By Dennis Minich
I don’t think I’ve made a secret of the fact I am a cerevisaphile. In fact, on more than one occasion I have talked about my choices when it comes to this reality, although to be honest, until a few weeks ago when I learned it at a trivia contest, I never knew my particular affection had a name, but it does: cerevisaphile. Up until then I simply thought I liked beer, but now knowing there is a real term with a real Latin root to the word makes it sound so much more impressive.
I got to indulge in some cervisaphilic activities last weekend during the Cass County Beerfest. There were a variety of microbeer choices available for sampling, most of which were good or had redeeming qualities. Others, not so much. The best part was for all participants, there was a bottomless mug for all the beers you wanted. The worst part was the mug only held two ounces. But the purpose of the event was tasting, much like a wine tasting so it was more about quality and variety than quantity. Quantity serves other purposes, like St. Patrick’s Day, when you don’t really care about the taste of the beer, just making sure there is plenty of it.
What made Saturday’s event special to me, was a chance to speak expert to expert with another beer aficionado. Tarran Winnie, the Brew master at Dubious Claims Brewing Co., which is based in Excelsior Springs, was on hand to not only pour but share information about brewing, beer and his background. He is a certified brew master, having attending college and gaining a Master’s Degree in beer science. To be a certified brew master, he not only had to go to school, but also did an internship with a major brewer, just like any other professional. He obviously has put a lot of time in on the topic. What he did not realize was I am too am certified. I have a diploma as a “Certified Beer Master,” a designation I earned after attending a grueling 45-minute tasting class sponsored by Anheuser-Busch at Sea World in Orlando, Florida.
When I say grueling, I am not using that word lightly. To gain the prestigious certificate, we had to learn how to properly store and maintain beer (I will give you a hint: refrigeration); how to properly pour a beer (into a glass is normally best) and how to tell if your beer is still good or has gone bad (taste.) It was a brutal three-quarters of an hour and only about 80 percent of the class made it all the way through (one couple had kids who were getting bored.) But I was one of the lucky ones, one of the dedicated ones, so that is why my chance to stand and visit with a fellow professional was so special to me.
I was able to delve deep into the history of beer with Winnie. For example, I was curious when Americans starting drinking their beer cold. Winnie said the change came when we figured out refrigeration. I couldn’t argue with that.
In fairness, there was a better answer. Most of the early beers brought to America came from Britain and were served warm because most brewers in the English Empire didn’t have the luxury of cold beers. In the 1860s there was an influx of German beermakers into the U.S. Coming from a colder region, they were more knowledgeable in colder beers, so pilsners such as Busch and Coors were born and being served cold became preferred.
Until there was an ability to transport beer great distances, beer drinkers had to depend on local brewers. When you see movies of the old west, Winnie said the beers were likely flavored with whatever local products were available. Anything you get to ferment probably went into the beer. So, the modern trend of fruits and other flavors being incorporated into beer is really not new. As the beers in the old west were warm and could have been made from about anything was a reason why whiskey was usually preferred.
The Beerfest was a fun event and hopefully becomes an annual tradition. With more microbrews spouting up more and more brewers should be looking to share their products. Winnie said as an industry, microbrews are more complementary than competitive.
As an aside, the name Dubious Claims Brewing Company, comes from Excelsior Springs’ history as a spa site. Often regarded as having healing waters, about 40 years ago, newspaper stories claimed to debunk the healing powers as “dubious claims.” The brewer said the water is fine for brewing, despite the health claims, so the name of their company was born.
I am hoping this newly acquired knowledge will give me an inside track and maybe next time I find a “beer college” in an amusement park somewhere, maybe I can go for a doctorate in beer mastery. I don’t really know if I’d have another 45 minutes to commit to the project, but if I did, the graduation party would be well worth attending.