I had the opportunity to attend a new event last night hosted by Bellissimo at the American Barista and Coffee School. Called “A Taste of…” the evening brought together a few craftspeople from the Portland area to sample each others work and wares. Marcus Young of Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters was one of the principal organizers, and he explained the concept as a way to help everyone expand their palates and sensory experiences by learning how their compatriots in different (but similar) fields talked about and evaluated their own products.
In an arc around the room, there were tables set up with a sample coffee cupping, a whiskey tasting from a local distillery, samples of different style ciders, local beers from a craft brewery, and wine from a nearby vineyard. Yes, being in Portland, Oregon certainly has its advantages for finding participants, but I believe that most if not all of these type of artisans can be found in almost any city these days. And I encourage everyone to try to organize a simliar style of event. I have to say it was really a fascinating time.
Frankly, it was illuminating to talk with a brewer about selecting hops, sourcing malts, and about his love for his yeast. “We just provide the sugar water,” he said, “the yeast does all the work.” And the exchange went both, no more like all, ways. We often talk to non-coffee people about how we evaluate coffees, but speaking with craftspeople who are working with other agricultural products that they turn into beverages gave me some insight into the similarities that spread across multiple fields. The vinter, brewer, distiller, roaster and barista all face unique challenges, but I think establishing a common vocabulary and experience between them all is really a winning strategy. And let’s face it, a lot of fun, too.
There are already plans underway for the next installment of the series here in Portland, but again, I really think this is a model that would work anywhere you can find people who care about quality and craftsmanship. We can all teach each other a little something, and of course enjoy the delicious fruits of each other’s labor too!