By Eric and Mimi Griffith
Six weeks is a long time to go without Beer School. Mimi and I passed the time by attempting to homebrew and by tasting as many winter seasonal beers as we could get our hands on. But it is just not the same…we need our Wednesday night fix, and finally, despite the 6 inches of snow on the ground, the “spring” semester has arrived!
For new students and possible future students I will give you a quick rundown as to how beer school works. Every Wednesday night at 5:30 at least 75 of your fellow beer enthusiasts gather at the Venue inside Cicero’s to taste and learn about our favorite libation. Each week a different brewery or distributor presents a few beers for sampling and a couple of them will be on tap at Cicero’s for a discounted price. Homework is a misnomer at beer school, as it is anything but work…simply purchase one of the beers we try in the form of a six pack or a growler and you have completed your assignment. Bring your receipt to the next class and you could win a bucket of beer. If my description has not persuaded you to join us at beer school then you will just have to keep reading our blog and fantasizing about how these beers actually taste.
Looking around the room I see lots of familiar faces as well as many new students that have decided to join the festivities. Brian and Ashley? “Here.” Alaina and Mike? “Here.” Daniel, Art? “Present.” Reporter from Patch.com? “Here!” Who? What? A reporter? You heard right, a reporter named Jeff Brandt has come to class to do research for a story on beer school for Patch.com. You know we have hit the big time when Patch.com shows up. All joking aside, Jeff was very kind to help spread the word about Cicero’s Beer School with this nice article: http://universitycity.patch.com/articles/knowledge-is-power-at-ciceros-beer-school
Ska music might inspire you to tap your foot, sing along, jump up and down or dance with your friends, but in the case of Bill and Dave it inspired them to brew beer. The year was 1995, and as the under-age beer lovers sat around listening to Ska music they hatched a plan to brew their own beer since they couldn’t purchase their favorite suds. With the Toasters blaring in the background, the founders spent what I can only imagine was hundreds of seconds pondering a name for their new venture and finally settled on Ska Brewing.
Ska Brewing is located in Durango, Colorado and they dispatched Arlo Grammatica to educate us on the brewery and the beers they produce. Besides Ska music, the owners were also inspired by comic books and have created a fake comic book series with beer heroes and villains that adorn their packaging.
Ska Brewing arrived in Missouri in 2010, but I have been aware of the brand since 1997 when my Uncle Robin served 3 of the beers we are trying tonight at his BBQ restaurant in Silverton, Colorado. He recalls “a couple hippy kids in an old brown van” delivering the beer from the brewery 60 miles away. The small brewery has come a long way since then and now Ska distributes to 8 states and brews over 16,000 barrels per year. They haven’t made it to Florida yet so if you find their beer there it was probably bootlegged by a Trans Am and an eighteen wheeler. Now, if I can pry the Modus Hoperandi out of Mimi’s hand we can get to her reviews.
Mimi’s Brew Reviews
True Blonde Ale – (Available in cans)
Light gold in color with a crisp and clean mouth feel. At 5.3% ABV this is a very sessionable beer with no aftertaste. Perfect for a hot summer day! Local Colorado honey is used in the brew from a company called Honeyville. I was excited to hear this as we’ve been to their store and watched the bees make honey. http://www.honeyvillecolorado.com (Their cinnamon whipped honey is amazing!)
Pin Stripe Red Ale –
This flagship beer was created when Ska was short on ingredients for the True Blonde and decided to add more caramel malts instead. This is a nicely balanced very drinkable beer. It has a nutty and slightly fruity finish. It clocks in at 5.15% ABV.
Buster Nut Brown – (On draft at Cicero’s)
This third beer was a step up in flavor. It was more chestnut in color with a noticeable malty scent. This brown ale was very easy drinking but full of flavor. It made me want a juicy burger and a big plate of pub chips. This is also Ska’s most decorated beer with numerous medals including gold at the Great American Beer Festival. Also 5.15% ABV.
Steel Toe Stout –
This “working class” milk stout had a lovely molasses color and the scent of heavily toasted malts. Don’t be afraid of the dark color, this was a very drinkable beer! The lactose sugars give it a nice sweetness with hints of chocolate and vanilla. 5.4% ABV
Modus Hoperandi – (On draft at Cicero’s)
IPA fans will do a little happy dance for this one! It had a lovely hoppy scent with clear notes of pine and citrus. The flavor doesn’t disappoint. How can it with the blend of Centennial, Columbus, and Cascade hops? The 68 IBUs linger just enough and at 6.8% ABV you feel good after a couple. I bought a growler of this one right after class!
The Last Sip
What a great start to the new semester. We tasted 5 solid beers and witnessed a beer school first, as far as I know, when a Ska Brewing bra was presented as a prize and then modeled for the crowd by a male student (over his shirt, thankfully). You never know what will happen so don’t miss a class.
Thank you to Arlo for bringing great beer, helping me recall fond Colorado memories and getting the Mighty Mighty Bosstones stuck in my head for the next week. “I never had to knock on wood, but I know…”
About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!