As I mentioned yesterday, New Belgium Brewing‘s Tour de Fat made Durham, NC its first stop. Being a member of Durham’s unofficial Beer Welcome Wagon
no I’m not I just totally made that up, I knew I had no option but to volunteer to work the heck out of this event! I’ve been a fan of their beer, Fat Tire, since I was in college, and considered it a nice few steps up from your standard cheap college beer, but didn’t really give it too much thought until recently. Today changed all that!
After waking up at 7:30 am (entirely too early for a Saturday, but I was too excited to sleep in much later! I whipped myself up a little smoothie, the picture of which was simply too ugly to post. But inside, it contained strawberries (frozen and fresh), one scoop of 365 Everyday Value® Vanilla Flavor Whey Protein Powder from Whole Foods (yay not stealing from the boyf!), spinach, a frozen nanner, and some Almond Breeze almond milk (just finished up the rest of the carton, not sure how much) and blended until perfect for a toothless wonder like myself. After donning my outfit, I hit the road!
The event was held at the American Tobacco Campus, right in the heart of all my favorite Durham things (Tyler’s Taproom, Mellow Mushroom where we just had dinner, the beautiful Durham Bulls stadium that I have yet to visit!) I was there early enough to start helping folks register for the bike parade, and to get a few pictures of the setup.
The parade itself started at 10 am, but we were all there before/around 9am to get folks signed up, have them sign their waivers, and request donations for Triangle Spokes Group, the amazing NPO that uses 100% of the money they raise to buy new bicycles and helmets for kids for Christmas. Such a simple idea, but honestly, imagine the joy that comes into the heart of a kid when they get their first bike!! (I know, it’s almost too much joy to handle.)
The scene was awesome, they had everything from a giant Connect Four board to a hoop toss using bicycle tires, to epic circus tents set up ready for the day ahead! The whole little grassy knoll was dressed to the nines, and I hardly recognized it. Shortly before the parade, we also ran around checking people’s IDs after a nice little mini training course in how to tell who’s using a fake (I’m basically a bouncer now, so don’t try anything funny), but it was such a well managed event that I didn’t see anyone try to get in and drink who wasn’t legally able to. People were more than happy to whip out their IDs for a giant bottle of Champagne to give them a wristband that allowed them to imbibe adult beverages, wouldn’t you be?
The Rhymanese Twins, MCs of the morning, dropped the
beat beet and the riders were off!
In the meantime, I toured the facility a bit, saw some sites, and continued to check the IDs of stragglers or non-riders.
When the riders came back, that’s when the real fun kicked into high gear. The musicians were rocking, the bikers were thirsty for some adult beverages, and costumes were grade-A. Durham is an amazing city, especially for events like this, where you realize just how wacky people will get when they have the chance. Remember all the time and effort you used to spend on theme parties for college? It was like REAL LIFE THEME PARTY! The theme? WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANTED!
My very favorite part of the whole day, though, started after my shift was over. This year’s the first year that Tour de Fat did mini beer education classes (Or “Beerducation”, see what I did there?) For a mere $5, the cost of one beer token, you could attend a 20-30 minute class where you got to try some of the beers that weren’t on tap and learn how to taste them. The players?
Fat Tire is their classic Amber Ale, and the brew that New Belgium is arguably most notorious for, maybe even where all this pro-bike activism stemmed from?
Super Cru, from their Lips of Faith Series of small batch brews, was developed to celebrate 20 years in the biz!
La Folie, a favorite of my buddy Melissa’s, the sour beer queen, was definitely the most “out there” of the New Belgium beers, and appreciated more so following my excellent sour beers class on Monday.
The fellows that taught the session, dressed as professors in super legit lab coats, focused both on what was in the beer to make it the way it was, and four steps of tasting a beer that everyone should do to truly appreciate their beer. Here, let me illustrate.
First off, appearance. It’s great to look at your beer, describe it with a word. A color, maybe, or even an event. One of my favorite descriptors was of the Super Cru, “Like the amber the mosquito was in during Jurassic Park!” Don’t feel like you have to use “beer” terms to describe your brew, just go for it! If Crayola can make a billion color names, you can throw out a few of your own.
Up next, aroma. Again, describe it as you see fit. “Smells good” doesn’t cut it, y’all. Dig deep, think about what it really smells like. Caramel topping on ice cream? Does it smell like wood? How about any fruits? Aroma can make/break a beer for me.
One awesome idea they taught us:
Retroactive tasting (I THINK that was the term, correct me if I’m wrong.) EDIT: IT WAS WRONG!! Retronasal is the term!! Let the beer sit in your mouth for a second, warm up, get all around that tongue of yours, then breathe through your nose as you swallow. It allows you to get more of the flavor than if you just threw it back and gulped.
I’ll admit, mouthfeel is probably the step I have the most trouble with. Basically, how does your mouth taste after you drink the beer? Does it taste try? Is there a lingering aftertaste? Something sweet? With the sours, I hardly tasted much in the way of aftertaste, but with something like Magic Hat #9, I always taste a syrupy sweet aftertaste that reminds me I hate it every time.
Anyway, it was great to try some of New Belgium’s special beers, to learn about them, and to be a part of this fantastic, human-powered event!
I can’t wait until next year, already thinking up my next costume. And all of this before 1pm?! Heck yes!
Now that I’ve got my nap in, it’s dinner time, off to stroll to the Teet (aka Harris Teeter) for some dinner with the beau!
Do you like to taste your beer?
Do you follow the steps, or just throw it back?