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Friday, March 29,2013

At Twisted Pine, beer with blindfolds and vegetable cream ale

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by Steve Weishampel
Baile, right, and other participants

Man, I tell myself as I pull up the blindfold for about the 30th time, I’m glad I’m working right now so I can cheat so often.

I don’t know when I became so impatient, but the Blind Beers event at Twisted Pine March 21 is quickly showing me that I have a very low tolerance for going without my sight.

Anyway, I don’t get the sense that was one of the lessons intended by the event, which saw participants don blindfolds to taste six Twisted Pine beers, each paired with food from Cured.

It’s more likely the lessons centered on experiencing each beer without using sight and noticing just how much we could pick up on with our other senses. That would explain why Twisted Pine invited Gerry Leary, the roaster and owner of The Unseen Bean who has been blind since birth. Leary roasts the coffee used in Twisted Pine’s Big Shot Espresso Stout, one of the six beers on the menu.

Before the tasting and between beers, Leary spoke about how he uses his sense of smell in his work and how participants would come to rely on the sense to tell them about the beers.

Unless, of course, you’d rather cheat and remove the blindfold. But I noticed I was the only participant doing so very often. Everyone else exhibited a lot more restraint, and actually engaged in the event as it was meant to be experienced.

That meant a lot of conversation among strangers at the long table, as drinkers — including, it turned out, the owner of Twisted Pine, Bob Baile — debated the aroma of each and guessed at each beer’s identity before it was revealed. While the brewery doesn’t have immediate plans to hold the event again, I won’t name each beer, but several were relatively aroma-free and were complete mysteries. As for the cheese, I have no doubt a diner with encyclopedic knowledge of cheese smells would have nailed them all. I also have no doubt I am not that person.

But I did know that participants were much more social than usual. Taprooms are already friendly places — it isn’t unusual to ask or be asked what you’re drinking and what it’s like — but wearing blindfolds took the beer chat to another level. So Blind Beer events may not be for the anti-social, but for most beer drinkers, it’s a chance to smell more, taste better and listen closer.

Again, Twisted Pine doesn’t have immediate plans to hold another Blind Beer event, but they do have a pretty fascinating beer coming down the pike, Baile says: a cucumber cream ale that should be out in three to five weeks, or by May at the latest.

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