"Fresh beer tastes different than other beers," Adam Carmer says, repeating himself, not just for effect, but because in the case of tonight's cask beer tasting at the Freakin' Frog, that's very important.
After all, the beer being tasted tonight is less than two weeks old, Frog owner Carmer explains, letting that tidbit sink in. A squeal from the back of the room gets Adam's amused attention. "That's a beer squeal," he says, taking great pride in the reaction.
This is the fourth in a series of tastings the Frog is hosting in partnership with the Zymatore Project, which itself is sponsored by B. United International. The project is designed to take already amazing brews and blends them with barrels, creating a product that is so unique, once the cask is empty, you'll never taste its like again.
And this month's star is a Belgian Saison, specifically Saisson de Pipaix, from Brasserie A Vapeur. We're told that the brewery it comes from is the last steaming brewery in the world, and that it's not pasteurized, but fresh as you can get. We're also told it's 6.5 percent ABV, an estimate I judge to be far too conservative upon my first sip.
Truthfully, the first taste is a bit ... uninvolving. The beer is crisp, with a bit of pungency, but not a lot of character. But that's where the fun comes from at these tastings. As the cask is emptied, the beer ... evolves. Each pour has more character, more substance, more dregs. One thing is 100 percent certain at these cask tappings: The beer you start with is not the beer you finish with.
And Carmer knows a lot about pairing foods with beers. At this particular tasting, he doles out chips and salsa, gradually introducing guacamole, then quesadillas with dollops of sour cream on the side and, finally, ice cream puffs drizzled with caramel sauce. The food definitely brought out more flavors in the beer, and I could hear the crowd noticing the varying flavors as the evening progressed: "Getting more peppery," was one observation I agreed with 100 percent.
Carmer introduced a nice wrinkle in this month's tasting, giving out raffle prizes, including a bottle of Tenaya Creek Calico Brown Ale, Stone Vertical Epic, and bottles of brandy and Amaretto. In addition, as the crowd began to loosen up, so did Carmer's sense of charity, as he offered three shots of 25-year-old McCallan for $250—in general, one shot would cost that amount. And yes, a group took him up on it. Wouldn't you?