Shelley A. Sackett
Shelley A. Sackett
Despite rumbling skies and threats of downpours, over two dozen people ventured out last Friday evening to whet their whistles another way — by attending the Swampscott Library’s “Beer Tasting 101.”
For more than two hours, Adam Denny Golab, brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd to an evening that can best be described as, “everything you never knew you didn’t know about craft beers.”
Most importantly, after describing the brewing process and explaining in detail the differences in tastes among six beers, they circulated throughout the library’s reading room, pouring sample of the beers. Patrons cleared their pallets with pretzels, chips and cheese and crackers.
Nunnari, who says his wife, Kim, “kind of volunteered him” to sponsor the beer tasting (Kim is a volunteer at the Swampscott Library), hopes people learn a little about the complexities and subtleties of beer.
“There’s more to this than just opening a can,” he said with a laugh.
The library’s philanthropic arm, The Friends of Swampscott, captured the proceeds from the $20-per-ticket admission to the beer tasting event. The nonprofit provides volunteer help, conducts the annual book sale, sponsors programs for adults, purchases all museum passes, funds the library newsletter and underwrites many Young Adult and Children’s Room activities.
The tasting offered four different and distinctive genres of beer: an original German lager beer (Weihenstephaner Original); two malts (Murphy’s Stout and Mayflower Porter); two India Pale Ales (Bent Water’s Sluice Juice and Thunderfunk), and two Sour or Acid beers (Bent Water’s Cosmic Charlie and Destihl Wild Sour).
The history and intricacy of each beer was detailed before patrons had their first sip. IPAs, for example, were developed from pale ales in England to be shipped to India, where the hot climate demanded a lighter beer than typical English stouts. Hops were added so the brew would survive the journey.
Golab pointed out that hop flavors can be personal to the taster, with women, “for some unknown reason,” more prone to taste garlic. The hoppier the beer, the less bitter it tastes.
Some describe IPAs as hazy, chewy or mouthy, he added.
Nunnari also explained the importance of the “three-sip rule” when tasting beer.
“Never trust that first sip. Always sniff the beer first and drink it from a glass, not out of the bottle,” he advised.
Golab attributes Bent Water’s superior flavor to Lynn’s water, the “best water in the area” since it comes from the Lynn watershed instead of central Mass. The different profile minerality-wise gives Bent Water’s beer a different quality.
“After all, beer is 98 percent water,” he pointed out.
Like Nunnari, his interest in beer brewing started with the gift of a home-brewing kit from his parents. He has been brewing beer professionally for four years and the activity reminds him of family life as a child.
“I grew up in a house that cooked together a lot. Combining ingredients that create flavors that are unique and fun and work together well is a creative process,” he said.
He hopes after the tasting people realize there are more styles of beer than their usual go-to brand.
“There are so many different kinds of beer. There is something out there for everyone,” he said.
Sitting at café-style round tables of six, patrons chatted between sips, getting to know each other and the different brews. Anthony Cerra, a Swampscott resident whose father was a soda bottler and beer distributor from Pennsylvania, likes to support the Friends of the Library and likes to taste different kinds of beer. He used to brew beer before he had children.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” he said.
At a nearby table, Andrea Mercurio marveled that this was the first time she had been in the library.
“I love it. I want to wander around. I think I spend too much time at work. I definitely need to hang out here more,” said Mercurio a newcomer to Swampscott, she found out about the event on a Facebook page and thought it would be an excellent way to get out and meet people in the community.
Four years ago, the Swampscott Library hosted a beer tasting, and the library’s executive director, Alyce Deveau, thought it was time to do it again.
“It’s summertime and people drink beer in the summer,” she said. “People will get a lot of information and have a chance to come in and see the library and what they’re missing if they haven’t been here before.”
Reference and Teen Librarian Janina Majeran, who helped serve cheese and crackers between beer “courses,” thought the evening was fantastic.
“It’s really great for the library,” she said. “It is great exposure and something different than just books.”