(Iron Hill's Belgian Wit beer awaits the class attendees)
The CCHS building is a local treasure that I'm going to want to explore more on my non-beer time; it appears to be quite a wealth of historical information, artifacts, and resources. Check out its website for more information.
(the crowd gathers with a Welcome Wit and some socializing)
After a Welcome Wit (I made that clever name up, what do you think?) and some socializing amongst the attendees, Josh Barker, Cultural Center Director at the Society, introduced Iron Hill's head brewer, Larry Horwitz, and things got underway.
(Larry works the crowd with humor and wheat beer information)
Approximately 25-30 people (wheat beer fans and curiosity-seekers alike) showed up to sit around banquet tables in the Media Room space and munch on light foods while Horwitz described the beers we were being served. Up first was the Belgian Witbier, followed by the Hefeweizen (modeled after Schneider Brewery's), Weizenbock, and Berliner Weisse.
(four good soldiers, clockwise from bottom left: Berliner Weisse, Hefeweizen, Witbier, and Weizenbock)
Two rounds of light fare was brought over from Iron Hill's restaurant to help soak up some of the beer. Not too light, though, to satisfy a dinner's worth of hunger...considering the 6:30pm start time, this was a good thing.
I was seated around a table with four others. Fortunately, it was a social bunch including a Doug, an Erin, an Eric, and a Nicole...and conversation came quite easily. If I could judge their comments accurately, the easy drinking Witbier was a slam dunk winner followed closely by the Hefeweizen. The ABV punch of the Weizenbock might have been too much for the palates of the day's heat and humidity...which could also explain fondness for the Wit.
(Mr. Brew Lounge flanked by Eric, a local Iron Hill regular, and Doug)
In my book, the snappy Berliner Weisse made for a nice conclusion though as a new style to a couple at the table, the jury sounded a bit split on this judgement. And, even though I'm not a fan of adding the (green) woodruff syrup or the (red) raspberry syrup, we all had a bit of fun experimenting with the appropriate amount to add without making the beer too sweet.
(from left to right: woodruff syrup straight up, Berliner Weisse blended, and Berliner Weisse straight up)
Through it all, Larry gave a great rundown of the wheat beers, from Iron Hill's making of to some historical perspective (continuing the emphasis on his man-love for a guy named 'Schneider'). As many of you may know, Larry's not a shy guy and has a great stage presence in the room and an engaging style of speak, peppered with humor. He incorporated a nicely organized slide show of pictures, factoids, and even a bit of video. He erred on the cautious side of giving just the right amount of information in doses that the crowd of mixed backgrounds could handle and steered away from a completely dry dissertation on the history wheat farming.
But, just when we might have thought that the night was just about as perfect as expected from Iron Hill, Larry announced a bottle that he dug out to share with us---a magnum of Saison. Slightly funky, somewhat citrus-y tart, and pleasantly refreshing...now this was the perfect ending
(Larry Horwitz and Josh Barker with a surprise beer..the wonderful Saison)
After having one more Berliner Weisse--gotta love those low ABV, refreshing and tasty beers--I headed over to the brewery/restaurant to dip into a glass of the recently-released Hopzilla and to fill up a growler with Dr. Drie. You know what I'm talking about, right? This was a beer that debuted earlier this year with yeasty roots deep at Belgium's Drie Fonteinen and is still as tasty as I remember. (you can find a better description over here at Larry's brewer's blog.)
There was also a discussion of fondness for cheap, box wine but fortunately for Larry, I've destroyed those notes.
If you missed the first two classes of this interesting and informative Series, the next installment takes place later in September when the theme will be "Grape versus Grain" and their parallels and intersections.