Studying at EHL isn't all about business management and housekeeping. There are times when the work extends itself to exciting hands-on F&B tasting sessions from cheese to champagne - and in this case, beer - wonderful beer!
The American author, Hunter S. Thompson, wrote “Good people drink good beer”. So for those of us in need of becoming better beer-savvy people, Executive Chef at EHL Passugg, Alfred Zuberbeuhler, shares insights from a recent EHL beer tasting workshop he organized for his Culinary Arts students.
What are the main areas explored in the workshop?
The workshop took place in January on the Passugg Campus and was attended by students in their 6th semester of the Hôtelier-Restaurateur HF course. It was conducted in collaboration with beer brewer and lecturer, Adi Schmid from Biergarage.ch, who runs a brewing center for the finest craft beers from Eastern Switzerland, and with Sacha Schibli from Churer Stadbier.ch, master brewer and owner of the local microbrewery which the students visited as part of the workshop.
During this workshop, we were able to taste near to twenty beers. The range was immense starting with a very light raspberry flavored aperitif beer, ending with a dark full-bodied beer with caramel notes from Scotland.
Workshop on the taste senses: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy, umami, and how the tongue & nose detect the different tastes.
Glass culture: the importance of the right glass choice.
Food parcours: the basics of food & beer pairing.
Executed food pairing: a menu is served in combination with the right beer.
Students do a 20-question multiple-choice test.
Lastly, a visit to the Chur Stadtbier microbrewery where beer production is explained.
How does the type of glass impact the way we taste and enjoy beer?
Beer needs air to breath and develop its full taste and aromas, therefore a tall glass with a wide opening is always preferred. However, there are many variations on the theme, from the typical pint glass or mug to the more elegant goblet or tulip. The shape of the glass should be chosen depending on the amount of head on the beer, the swirling needed to release the aromas, the amount of carbonation, the type of 'lip' on the glass for small or large sips. Then of course, there's the amount of beer a glass can hold that dictates how much one ends up drinking! Typically, a tall, slim pilsner glass holds less beer than a pint glass.
Can you give us some good examples of beer & food pairing?
Beer can be paired with any food, but in general, we should look for similarities. An intense cheese should be paired with a full-bodied beer rather than a light blonde. Baked dishes such as a tarte flamande, pizza or a cheese quiche are great with a Weizen beer. The pairing is better when the taste notes are the same, i.e. umami goes well with umami intense food such as mushrooms, tomatoes, meat. A sweeter beer goes well with a dessert, etc.
What role does beer knowledge play in the curriculum of the EHL students?
With an average consumption of 54.5lt of beer per resident, beer plays a big role in Switzerland; therefore, beer is definitely as important in the school's curriculum as wine knowledge. This tasting and pairing course with our Culinary Arts students shows them that there is so much more to discover than just regular draft beer. Having a good knowledge of beer and how to recommend the right beer with the food ordered is definitely a big advantage in the operation and increases the trust and loyalty of the customer.
What special factors does an artisanal beer have that an industrially-produced one doesn’t?
Artisanal beer stands out thanks to the endlessly possible varieties. Artisanal beers are brewed locally and live in symbioses with their environment. The master brewers behind those beers are passionate and eager to develop new flavors and tastes. Industrial beers are streamlined and focused on sales and profitability. A microbrewery is able to not only sell a product but equally sell the story and the people behind it.
Which countries are the best beer producers and why?
Beer is produced in so many countries, each with their own different beer heritage. This question is not easy to answer as it will always depend on personal taste, but there are a few countries which definitely lead the pack with their products and long history of beer culture.
Germany: World-famous for beer culture and their “Beer Purity Law”.
Belgium: Beer culture is so important there that it made its way onto the UNESCO intangible heritage list in 2016.
The Czech Republic: Often heralded as the home of modern beer with their Pilsner Beer, a pale lager that takes its name from a Czech city.
Ireland: Known for their stout beers, the most famous would be the very dark, dry Guinness.
List your top 5 desert island beers
Again, this is a very personal opinion and, as there are countless artisanal beers in the making, this list can never be definitive.
"Appenzeller Amber” by Locher Bräu Appenzell, the brewery is famous for their innovative approach.
“Bündner Ale” by Stadtbier Chur, a great microbrewery where visitors are welcome.
“Oldtimer” by Biergarage St. Gallen, a great microbrewery run by Adi Schmid who also offers beer workshops.
“Noctus 100” by Riegele Brauerei Augsburg DE.
"Orkney Porter" by Swannay Brewery, Scotland.
What are the magic properties of beer that we should all know about?
Beer reduces stress, helps prevent kidney stones, protects your heart and reduces bad cholesterol.
Plato said, "He is a wise man who invented beer".
The very popular Swiss Dr Gab's and Cap'taine Mousse craft beers are very successful brands set up and run by EHL alumni.