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Ode to Ottawa Craft Beer Week

By Sanita Fejzić on August 20, 2013

Lightweight as I am, it’s not difficult to get me to appreciate anything after a drink or two. The term your mind is probably conjuring up is “cheap drunk,” and while we can list the pros and cons of this phenomena—I interrupt with news: quality craft beer sits well in my inexperienced belly, and I can sample as many as five or six before forfeiting my lucidity (that’s what she said).

But how do you make beer tasting a rewarding experience? Particularly for someone like me, who, apart from wine, is just starting to acquire the taste for one of humanity’s oldest beverages? A few volunteers at the closing weekend of the National Capital Craft Beer Week provide helpful tips:

  • Don’t taste new brands with food or shortly after eating. The aroma gets lost and you can’t differentiate between the taste of the food and the beer.
  • If tasting lots of beer, use the colour wheel as your guide. Sampling from light to dark beer is recommended.
  • You can have crackers in between tastings, but best stick to water if you want to keep a virgin palette. (This is no easy task, however, since the culinary selection cooked up for the festival is fantastic).

You may already know the beer-cabulary I’m about to shower upon you—and whether you’re a poser or a genuine connoisseur—this is the language of beer I acquired last weekend: hops or malt smells (referring to aroma); in general light beer smells more of hops, while the dark has a more malty, chocolaty and coffee-like aroma; when talking about first sips, use words like sweet and bitter and if you’re just perplexed, say “it’s complex,” while titling your head on an angle and looking up at the sky (as if in deep thought); if someone starts to talk about mouth feel, don’t be intimidated.

Mouth feel (what a beautiful word association), is simply referring to thick or thin, chewy or fizzy and other such textual sensations of the beer or ale. As for the aftertaste, close your eyes gently (as if in savouring mode), and be in the knowing that it’s impossible to be right or wrong about beer styles. Taste is subjective and therefore, so long as you know the beer-cabulary, be confident and graceful in your attempt to verbalize the feeling in your mouth. The mouth feel.

And after all, sampling beer isn’t a serious experience: it’s fun! The National Capital Craft Beer Week celebrates local and craft beer and brings to light our region’s unique brewing tradition. Did you know that Ottawa has its preferred brewing methods and beer styles? The history of our local beer is vibrant, and if you missed Craft Beer Week this year, mark your calendar for the next.

Unlike Oktoberfest, which is taking place this year in “Wunder-Barrhaven” from Sept 27­–29, the Craft Beer Week is decidedly humbler in scale and scope, focused on local breweries and restaurants, and quality craft beer. Not to say Oktoberfest isn’t; in fact, if this article makes you thirsty, then I should mention the two festivals have some overlapping breweries, including Broadhead, HogsBack and Big Rig and—because for some reason, everyone deserves a poutine at the end of a tasting spree—Spud’s Potato Bar.