Monday, February 15, 2010

In Praise of Sample Trays

Think about sampler trays for a moment, if you will. When do you normally order a sampler tray? Yes, when you are in a place for the first time and you want to try a little of each of the beers available before ordering a full pint of the one you fancy most. I never once thought that a sampler tray would become something to look forward to in and of itself, an end rather than simply the means to an end. Such are the joys of being on blood thinners (I hate to mention it all the time at the moment, but it is surprising how much it influences every tiny detail of life).

The Bavarian Chef is a restaurant some 25 miles from Mrs Velkyal and I's flat here in Charlottesville, and we had reservations for Saturday night. Neither of us bother much with Valentine's Day, so this was to be our special dinner out, but without having to deal with couples going all gooey eyed at each other over their wiener schnitzel. One of the attractions for us was the fact that Bavarian food is very similar to Czech and we have been feeling nostalgic of late - I blame Anthony Bourdain and this clip. While making the reservation I asked what beers they had on tap, the reply came back: Spaten, Paulaner Oktoberfest and Hefeweizen, Ettal Dunkel and Schneider Aventinus, so I was intent on my one beer for the day being the Aventinus. Then I saw the sampler tray, so the decision was easy really. 

The Spaten lager was a nice pale lager, Ettal Dunkel is lovely and received the Mrs V seal of approval, Aventinus was everything I remember. For some reason though I find Paulaner beers leave me cold, the hefeweizen lacked the sparkling zing I have come to expect from weizens while the Oktoberfest reminded me of cardboard. A quick word about the food, very nice, huge portions but some things were just a bit on the sweet side for our tastes.

Of course Saturday was the brewing day for the International Homebrew Project, and I now have an American Pale Ale fermenting happily in my primary, and plans to use the remaining Centennial, Amarillo and Cascade hops in a big American style IPA to be called Hopbomination. 

3 comments:

  1. Having spent the last week in the US I also now know the glories of the sample tray. I worked my way through quite a few of them in the few days I was there. Some are daunting (Russian River and Bear Republic were 16 each!) but others were certainly an end in themselves (Marin, for example, had about 6 4oz pours - perfect!). They are a great way of tasting a range of beers which you'd otherwise have to order a lot of pints to achieve.

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  2. Sample trays are one of life's little pleasures. A must, if available. Very underrated.

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  3. I love the idea of sample trays, and think they look great -- I was jealous of the one Mark pictured on his blog the other day. I've only ever had one in the real world, though, which took a long time to arrive so that half the thimbles of beer were flat. A bit of a disappointment.

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