Meet Yannick de Cocqueau, our resident Taste Vacations beer expert with quite impressive credentials. He was born and raised in Ghent, Belgium and he is not only a skilled homebrewer but he is a freelance brewer for Bourgogne de Flandres. To top things off, he also has acted as a beer judge for several beer competitions throughout Belgium. This guy knows his beer.
Last week, Taste Vacations participated in the first annual Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference (BMTC), hosted by our sister company, Zephyr Conferences. We listened, learned, and networked with just under 250 of our peers in one of our nation’s beer mecca’s – Asheville, North Carolina.
With the growing number of breweries opening throughout the country, competition is getting increasingly tough. The Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference provides an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest information, trends, and technology in the industry as well as provide a perfect environment for collaboration and partnership building amongst breweries, brewpubs, beer tour operators, and more.
Going on beer tours can be a lot of fun – though most beer is made using the same process, you can still learn something new on every tour. To help your beer tour experience go smoothly, here’s a few do’s and don’ts to take into consideration before you go.
DO try a few samples or a flight of beers before ordering a pint. It’s the best way to try a good variety of beers to help evaluate what that brewery does well. If you aren’t sure what you like, it’s also an economical way of figuring it out. If they don’t do a full sampler, ask for a tasting of a beer. Most breweries will give you a couple of ounces to try before getting a full pint.
DON’T wander off on your own while touring a brewery. Not only is it rude but you could be putting yourself at risk of slipping and falling, burning yourself, or getting hit by equipment. So stay safe and stay with the group.
DO ask questions and chat up the bartenders, brew masters, other brewery workers, and your fellow beer tour guests. You never know what you might find out about the brewery, a particular beer, or hey, life in general. Also, if you genuinely like a beer, let the staff know.
DON’T just assume that food will be readily available at a brewery. Most smaller breweries do not serve food, but a good number partner up with food trucks that may visit their breweries on a rotating basis. Or if a food truck isn’t available, you may have the option of bringing your own or ordering food to be delivered directly to the brewery. Call ahead to check what the food options are before you go.
DO buy yourself a souvenir of a beer that is only sold at the brewery itself by either purchasing a bottle or if you aren’t flying home, bring your own growler to fill.
DON’T drink too much. Nobody likes that guy on a beer tour, plus the brewery or establishment you are at has every right to ask you to leave. So know your limits and pace yourself. And this should go without saying but, DON’T drive impaired.
DO try the food-beer pairing recommendations (if available), especially if you are at a beer-pairing lunch or dinner. It may not be what you would typically order on its own, but there is a reason the chef and brewmaster recommend the two together.
Have any Do’s or Don’ts of your own to add? Feel free to leave yours in the comments below.
Still haven’t booked your 2017 vacation? Now’s the time to explore Spain’s incredible wine, Belgium’s renowned beers, or Peru’s delectable cuisine.
Book an international Taste Vacation from now until February 15th and receive $300 off *
This includes our:
- Spain Food & Wine Tour
- Chile & Argentina Wine Tour
- Tuscany Food & Wine Tour
- Belgium Beer Tour
- Peru Food Tour
So what are you waiting for? Make 2017 the year you decided to Savor Your World.
*Cannot be combined with other discounts and does not include private or custom tours.
Wine isn’t the only beverage that deserves to be tasted, analyzed, and appreciated. Beer has so many different styles, flavors, textures, and nuances that you have a plethora of options to try. Though a beer tasting can feel more “accessible” to the every day person than a wine tasting, it can still be intimidating to try to analyze what you are drinking. Here are a few tips on how to help hone your skills and improve your sensory analysis:
Beer Tasting Tips
- Follow Wine’s Lead. You should conduct the same tasting process as you would with wine. First, look at the beer to observe its color, head, and consistency. Next, swirl your beer to bring out the aromas, smell it, and note what scents are coming to mind. Lastly, sip the beer and let it hit your whole palate before swallowing. Pay attention to not only the flavors you are tasting but the texture and consistency.
- Use a Flavor Wheel: Try to be as descriptive as possible. One way to aid in coming up with the right words is to use a flavor wheel, like this one from BeerFlavorWheel.com. (Click on the image to enlarge it)
- Make It Your Own: Visualize the flavors in a way you will remember later. Not everyone smells the exact same things. You may be able to pick up a slightly different scent than your friend. For example, you might smell banana bread while your friend might just smell banana in a certain beer. Neither of you are wrong, but the more specific the scent you can identify the better.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Have regular training sessions to practice in a quiet, non-distracting environment will help you improve your skills. It’s a lot of fun to try different beers and analyze them with friends but if you at a bar or restaurant where there may be other smells and disturbances, you won’t be able to concentrate on what you are trying to do.
- Smell Your Hand: If you are trying to smell the different and intricate scents of a whole flight of beers, your nose may get fatigued. If you feel like you are starting to not smell the nuances of the beer, try smelling your hand or arm. as long as you don’t have perfume or scented lotion on. Your own scent is a neutralizer for your nose so after smelling
- Keep Track. Writing down your tasting notes will help you keep track of not only your progress, but can serve as a reference for later tastings. You might find yourself tasting a beer that is similar to something you had before. You can then look through your records to find what that beer was and what you wrote down for the tasting notes to help formulate notes for the new beer.
- Have Fun. This is probably the most important step. Beer tasting and identifying can be a lot of fun. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t seem to clearly identify a taste or smell right away. The skills will come with experience – so you might as well enjoy the journey!