It sometimes amazes me that I get paid to do the job that I do. I love organizing and scheduling and it has that. I love working with kids and it has that. I love teaching teachers, community members and parents new ways of working with students with disabilities and God knows, it has lots of that! It’s not the perfect job, of course—that would be the $200,000 per year job where you sit on your ass, all day long, hang out with your friends and drink beer that does not make you get fat. The next best thing (other than my day job) is the job that I did this past Saturday night—a beer tasting!

My pal Tammy runs a popular business called Tammy’s Tastings. She got hired to run a beer tasting at a birthday party and, smart woman that she is, hired me to be her wingwoman. I must confess to being a little nervous before the party: what if someone asked me something I didn’t know the answer to? What if someone heckled us? What if I spilled beer all over? What if the ghost of Samuel Adams danced in, waving firecrackers at us?! What if what if what?!?!

But it was all good.  No hecklers, no spillages, no ghosts of brewers past—just some rockin’ ales. The birthday girl preferred Belgians and the party thrower preferred pale ales, so Tammy and I tried for the best of both worlds. We did a blind taste test wherein people tasted the eight samples at their leisure, followed by a “grand reveal” by us.

We started with Sam Smith’s English Pale Ale, a beer I felt best exemplified the English pale ale style. It got a lukewarm reaction from the crowd (only three self-identified as beer geeks). I found it a bit more plain than I remembered it, and had to remind myself that it is an English pale and I shouldn’t expect the bam of a, well, of a Bam.

The American Pale Ale was represented by Great Lakes Burning River. This batch seemed hoppier than usual, and so a lot of folks guessed that it was an IPA. Nevertheless, a lot of people seemed to like it.

I have to confess that I haven’t had a lot of English IPAs in my day, so I took Beer Advocate’s recommendation and got the St. Peters IPA. Wow! Am I glad that I did! This beer was my personal “find” of the night. It had almost an earthy, smoky quality to it, rounded out by those wonderful bitter hops. Quite a few people picked this as their personal favorite.

Our American IPA had to be Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. I got to give a spiel about the 75, 90 and 120 minute IPAs and I think I impressed a few souls, if I do say so myself.

Next up, we featured our Belgium beers: Duval, Delirium Tremens and the Franco-Belgian beer from our own Jolly Pumpkin, Oro de Calabaza. I have actually never had the first two beers, as I am not a huge Belgian fan. I was very fond of the “pink elephant” beer—nice and strong, but easy drinking. Reactions were decidedly mixed on the two “true” Belgian beers…some folks immediately recognized that they were not fans and others were just the opposite.

The biggest surprise for me was the strong, mostly negative, reaction to the Jolly Pumpkin. One of the categories on their informal score sheets was “Blech”; I was completely floored by the number of people who said that they thought the beer was even worse than that. People in the crowd were similarly floored when I announced all of the awards that Jolly Pumpkin generally and that beer specifically had won. Perhaps it is an acquired taste?

Our final beer was our “wild card” and it was met with a strong reaction of mostly positive reviews. It is one of my favorite beers and comes from a lovely brewery in Grand Rapids. Its label has an old man on it and it is 6.6% ABV. If you guessed Red’s Rye, then you are correct, my child. A lot of people said that this was their favorite beer of the night.

The whole experience was awesome for me, especially when I heard people at their tables talking about the beer. I heard words like “banana”, “earthy”, “balanced”, “bitter”, “nose”, “head” and all sorts of words that I would not expect from a non-beer geek group. It truly made my heart soar like a hawk, as my creepy 10th grade Social Studies teacher used to say.

If you need someone to cater your party or do a wine/beer tasting, I highly recommend Tammy. Who knows? Maybe I will show up, too! 🙂


  1. I can understand the reaction the Jolly Pumpkin got. I don’t recall the Oro de Calabeza specifically but I was not impressed with any of their beers when I last went, and some of them tasted downright off. That said, I LOVE me some Belgian beer so you & I clearly have our differences in taste 😉

    1. teacherpatti says:

      Ha! I wish I could get into Belgians! I acquired a taste for pepper beers, smoked beers and sour beers, but Belgians elude me 🙂

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