Carrie and I went to a beer tasting Thursday night at Sam’s Wine and Spirits. This was a free event sponsored by Merchant du Vin. Merchant du Vin is a beer importer that focuses on small, mostly family owned, breweries that specialize in classic styles of their region. Some of the breweries they work with are Samuel Smith and Ayinger. They also work with a few of the Trappist breweries.
(The astute out there are saying “Hold up. Merchant du Vin? Wouldn’t they do wine? Shouldn’t it be Merchant de Bière?” Well, the host explained that the founder, Charles Finkel, started out importing wonderful regional wines. But, when he went to visit these wineries, they would take him out to their local pubs and drink these wonderful local beers. He decided that he needed to bring these beers to America.)
The host really knew his stuff (sorry, I don’t recall his name). He wasn’t just some salesman sent out to pitch the beers. He’s a beer lover and a BJCP certified judge. He’s actually been to some of these breweries.
He started out with a couple of lagers (the only two lagers we would taste that night). The first was The Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager. Neither Carrie or I much cared for it. There are few lagers that impress me, and this didn’t do the trick. The second was a Czech Lager from Zatec. This one was very nice, and both Carrie and I enjoyed it very much. It had a nice malty aroma and more of a hop note that you don’t normally get with lagers.
Then we tried the Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout. We both enjoyed this one tremendously (and Carrie’s not much of a stout drinker, so I was surprised she like this one). I’ve had their Oatmeal Stout before (several times, actually, it’s one of my favorites). The Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is the original oatmeal stout, and the definitive example of that style.
Next we tried two more of Samuel Smith’s offerings, the Pale Ale and the India Ale. I like both of these, preferring the Pale Ale over the India Ale. Carrie didn’t care much for the India Ale (she tends not to like hoppy beers – although this beer wasn’t nearly as hoppy as some IPAs) but she did enjoy the Pale Ale.
The next beer was the Ayinger Brau-Weiss, a hefe-weizen beer. Weizen is a favorite style of both mine and Carrie’s, but we’ve never had any of the Ayinger offerings. This one did not disappoint, it’s a very good example of the style. And, if you’re used to putting lemon in your weiss, I wouldn’t recommend it with this beer. While lemon adds a nice bit of zest to many weisses, I think it would take away from the flavor of this one.
The rest of the evening was spent in Belgium, so to speak. We had two Westmalle Trappist ales, the Tripel and the Dubbel. Both were very good, but we both preferred the Dubbel.
The last two beers were both lambics from Lindemans. The first was the Cuvée René Gueuze. To me, this beer is an acquired taste (I didn’t much care for it – it was much too tart). Then we had the Pêche (peach), which Carrie enjoyed very much, but I thought was a bit too sweet.
We had a pretty good time and discovered some beers we really enjoyed that we might not have otherwise tried. We picked up some of the ones we liked the most when it was over (as well as the Classis lambic from Lindeman’s, which is black currant flavored, and I hope I enjoy it better than the peach). We noticed several other people from the tasting in the store shopping afterwards, as well. So, I guess giving people free beer is a pretty good marketing strategy. (Actually, the point is to educate people about the beers, which is one of the company’s goals. But, hey, it works.)