And why I love the Art of Beer area
Volunteers for the World Beer Festival here in Raleigh sign up to pour beer, some for specific brewers and others for anyone who needs them. But not me – I love the Art of Beer area.
Art of Beer is what the festivals are all about – education and generating better understanding of beer. Of course, toward the end of the festival, the Art of Beer tents become less about education and more about, “hey, ya’ll still have beer?”
There are four areas to the Art of Beer – the Beer Ingredients Tent, where I worked last year. Here, guests can try beers to demonstrate the differences between three of beer’s key ingredients – hops, yeast and malts (leaving out the other ingredient — water, of course.) The Cask Beer Tent lets guest taste the difference that a cask-dispensed beer makes, and the Presentation Tent features short sessions on all things beer.
This year, I got to work the Food Pairings Tent, which is exactly what it sounds like – beers paired with food. All the beers in the Art of Beer area are provided by Samuel Adams, the quintessential Boston craft brewer. Sam Adams’ many different beers offer lots of possibilities for food pairings.
One really neat feature of the Art of Beer area this year was the effort made to provide local products, along with the Sam Adams beers. So the Boston lager and Boston ale were paired with a spicy-sweet “street mix” of popcorn, peanuts and currants from bu ku restaurant of Raleigh. Dark chocolate from Raleigh’s Videri Chocolate Factory was paired with a cream stout. And a variety of cheeses — were paired with beers including cherry wheat ale, white ale and something that tasted like apple cider.
I started out pouring the Sam Adams’ signature Boston lager while another volunteer poured the ale. We got lots of questions about which one was better, so from our very limited tastes, we developed descriptions like “smoother” to describe the ale and “bolder” for the lager.
When I poured the Cream Stout, a number of guests turned up their noses at the dark brown beer. But when they tried it with the chocolate, not so bad. They loved the cherry wheat and the cider with the salty cheeses.
The Ingredients Tents also featured local products. Samples of beer-brewing ingredients were provided by Farm Boy Farms of Pittsboro, growers of wheat, barley and hops for microbreweries and home brewers.
If you love craft beer, I recommend volunteering for the festivals — in the fall in Durham, in the spring in Raleigh. Once the festival website opens, there will be a link to volunteer. The only requirement is a one-hour volunteer training the week before the event. Show up on festival day and work your shift.
Monday night, volunteers came back to Moore Square’s Pour House for the traditional volunteer bash – various “extra” beers, burritos from Mo’s and door prizes. So proud of my World of Beer pint glass and sunglasses!