This post is my final project for an excellent class I took at Central New Mexico (CNM) Community College called Beer and Society. For the people in the class who have to read this post (sorry!), you can skip past this next part and rejoin after I describe the class for anyone else. For those not in the class, read on!
Class peeps, feel free to skip to END DETOUR below!
The name Beer and Society hints to exactly what the curriculum is. Each class is a series of two-pronged lessons where we first learn from history professor Dr. Brandon Morgan about the origin of a beer, its birthplace, which local ingredients were used and why those ingredients were chosen, as well as any social or political ramifications that helped shape why that beer was made at the time and place it was. Great stuff!
Then we taste!
(sorry for the amateurish vertical video)
The Advanced Cicerone, Dr. Asa Stone, then takes the helm and works with us to understand what we should be looking for in the beer we’re sampling, from its appearance to aroma, taste and mouthfeel, all the while looking for hints of the ingredients and backstory that we just learned about from Dr. Morgan.
Did I mention there are culturally appropriate food pairings? Cause there are.
Week 2 was a schnitzel (prepared by a CNM chef) that was paired with an array of German and Czech beers as the class explored the Early Modern Era and a handful of styles including the German Pils, the Festbier, the Dopplebock, Weissbier and others.
Needless to say, the Beer and Society class is super cool and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone in the Albuquerque area.
Back to the matter at hand, my beer story. The previous week’s class, I think, was my favorite out of all the great classes, specifically the discussion on food and beer pairing that followed a scrumptious plate of Beef Wellington (which was accompanied by tasters of Stone IPA and New Belgium Fat Tire). Someone in class mentioned they would have paired the IPA with a green chile cheeseburger and it took me back to the 2018 New Mexico IPA Challenge, where I contemplated why New Mexicans love hop-forward IPAs so much, and pondered the synergistic intensites of New Mexico green chile and aggressive New Mexico IPAs.
I’m taking a kind of circuitous route to get to my point, but after thinking about spending the last few NMIPA challenges with friends, my brother and my girlfriend, I realized that my beer story is this: beer is no longer just a thing I drink while doing other things. It’s become, in many cases, the central focus for a lot of events I plan my life around.
It went from being just a lamp on a table at a party to the host of the damn thing.
Beer as a character in my life has grown in importance the more I got to appreciate it, same as my heart has grown fuller for people I’ve come to know more closely. Conversely, some lesser characters fade away in life, same as those (dirt cheap) 12-packs of Shaefer in college, but beer as a character in my life has gradually been basking under a larger and brighter spotlight.
For example, while we’ve all gone out to fill a growler, a friend and I turned a simple growler run into a capital “G”, capital “R”, Growler Run, a yearly motorcycle trip that’s taken us countless thousands of miles across 20 states in the US, up to and across Canada and down to the tip of Baja, Mexico in search of a local growler fill to take back to our campsite. The motorcycle trips would have happened regardless, but they’re built and centered around a thing we love in our lives – beer – but with a desire to experience a slightly different version of it made by different hands in a different place altogether.
Aside from running to another country with one of my best friends to fill a growler, my brother, Dan, and our good friend and neighbor, Jeff, have graduated from having beers while hanging out, to hanging out while trying to make our own beers. We’ve only finished three different batches to date, but as our appreciation for beer has increased over the years, so, too, has our desire to understand it (and make it taste a little better, while we’re at it).
It’s like I casually swiped right on beer years ago, and now realize beer has a toothbrush in the glass on the bathroom sink.
So what then, now that I’m shacking up with beer for good, it seems?
Well, beer school, naturally.
I bounced around a good many colleges after high school, getting (part of) an education so I could play some baseball, but I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now, I’m 44, a Unix engineer for a massive telecom company, and I still don’t necessarily know what I want to be when I grow up. But instead of taking classes in this scripting language or that cloud computing technology, I’m taking classes at CNM to learn how to make freaking beer.
Alas, the thing I did at college has become thing I now go to college for.
For those not familiar or wanting more info, the Brewing and Beverage Management program at CNM offers industry certifications as well as an associates degree program. Info can be found here.
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