Every Wednesday, from roughly 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Delmar Loop institution Cicero's hosts beer school. As part of a semi-regular account of the beer sampling and sudsy knowledge gained, RFT editorial fellow Matt Kasper will write about the beer he tastes and the people who present it.
If you are reading this at work and get thirsty, Matt apologizes. But maybe you shouldn't be wasting company time.
It was a night for the hopheads -- the second half anyway.
The Missouri Beverage Company showed up with a selection of four drastically different beers. The next time anyone tells you beer ain't diverse -- most likely not the most pressing concern for people, but an ugly stereotype nonetheless -- just offer them a little St. Peter's and Bear Republic.
The beers from St. Peter's included the English Ale followed by the Cream Stout. St. Peter's Brewery started in Suffolk, England in 1996 and bottles their beer apothecary-style. The tall, bulky, green bottle has shoulders a linebacker would envy, and is based on a 1770 design, according to Jim McGinn, field sales manager for the company.
It tastes unusual, I think. The hops are organic and come from Australia's twisted sister, New Zealand. McGinn described it as very light -- crisp, clean with a little citrus in it.
"It's a fantastic session beer," he said, meaning its light texture and 4 percent alcohol-by-volume create a beer that can be downed in several sessions without, um, too many problems.
They produce 200 barrels a week and a controversial number of pints (McGinn initially said 5,700 only to correct himself later to say 57,115). Right on. So there is a lot to know about the beer. I would still describe it as unusual tasting.
The Cream Stout was more to my liking. A little lighter than Guinness, the fuggle and challenger hops come together with barley malts to create, as McGinn described, "a chocolaty, creamy aroma and flavor profile."
It's a little higher in alcohol at 6.5 percent ABV, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.
The next two were my favorite. And, according to Beer Advocate, many beer drinkers feel the same. Yeah to snobby conformists!
The two beers, Hop Rod Rye and Racer 5, produced out of Bear Republic in Cloverdale, California were wonderful. The brewery itself won best small brewing company in 2006.
The Hop Rod is a smooth, dry-hopped beer. McGinn says the dark mahogany color comes from the rye malt used (20 percent according to the Web site.) The Racer 5 includes Columbus and Cascade hops.
To give you an idea of how serious we are getting about imbibing, we even spent time talking about how great it looked.
Karen, who hosts beer school, noted the "beautiful lacing around the glass." Both are sit-down-don't-go-anywhere beverages, at 7.5 percent ABV and 7 percent ABV respectively.
Each beer has a different international bitterness unit, or IBU. The Hop Rod includes 90 plus IBUs and the Racer 5 include 69 IBUs.
The beers really taste great. Really.