Dogfish Head calls their brews “analog beers for the digital age”. Nowadays, when there’s an app for everything, even recording your impressions of a beer or a style you want to try brewing, the Moleskine Beer Journal is a fun and rather unique way to record all things related to beer, much like Dogfish Head’s fine ales.
I wanted to put this journal, one of Moleskine’s Passion Journals, through the paces to see how it held up. Fortunately, the perfect event was just around the corner on the calendar: the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado – the superbowl of beer festivals, known to sell out in a half-hour or less. The festival features more the 3,100 different beers from 624 breweries. While there are beer festivals that put out more volume (Oktoberfest in Munich), few can match the GABF for sheer variety.
Indeed, the variety of beer presents a great challenge for a beer nerd like me. The GABF serves beer a single ounce at a time. This means that over the course of an evening you can easily sample dozens of beers. For me the question is: with such a number of beer styles from across the country, how do I ever keep track and remember what I liked the next day? Enter the Moleskine Beer journal.
The categories on the tasting pages are similar to the judging score sheets used by the American Homebrewer’s Association for judging beer competitions. There are spaces on the tasting pages for noting style, colour, appearance, nose, taste and overall opinion. But the tasting sheet also includes places to mark the ABV, information about the brewery, how it was served (draft, bottle), where & when you tasted the beer and what you think the most appropriate glass would be. One of my favorite features is a sort of “taste wheel” where you can quickly mark the intensities of common flavor elements.
At first using the journal was a little frustrating – entering the floor of the GABF is like releasing a kid into a candy store with a blank check. You want to try everything. Right. Now. It was hard to take my beer, get out the journal, sniff it, write, hold it up the light, write, taste it, write and then record my overall thoughts. Then I realized that this was the journal doing exactly what I ultimately wanted it to do: slow me down and make me truly consider and really enjoy what I was drinking. By the end of the first session I had tried 35 one-ounce samples (or the rough equivalent of three bottles of beer). What’s more, I had a good record of what I liked and would buy if I saw it in the store or on the route of some road-trip. And the next morning? I woke up without a hangover, ready to return for GABF’s Saturday session.
This Moleskine Beer Journal also has tabs for tracking beers in your “cellar”, beer recipes, brewpubs and bars you visit and homebrewing. I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the homebrewing or cooking recipes, but I did receive the beer journal right before a whirlwind trip to the French Quarter in the Big Easy. They had a fun little place called Crescent City Brewpub. If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, I can tell you what beers you should zero in on at this pub.
Finally it was time to take the cellar tab for a spin. While most beers are best when tried fresh, certain high alcohol and sour beers, much like a good wine, benefit from a few months of aging. Trying the cellar tab meant I had to delve into my special beer collection (oh the things I must do to write a blog!). Since it was October I pulled out the Smashed Pumpkin from Shipyard Brewing from my home state o’ Maine. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten when I bought the bottle, so that space remained blank but I was still able to record the pumpkin, clove and nutmeg smells in the full-bodied brew and give it a 4 of 5 stars.
There are still many pages left to fill in this beer journal. Someday I may ditch my 2006 cell phone and get a smartphone with beer apps galore but, for now, I will deeply enjoy being analog in a digital age. Isn’t that what following your passion is really all about? Cheers and happy sampling.
Meet the Writer : Knud Hermansen is an engineer, marathoner, beer aficionado and five-time volunteer at the Great American Beer Festival. Originally from the great state of Maine, you can usually find him racing along one of the many trails around Boulder, trying his hand at a vegetarian recipe, or working to make your utility companies run a little greener.