Some people celebrate Wine Wednesday while others opt to celebrate Whiskey Wednesday. Last Wednesday I celebrated the latter, and threw some craft beer in to the mix.
While drinking seems to be a regular occurrence in my life, I have to admit that my usual drinking buddies are men. So when I was asked to join two long tables worth of women for some whiskey and beer sampling at The Portside Pub, I was intrigued. With the exception of Casey Mackay from Corby Distributors who gave a spiel about whiskey, comparing brand labels from Ireland, Scotland and the US, the event involved only women.
Aja Tylor, a certified Beer Server and self proclaimed “Beer Nerd”, kicked off the evening with a quick introduction to the event, followed by a Craft Beer 101 class with the assistance of fellow bar lady Nicole. Aja explained how we should “properly” taste beer by seeing, smelling and sampling. First we checked for certain characteristics such as clarity and head retention. Is it hazy or clear? What is the color? Does it have a foamy, bubbly or smooth head?
Next, it was time to swirl the beer in the tasting glass (or attempt to) in order to oxidize it, prior to smelling it. Beer experts know that smelling beer is as important as tasting it. Just as one would drink wine, one should properly smell it in order to enjoy the beer. Rather than one long whiff, we were encouraged to take three small whiffs and associate that aroma with a taste or smell we were familiar with.
Finally it was time to sample the beer. At this point, a parched person would most likely just chug it back, but since we practicing the proper method of tasting beer, we were encouraged to swish it in our mouths so as to let the alcohol and carbonation fall on our tongues. Aja, also suggested that we inhale and exhale while we drink. If it tastes sweet, why is it sweet? Does it remind us of jam, chocolate or candy? Or is it bitter with a lingering aftertaste?
Throughout this process, Aja prodded us to write our own notes in a notebook provided, reiterating the fact that there is “absolutely no wrong answer when it come to beer”.
The six 6oz tasters of craft beer that we tasted were: Russell Brewing Co.‘s Portside Pilsner, Parallel 49‘s Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, Erdinger Weissbrau‘s Erdinger Weissbier, Delirium Brewery’s Delirium Tremens, Driftwood Brewery‘s Fat Tug IPA and Mill Street Brewery’s Cobblestone Stout. It was nice to see Surrey, East Vancouver and Victoria being represented in this tasting, in addition to some Toronto and international brews. I loved some (Fat Tug IPA, Delirium and Gypsy Tears) more than the others.
We also got a chance to smell some Centennial Hops with a nose of citrus, pine, resin and that of green grass. Centennial hops are one of the “Three Cs”, along with Cascade and Columbus.
After we finished our beer it was time for some whiskey. We tasted four different kinds, all of which had a very distinct flavour. These included:
Johnnie Walker (Scotch Whiskey) – generally distilled twice and the malt is dried using peat smoke which imparts a peaty, smokey flavour to the whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey (Bourbon Whiskey) – American whisky has a distinct perfumey nose. It is distilled just once and has a strong woody flavour from maturation in new oak casks.
Crown Royal (Canadian Whiskey) – generally distille twice from cereal and grains. Matured for three years in new or seasoned oak barrels, its taste is normally light bodied and spicy.
Jameson (Irish Whiskey)- triple distilled for an added smoothness and light in taste with a subtle sweetness, fading to a luxurious mix of malt and vanilla.
“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.”
– Haruki Murakami
I also tried the grain whiskey, which was passed around for guests to take a (gentle) whiff of, so as to not burn our nostrils. Why I was coerced in to trying something that burned my throat and tasted like nail polish remover is beyond me.
While we were wrapping up our tastings and getting to know each other a little better, The Valuables were warming up for their first set. The Valuables are a vintage-styled seven-piece band, with a strong female lead, that marry 1960s U.S. soul and Jamaican roots music. They just spent a year touring, covering festivals such as the Victoria Ska Fest, Shambhala Music Festival, the Vancouver Latin Festival and the Seattle Ska Fest. Regular patrons were paying $7 cover to come see the band, but our Women and Whiskey ticket included that price.
The one thing that was missing from this event that was advertised were the succulent snacks; I hardly consider spiced popcorn and roasted nuts as succulent. That said, we were given a $2 token to use at the kitchen, to put towards a more substantial snack. I was blown away to see that that were charging six tokens (or $6) for a sausage with no bun and a little bit of sauerkraut and condiments. For $2 more why not get the pulled pork sandwich? At least it gets you a little more bang for your buck.
This event is part of an ongoing series of tastings, education sessions and live music from female leads, to take place on the third Wednesday of every month. A portion of the $30 tickets, as well as 50/50 sales, benefit the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, a not-for-profit women’s health organization dedicated to providing access to primary and secondary health care services to women in need. Tastings start at 8pm with musical performances kicking off around 10pm.
The Portside Pub is located at 7th Alexander Street. For more information on this event in the series visit https://www.facebook.com/ThePortsidePubWomenAndWhiskey.