October 9, 2012

Instructor Jeff Schiel (center standing) talks about the various features of beer while serving students samples during a beer connoisseur class he taught last week for NJC’s Extended Studies department.

Instructor Jeff Schiel (center standing) talks about the various features of beer while serving students samples during a beer connoisseur class he taught last week for NJC’s Extended Studies department. The students learned about how to best pair several types of beer and food together for the best result.(Courtesy Photo)

By Barbara Baker

As a card carrying member of the American Homebrewers  Association, Northeastern Junior College instructor Jeff Schiel loves trying new beers. He likes making them and he likes sampling something from one of the latest micro brews, new on the store shelf.  Schiel shared this passion for flavorful hops with 21 students during a “Become a Beer Connoisseur” class held last week at the Plainsman Grill. The class was part of the fall community education classes made available through the college’s Extended Studies program.

Schiel took the students through an evening lesson, tasting seasonal and regional beers paired with food to complement each sip. With local Oktoberfest celebrations being held now,  he gave the students some background on the harvest festival, originating in Germany in 1810, and told the students that they would sample some beer and food pairings customary at Oktoberfest celebrations around the world.

With home brewing books displayed on a table and  raw hops he’d grown in a greenhouse exhibited nearby, plus barley and other grains on display, Schiel talked about how brew masters dedicate themselves to maintaining the integrity of fine gold lager.

As the evening continued, students enjoyed Pilsner Urquell paired with a soft pretzel and spicy horseradish mustard; Samuel Adams Oktoberfest paired with spare ribs, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes and Sierra Nevada Porter paired with a dark berry tort glazed in dark chocolate. Schiel was thorough in helping the students enjoy how the beer tasted alone, and then how it changed when combined with certain flavors and spices.  Food for the night had been prepared by the Plainsman Grill for this specific class.

Schiel gave out a list of beers to look for in the fall that provide some great tasting opportunities, talked about which ones should be drank at what temperatures and gave overall instructions on how to best enjoy lager. Many beers he noted, should not be drank really cold as this has a negative impact on the flavor when it crosses the tongue.

Warren Sica, who attended the class, said he had learned quite a bit about beer and was especially intrigued by how much the right food pairing can do to enhance the flavor of the beverage. “When you mix these beers with the foods we’ve been given tonight, it totally changes the taste—really makes it much better,” Sica said. Most students agreed that the beers featured in the class were good choices to start with, but said they now look forward to enjoying them even more with the right kind of food for an even better experience.

Northeastern’s Extended Studies is offering a number of food-related classes this fall. Gerry Torres, a family studies (formerly home-economics) teacher at Sterling High School, regularly teaches classes for NJC. He will offer a Mexican Made Easy class on October 29th from 6 to 8 p.m.  Registration for this class closes on October 25th.  In all of these classes, students get to enjoy learning about making food and also eating food while learning. Watch for other classes related to food and beverage which will be coming up as we approach the holidays.