At Twisted Pine, beer with blindfolds and vegetable cream ale

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Photo by Steve Weishampel
Baile, right, and other participants

Man, I tell myself as I pull up the blindfold for about the
30th time, I’m glad I’m working right now so I can cheat so often.

I don’t know when I became so impatient, but the Blind Beers
event at Twisted Pine March 21 is quickly showing me that I have a very low
tolerance for going without my sight.

Anyway, I don’t get the sense that was one of the lessons
intended by the event, which saw participants don blindfolds to taste six
Twisted Pine beers, each paired with food from Cured.

It’s more likely the lessons centered on experiencing each
beer without using sight and noticing just how much we could pick up on with
our other senses. That would explain why Twisted Pine invited Gerry Leary, the
roaster and owner of The Unseen Bean who has been blind since birth. Leary
roasts the coffee used in Twisted Pine’s Big Shot Espresso Stout, one of the
six beers on the menu.

Before the tasting and between beers, Leary spoke about how
he uses his sense of smell in his work and how participants would come to rely
on the sense to tell them about the beers.

Unless, of course, you’d rather cheat and remove the
blindfold. But I noticed I was the only participant doing so very often. Everyone
else exhibited a lot more restraint, and actually engaged in the event as it
was meant to be experienced.

That meant a lot of conversation among strangers at the long
table, as drinkers — including, it turned out, the owner of Twisted Pine, Bob
Baile — debated the aroma of each and guessed at each beer’s identity before it
was revealed. While the brewery doesn’t have immediate plans to hold the event
again, I won’t name each beer, but several were relatively aroma-free and were complete
mysteries. As for the cheese, I have no doubt a diner with encyclopedic
knowledge of cheese smells would have nailed them all. I also have no doubt I am
not that person.

But I did know that participants were much more social than
usual. Taprooms are already friendly places — it isn’t unusual to ask or be
asked what you’re drinking and what it’s like — but wearing blindfolds took the
beer chat to another level. So Blind Beer events may not be for the anti-social,
but for most beer drinkers, it’s a chance to smell more, taste better and
listen closer.

Again, Twisted Pine doesn’t have immediate plans to hold
another Blind Beer event, but they do have a pretty fascinating beer coming
down the pike, Baile says: a cucumber cream ale that should be out in three to
five weeks, or by May at the latest.