Oktoberfest & Beyond: A Beer Tasting

Hundreds of thousands of people traveled to Bavaria last week for the opening ceremonies of what is perhaps Germany’s most famous celebration: Oktoberfest.  While I wasn’t able to make it to Munich for the festival this year (you win AGAIN, Responsibility!), I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon wending my way through an excellent collection of German beers, courtesy of Learn About Wine‘s Sunday School course on beer, its history, and its traditions in Germany.

I’ll go ahead and just say that I realize that beer doesn’t really fit in to my usual shtick here, but rum alone will not make one complete – regardless of what I’ve told you here before.  As an added bonus, I was there as a guest of GourmetPigs.  The event was hosted by Tomm Carroll, a beer enthusiast and writer for Celebrator Beer News, and Ian Blackburn, founder of the Learn About Wine program.

The session carried us through a grand total of 12 beers.  Each person was equipped with 2 glasses for tasting, and for every 4 people there was a bucket for disposing of excess beer (assuming you didn’t want to finish that glass for some reason), a plate of cheeses and fruit, and a basket of crackers and pretzels.  The various snack foods were there to allow the tasters to cleanse their palates as well as to find good matches for the beer.  The gouda cheese, for example, was superb with the Berliner beer.

Learn About Wine host their events in a loft in downtown Los Angeles.  Out in the street, you may easily become concerned that you are in the wrong place.  There are no signs that there is anything going on in the area, but once you locate the entry to the building and buzz the loft, you’re granted access to the building and given instructions on reaching the loft.

After you pass through the stark, concrete hallways and reach the loft, you find yourself in a room that looks like a mating between an artist’s studio and a kitchen.  You’re greeted and asked to sign in, and then directed to have a seat with the other attendees.  The atmosphere is fun and friendly, with people from all over the country in attendance and all looking forward to learning about the subject at-hand.  In this case, beer.

Tomm started off with a brief introduction to the German beer tradition, from the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) through Oktoberfest, and our first beer was brought out as he began to describe the different varieties of beer to be found in Germany.  As we wended our way through all 12 beers, Tom answered questions and made suggestions for food pairings.

Everyone received a pamphlet with the information from the seminar in it, including the history of beer, the various styles included in the tasting, a copy of the Reinheitsgebot (in English), a list of all of the beers being served (including tasting notes), and bios on Tomm, Ian, and Learn About Wine.  This proved very helpful for keeping things straight, as well as providing a nice place for jotting down personal notes on each beer.

I had considered doing a full write-up of all 12 of the beers, but I felt that it would be better to let people know about the experience of the class more-so than the beer.  Learn About Wine does classes about wine (obviously), and occasionally other liquors such as beer, scotch, cognac, and even (although I missed this somehow) rum!  If you have the time and want to learn a little something about wine and spirits, I highly recommend taking a peak at their event calendar and finding a class that suits you.  Personally, I’ll be attending Port, Cheese, and Chocolate come Hell, high water, or LA traffic.

2118 Wilshire Blvd. #462
Santa Monica, CA 90403

tel:   (310) 451-7600
fax:   (310) 451-0407

Note: Apologies for the lack of photos, but I had not yet replaced my camera when I attended this event.

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  • Ian Blackburn

    October 1, 2008, 02:41

    Thank you so much for the wonderful detailed overview of the LearnAboutWine experience. It was a pleasure to have you in attendance!

    LearnAboutWine was inspired by experiences I’ve shared and the love I have of hosting my nomadic calendar of events that traverse the various luxury food and wine gathering spots in the wonderful city of Los Angeles… the city in which I choose to reside and improve, one class at a time. Look forward to seeing you at our Vintage Port Wine – END OF YEAR send off… topped with cheese and chocolate!

  • H.C.

    October 2, 2008, 01:17

    Ha! I was at LAW’s Rum class last year — a great intro class to learn the basics of the regions and the varieties of rum… and at the end a mixologist showed us the basic formula for the mojito and let us muddle and mix our own with the DiY Mojito bar (with berries, vanilla beans, etc. for flavored versions too)

  • Matt Robold

    October 2, 2008, 06:41

    I’m so bummed that I didn’t know about last year’s class. Hopefully LAW will do another rum session in the not-too-distant future!