Trust Your Taste

For BeerNexus.com


So it’s a typical Tuesday afternoon and I’m headed to the Cloverleaf to have a few
with my beer buds. There’s nothing special going on in terms of a tap takeover, etc.
but I’m sure I’ll find something to enjoy on tap.

I don’t need any punches for my PhD card so no reason to have any of the hop or
draft brews, unless of course I really want one.  I begin to peruse the draft list and
down near the bottom I see Kane First Reef. Kane makes great beer and I often have
a Sneakbox or a Head High. Their Overhead DIPA is pretty good also, but this is a
new 7.8% DIPA so I mark that as my most likely closing beer. The next beer that
perks my interest is Interboro Mad Fat Fluid, which is a very nice IPA and at 7.0%
packs some punch so that would be a good second beer. So yes I’m a hophead, yes
I do love a good IPA and the great thing is there are so many good and even great
ones out there it’s a great time to be IPA lover.

I’ve got a couple of big brews picked out so maybe something on the lighter side to
start. It’s a warm day, although yes I am sitting in an air conditioned bar, and I see
Founders Pilsner on the list. I haven’t had their rebranded version of PC Pils but I
remember liking it, so bingo that’s first up; in a PhD glass of course, and it’s today’s
$3 beer so can’t beat that. It’s okay, not exciting, I’m thinking they played with the
formula as I recall enjoying PC Pils, but hey that had to be last year and your taste
buds aren’t the same every day so maybe it’s me, not the beer. So here we are
Brian, Vince, Richie and I enjoying our beers and having a few laughs. Jack shows
up, who’s been out of town for a while so we’re catching up on his adventures. Aunt
Kris, also known as AK and whose brother is the second generation owner of
Cloverleaf, shows up and joins us also.

My Founders Pilsner is gone so on to a Mad Fat Fluid. I take a sip expecting a nice
hoppy taste to contrast the cleaner taste of the first pilsner, but it’s not there. I’m a
little confused as this is not the Mad Fat Fluid I remember. It doesn’t taste bad, but
it’s not the taste I’m expecting; it’s kind of just there. I give it to Brian to taste and he
agrees it’s not bad, but not all that exciting.  I open up Untappd as I want to see how I
rated it in the past and read the flavor profile. I gave it a 3.75, the overall rating is a
respectable 4.05. The description is, “Aromas of orange, grapefruit and pineapple.
Citrus & tropical juice on the palate, soft mouthfeel with moderate bitterness. Brewed
with English Optic malt and lots of malted oats and wheat. Fermented with American
ale yeast and hopped with Mosaic, Centennial & Equinox. Pours hazy pale yellow.” I
don’t have the greatest nose/sense of smell but I’m not getting much of anything. And
I’m not getting any tropical notes either.

I take a few more sips and something is not right. I call the server over and tell her
something is not right. I very very infrequently send back a beer but I’m not enjoying
this at all. I ask her to replace it with a Head High. The server did kind of stand there
for a minute, I guess not sure what to do, but eventually takes the glass and brings
me a Head High. Well she’s fairly new so probably just getting a feel for how things
should work there. Ah, now that first sip of Head High tastes really good!

Since she’s a fairly new server, I’m not sure she’ll do anything so I go up to the bar
and tell Greg, the experienced bartender that he should taste the Mad Fat Fluid.
Interestingly enough sitting at the bar next to me is the Hunterdon rep, the distributor
who handles Interboro. He says that’s what he’s drinking as he’s never had it before.
I mention the description and he says he gets some tropical from it. I tell him it just
doesn’t taste like the Mad Fat that I’ve had before. He’s wearing a really nice Green
Flash shirt so I segway into my disappointment that they’re not in NJ or anywhere
close for that matter as they made good beers. He explains he got the shirt at a
meeting with them years ago as Hunterdon was their distributor. If they come back
they would still be their distributor but we both agree that probably won’t be
happening for some time. I head back to my table and my Head High.

I don’t know if Greg did taste the Mad Fat Fluid, but I happen to look up and see the
manager tasting a beer behind the bar, so maybe he’s tasting trying it. He then
disappears. A few minutes later the Hunterdon rep comes over to our table and gives
me the thumbs up. I was right! They had swapped the lines downstairs and were
pouring the Allagash on the Interboro line and vice versa. So I guess I know my beer!
And hey it does happen, especially in craft beer bars with a lot of lines; they’re in a
hurry, the cooler is crowded and it’s easy to be in a rush and make a mistake.

AK sees the manager on the side, calls him over and asks what happened. He said
the lines were swapped when they were tapped. The Leaf has a very small box so
they really need to keep track of the kegs. AK points to me and tells him I was the
one who knew something was wrong. I’m not expecting a medal or a free beer, maybe
just a “good job, thanks for alerting us” and the manager says “we trained you well.”
Luckily I had my seat belt on my barstool; I looked at him and said “you just took
credit for me figuring out something was wrong; seriously?!?” I get a sheepish grin in
reply and he walks away. This isn’t one of the managers I have much interaction with;
he’s pretty quiet going about his job interacting more with the staff than the
customers.

You can imagine the discussion at our table following that interaction! Of course
everyone applauds my tasting acumen. I’m still pretty much shocked that was the
approach the manager took as I’ve been a regular customer for years. I’m not a
regular regular who comes in every other night, but I’m typically there at least once a
week.

Ryan, the third generation Dorchak and current general manager, does come over
and says he heard I picked up on swapped lines. Ryan is often out and about with
the Cloverleaf patrons. We’ll chat about whatever, not always beer related and he’ll
bring us different beers to sample when he has a special bottle or a craft brewery
brings some in hoping he’ll add them to his lineup. It’s a lot like an extended family.
As I think back this reminds me of another time when the beer didn’t taste like what I
expected. They checked the cooler and the right keg was tapped on that line. It took
a few more minutes to figure out that the night crew from the evening before had
tapped the keg at close but didn’t run the prior beer out of the line. Again the beer
wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t what I expected so I said something.

I think it just goes to show that you don’t have to be a beer judge to know and
understand your own taste and be confident in it. In fact a beer judge would probably
be more inclined to view the beer from the perspective of what’s right and wrong with
the beer than is it the beer it’s supposed to be. Now I’m not suggesting everyone
start sending back beers, but when there is that occasion where you’re having a beer
your familiar with and something’s not right, it’s certainly worth saying something,
which hopefully a good craft beer bar should not take offense at but rather make the
perfunctory checks to make sure everything is as it should be.

So now every time I see the Hunterdon rep at the Leaf I do ask him if there are any of
his beers he wants me to check out; I’ll have to stop after a few times before I get
annoying.

I’ll be printing up business cards next week; Big G’s Quality Control Beer Tasting
Service. The business plan is I go into bars and, unbeknownst to the bartenders, I
taste the beers to make sure they’re correct. I’m not sure how many managers will be
thrilled to engage my services, but we’ll have to see… I don’t think I’ll alert the IRS to
big jump in my income just yet; then again taking my earnings in trade could be a
pretty good deal…




Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer.
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