Nicole Erny: 2017 Beer Buzz
Master Cicerone Nicole Erny is a difficult person to catch. In between teaching sensory analysis at our recent Business of Beer course and this week’s Beer Geek Out, she found ten minutes to give us her latest buzz on beer.
Q: What is the favorite trend you’re seeing in craft beer?
Increased transparency in date coding and focus on freshness. There’s a greater awareness and more education to consumers about the age of beer and why that’s important. Fresh beer has significantly better flavor than a beer that has degraded over time. Even a few weeks can make a difference.
Q: What’s your least favorite trend?
Beer with 9 million things in it. I enjoy a good well made fruit beer or one with a couple of unusual ingredients. However a beer with a long list of special ingredients and random things that no one’s heard of is rarely well executed. Sometimes you can’t even taste the individual ingredient that are listed and it feels like a gimmick. Often by adding all these ingredients the brewer is hiding the fact that it’s an average quality beer. When a brewer embraces trends or ingredients but hasn’t mastered the fundamentals of making a great base beer then it bothers me. There are exceptions, for example I like Prairie BOMB! Each ingredient adds something and it’s well composed. It’s highly drinkable despite having a lot of ingredients and it’s cohesive.
Q: Have you ever had a pumpkin beer you enjoy?
These should really be called pumpkin spice beer as they’re usually made with the spices we associate with pumpkin recipes. Squash can be an interesting ingredient to use but can sometimes lead to vegetal flavors that are often considered faults in a beer. In small amounts I occasionally enjoy a spiced beer but I’m not a big fan of spices like nutmeg or cinnamon – they can be overwhelming. If the base beer is a little more richer and sweeter it can contrast the astringency that the spices can bring. Many of the pumpkin beers out there don’t find that balance that I enjoy.
Q: What are a couple of tips for people wanting to be more mindful when tasting beer?
- Slow down. Take the time to pay attention to what you’re experiencing.
- Try to find the specific words for what you’re enjoying about the flavor and experience
- You’ll start to identify and remember what you enjoy about various beers and styles. Added bonus – you’ll grow your brain.
- Try to be mindful of all the work that went into a beer’s production. It’s pretty amazing!
Nicole will be leading a beer and food pairing lab at Drakes Dealership in Oakland on Wednesday November 1, 2017. All proceeds from this FCI Geek Out event will go to food maker education.