Beer Class for Beginners at GiraMondo
Setting the table: The explosion of high-end beer bars has been a boon for aficionados of rare brews, but with even neighborhood joints now putting their beer menus in three-ring binders instead of on chalkboards, it's a good idea to know your pale ales from your pilsners. Enter GiraMondo's "Beer Class for Beginners" seminars, which are taught by well-known local brewmeister Tom Cizauskas.
What you learn: Cizauskas is, in his own words, out to disprove common misconceptions about beer -- for example, that dark beers are stronger or heavier than their amber or copper-colored cousins. His 40-person classes, held at various hotels around town, are very hands-on: As the group discussed the properties of hops, giant bags of hop flowers were passed around for participants to smell. Of course, it's really about the tasting, and Cizauskas introduces pairs of similar beers to highlight subtle differences. By the end of class, you'll be able to explain the differences between a super-hopped American IPA and a fruity Belgian ale.
Nice to know: No subject is taboo. "What's a barleywine?" "What does wet-hopped mean?" Cizauskas is happy to digress into whatever topics people throw out.
Perks: You'll get to try 3-to-4-ounce samples of eight beers, most of which were new to the folks at my table. And if you taste one you particularly like, the staff is usually happy to refill your glass.
What's up next: GiraMondo's next beer seminar is in June. Keep checking the schedule at www.giramondowine.com, or sign up for newsletters announcing upcoming classes. In the meantime, the company is branching out beyond beer and wine to offer classes on styles of tea (April 16) and honey (April 30).
Price: $49 for a two-hour class.
-- Fritz Hahn