Twelve mostly middle-age women gathered at the Hawthorne Suites Hotel last Thursday to get the low-down on how to sniff and swirl thick brown ales and sip light lagers during one of Big Sky Brewery's Betty's for Beer series.
"Give it a good sniff," said instructor Tim Chisman, dubbed "Beer Guru" by his Big Sky coworkers, as he explained that the trick is in the whiff. Allowing one's olfactory nerves to fully get a handle on hops, coriander and orange aromas before taking a swig brings out a beer's fullest taste.
"Then you go back and do it again," he told the ladies, who offered giggles in response.
Big Sky Brewery offers the class a couple of times a year as a way to make women feel confident about beer. During last week's session, Chisman alternately sipped and offered tidbits of hoppy knowledge. For instance, lime was originally put in Mexican beer to keep flies away, yeasty brews leave a lingering taste and brewers created ice-cold-beer marketing campaigns largely to cover brewing flaws. Chrisman says the ideal pour should be served at about 55 degrees to bring out the beer's full flavor.
"I don't like it," said Tracie Groenier of a Mexican lager. "This is my wet socks."
Groenier explained that she's traumatized from picking up stale ales while tidying trails for the Forest Service.
"I don't want to have to gag down the rest of it," she said, pouring the remnants into a plastic pitcher.
The $30 series includes lots of literature, including tasting logs and a rainbow-colored flavor wheel that breaks down how odor translates to taste. The result is oodles of info available for post-class refreshers. Considering that Betty's serves up more than a dozen three-finger servings, those reference materials would seem to help budding connoisseurs retain newfound knowledge.
"I need a taxi," said a blond-haired woman as the class ended.