from a yeast background—I’m fascinated by that little organism and how it makes beer. I love watching those. I really like brett [brettanomyces, a form of yeast] beers. They have terrible flavor descriptors. One of them is “horse blanket,” there’s a little bit of barnyard or farm and there’s a complexity. It’s not a regular style, there’s some funk to it.
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