When you google “beer,” Greg Engert ought to come up in the results. The Beer Director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group has an impressive knowledge of brews. I know a lot about wine but I am still developing my palate and understanding of beers. I had previously attended a beer tasting with Greg Engert at ChurchKey back in October with Robyn Webb‘s DC Foodies Do Good group and was impressed with his encyclopedic knowledge of beer and passion for its history. So I jumped at the opportunity to attend another one of his tasting yesterday, this one thrown by Google as part of their Google DC Talk series. Rather than follow the traditional wine tasting rule of ordering the samples from lightest to more full bodied and fortified wine, Greg introduced the brews in a “historical” order, starting with a traditional fruit lambic from Belgium and closing with an IPA from New York. Lambics are “blended” beers that have been brewed near Brussels for 500 years, whereas Indian Pale Ales only came around in the 19th Centrury. So we started with a Kierk from Oud Beersel Brewery. We were off to a tart and funky start!
The colours of the beers sampled ranged from dark pink to golden orange and very dark brown.
A couple of tasting notes… I loved how different all of the beers were. While not my favourite, the smoky Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen was one of the most interesting beer of the evening. This very dark brown lager is characterized by a strong smell and taste of smoke that overwhelmed, for me, any other sensation. It was definitely different from any other beer that I’ve tasted. Another interesting one, and one that I actually found quite tasty, was the witbier, a Belgian-style unfiltered yellow-coloured wheat beer, which is flavoured with a blend of spices that give it a sweet coriander, citrus peel and lavender taste. I also enjoyed the vigorously hopped Unearthy. If you don’t like hoppy beers, you definitely won’t like this one 😉
The seven beers sampled during Google DC Talk’s The Art and Science of Beer
More than anything, I enjoyed Greg’s enthusiasm, knowledge and stories. I learned that Porter gained popularity with the transportation workers of London in the 1800s and that oysters were a common food for these same transportation workers, typically paired with oyster stout. I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with my Chenin Blanc when I have oysters, but I liked the anecdote. I found out that most of the cherries used in Krieks these days come from Poland. That beer was never black until 1817 when black malt was patented by Daniel Wheeler. Greg also has a clear admiration for brewers, whom he compares to chefs, experimenting with flavour profiles and techniques. He commanded some for their commitments to craft beer, noting that “Orchard White” had become too popular for the taste of its brewers and would be discontinued so they could concentrate again on experimenting.
Greg closed the tasting with a bried Q&A. When asked what brews he drinks on a day-to-day basis, he confessed to “sucking from the draft teet” at Rustico or ChurchKey but also recommended a $8.99 12-pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo as a great value beer or anything from Victory Beer. Duly noted…