StiBON: Level 2

As soon as I heard that I passed the level 1 exams I signed up for level 2. I knew level 2 would be the ‘real deal’ and would be quite hard and expansive. Level 2 consists of 12 (actually 13) detailed lessons about everything you can imagine beer related. I say detailed, but like every course in the end you have just scratched the surface. Mind you that the lessons have changed since last year. Since this year there is more room for beer-food pairings, in particular chocolate and cheese. Each lesson is half theory, half tasting practice and ‘the red line’ of brewing our own beer. For that each group gets a mentor for the whole course, someone who’s an expert in tasting and more.

The first lesson utterly ruined my chances to ever really be able to just enjoy a beer ever again. It was the dreaded lesson about off flavours. I told about off flavours in the post about our Dutch championships training dilemmas. In this lesson you learn about flavours, aromas, the taste threshold and ten specific off flavours and their probable causes. I’m not sure what the worst one is though, but I think I go for Butyric acid, which smells and tastes like baby barf (I am told, I never tasted baby barf myself) and is probably due to mold in the mash.

The second lesson was about water, grains, malt, fruits and sweetners. With so many subject you’d expect it would be suerficial, but it was quite indept. It’s not just about all the different grains and fruits you could use, but also the chemical aspects and the effects on the beer, the flavour and aromas. Like what I told you last week about the effects of the hardness of water on beer, we also learned about other properties and effects of water, not to mention the different properties and effects of barley, rice, wheat, sorghum etc etc. After the break we continued with sugary stuff, fruits, malting, breeding and collection.

I loved the third lesson about trends, beer folklore (and label intepretation). It was just a small bit of folklore and all, but I love this subject and I’ll definitely delve into it over the coming years. The label interpretation was already a subject in StiBON 1 as part of the laws lesson, but as with the other subjects level 2 expanded on it a lot.

In the fourth and seventh lesson we continued the heavy biological and chemical stuff of lesson two, but now specifically on the properties and effects of the different hops and spices and everything about yeast and a bit about barrel-aging or at least the properties of wood and the effect of that on beer.

Beer at dinner and beer in the kitchen was the fifth lesson for which we had to travel to restaurant Rootz in the Hague. It was an awesome lesson in which we had to find out ourselves how to pair beer and foods. The restaurant gave us small bites and we had could choose our own beers from the pantry and try which paired best. We even figured out a new beer-food pairing which was unusual, but very nice and even surprised the teachers. So much so, it was put into the bierbutler app as an advice.

The sixth lesson was on how to serve beer and how to treat your customers when you own a café and the tenth lesson about beer assortment for when you have a store or a bar and a bit about marketing. They were also about beer treatment and basically everything you need to know about how to properly serve a beer.

During the eight lesson we brewed our own beer at brewery Klein Duimpje. Klein Duimpje is a bigger microbrewery and has automated a lot of the processes, so basically we had to put in the grains, hops and yeast, but our recipe was already programmed in the computer, so it was mostly waiting. The recipe we did make ourself during the previous classes. We had to choose the grains in the grain lesson, the hops in the hop lesson, the yeast in the yeast lesson, etc. We had to brew a Dortmund Export, which no one knew and for that we traveled to Dortmund, to which I’ll come back in a few weeks. We also designed our own label and you can still buy our beer at Edrinks for one.

The ninth lesson was theoretically the most extensive one and even though it was, we still only touched about 0,0001% of the subject, namely beer countries and their beerstyles. Indirectly this was also about beer culture, beer history, water and more and by far the most interesting albeit extensive and confusing lesson. It was about a lot of countries at once, it was a bit chaotic and much and I can hardly remember anything. That’s why since I passed my exams, I’m making beer trips myself, one country, even one city at a time to really understand what it is all about. That’s why I started this blog, to keep studying beer, or at least some aspects, since I don’t work with beer daily and it’s easy to quickly forget when you don’t do anything with it regularly. I also want to do more with it, maybe organise indept beer travels or something. But back to StiBON.

The eleventh lesson was on how to organise your own beer tastings and how to calculate a realistic price for your services. We learned a lot about how to match the tasting to the wishes of the customer and give them a good time.

The first half of the twelfth lesson was about judging beer contest, the second half was about beer cocktails. The judging of beer contests is a whole skill in itself as is making beer cocktails. You can compare the beer cocktails to cooking with beer or a food-beer pairing. How do you make a cocktail so that the beer is still in the spotlight, while mixing it with stronger liquor? A very interesting lesson, although, I have to be honest, I don’t know much about liquors, so it’s hard to mix them if you don’t know how they taste and smell on their own and how intense they are 🙂

Although it seems quite extensive and detailed, we still touched only a small part of the whole subject and there is so much more to learn about beer, but now that we have or diploma’s (after StiBON 3 of course) we have a solid basis to extend our knowledge and skills and I will do that over the coming years. Looking at my interests I’ll probably specialise myself more and more in beer history, beer culture and beer travels. But I’m also interested in the less basic beer-food pairings, like beer and insects or beer and icky foods.

What kind of beer related services would you be interested in?

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