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The Blindfold Taste Test

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The official Beer Night blindfold, made by the legendary Jeremy W.


The Origins of the Beer Night Blindfold Taste Test

(or skip down to the Official Record)

In January of 1995, Jon B traveled to Belgium for a memorable four days driving around with a guy named Marino Verhenne in his exotic sportscar (a Pontiac Firebird, believe it or not; "exotic" is always relative) visiting one amazing brewery after another. Before it was all over, we had tasted 23 entirely different Belgian beers.

At one of the breweries — Brouwerij Bavik — the master brewer himself, Chris van Acker, gave the two of us a personal tour, then invited us into the tasting room and began opening one tap after another. And then he did something curious: he set three small glasses in front of me and asked if I'd like to try an experiment. He had me tie a handkerchief over my eyes before pouring different beers into the three glasses, but not three different beers — only two. (For those of you keeping score, they were Bavik's Tripel Petrus and Oud Bruin.)

The idea of this experiment, he said, was simply to pick which pair of glasses held the same beer, which one had its own. (You may remember this from Sesame Street, but I don't think they ever did it with fermented malt beverages.) Sometimes it can be pretty easy — but it's almost always harder than you expect. The basic task and the blindfold force you to pay attention to your senses of taste and smell, heightening your understanding and appreciation of what you're drinking.

Thus on 19 January 1995 was transmitted the technique that would one day become the Blindfold Taste Test. The Hamm's Goblet At each Beer Night we select at least one pair of tasters (usually one newbie, one veteran), set before them two beers in three glasses, and invite them to find the singleton, making interesting remarks along the way. We eschew language of "success " and "failure" for this test, though it's sometimes hard (<cough> Brad <cough>). Invariably the tasters have plenty to say about the beers — and that's really the whole point.

As far as any of us can remember, the Blindfold Taste Test has been a feature of Beer Night from the very beginning. Much to our chagrin, we've been recording participants and results only since Beer Night #13. (For the record, Andy D insists it be made known that during an earlier, unrecorded BTT, he successfully identified not only the style but even the brand of the beers — a triumph never yet equalled.) Beer Night #13 also marked the beginning of a Beer Night tradition: the awarding of the coveted Hamm's Goblet (pictured here) for an honorary quaff to the taster chosen by general acclaim for his remarks.

The Official Record

15 December 2001

#1 —
Abe Q, declared the inaugural winner of the Hamm's Goblet, and Jon B, who fails to identify the singleton (suspicious that there isn't one), finally getting a taste of his own medicine.
Beers: Anchor Porter & Bell's Porter
(Conducted by Andy D and Brad F.)

#2 —
Rob D and Brad F, both of whom find the singleton.
Beers: Bass Ale & Goose Island Blonde Ale

9 February 2002

#1 —
George H and Nick L, both of whom find the singleton.
Beers: Anchor Steam & Goose Island Honker's Ale

#2 —
Tasters: Robert H and Dave C, who actually compares the beers to a visit to Mammoth Cave — and thus wins the Hamm's Goblet. (Both find the singleton.)
Beers: Buckler (a BTT first: non-alc.) & Sam Adams Winter Lager

23 March 2002

#1 —
John P and Andy W, both of whom find the singleton. John wins the Hamm's Goblet for his nailing the hefeweizen style and for calling the cow "cheesy."
Beers: New Glarus Spotted Cow & Sam Adams Weiss

#2 —
Tasters: Joel B (who finds the singleton) and Jeremy W ("the taster with attitude," who doesn't care he's wrong about the singleton).
Beers: Anchor Steam & Sam Adams Boston Lager

20 April 2002

#1 —
Mike "Fritz" M and Greg H. Both find the singleton. Greg wins the Hamm's Goblet for unprecedented beer-flow (in a squeaker with Mike, another crowd favorite for his dismissing the Three Floyds' as a beer he "would never buy" — though in fact he had bought it this evening).
Beers: Bass Ale & Three Floyds' Pride and Joy Mild Ale

#2 —
Tasters: Dan H and Eric B. Both find the singleton, and Dan raises the bar for wine-tasting terminology.
Beers: Sam Adams Summer Ale & Blue Moon White Beer

22 June 2002

#1 —
Tasters: Derek H and Jon B. Neither finds the singleton. Jon notches an ignominous Hamm's Goblet win for clinging to the belief that Brad has foisted a non-alc beer on him. (He then compounds his shame by picking both beers that are not singletons.) Derek lies low.
Beers: Goose Island Summertime Ale & Bell's Oberon Ale

#2 —
Tasters: Dick R and Peter E. Neither finds the singleton — making an unprecedented total shut-out for the night. We apologize to them both for this being a harder pair than we intended.
Beers: Newcastle Brown Ale & Anchor Steam Beer

10 January 2004

#1 —
Tasters: Linc A and Brad F. Both find the singleton. Brad alienates Dick R by unrelentingly ripping on the beer he brought. Linc scores the Hamm's Goblet with his truly great comments, despite (or perhaps because of) his claim not to know anything about beer.
Beers: Peter's Brand Holland Pilsener & Modelo Especial

#2 —
Tasters: Max K and derek b. A challenging tasting, hosted by Brad F, and only derek finds the singleton. Great comments from both about lemons and "negative lingering."
Beers: Three Floyds' Alpha King & Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Beer Night #19 — 26 June 2004

No BTT was held, with just five in attendance.

Beer Night #20 — 22 October 2005

#1 —
Tasters: Eric Br and Max H. Max finds the singleton.
Beers: Moretti & Singha

#2 —
Tasters: Jim C and Andy D. Both find the singleton, and Jim C garners the Hamm's Goblet, in an impressive showing for a newbie.
Beers: Goose Island Black Toad Ale & Young's Double Chocolate Stout (?).

Beer Night #21 — 18 February 2006

#1 —
Tasters: Tony G and Henry L. Tony G finds the singleton and wins the Hamm's Goblet in an especially challenging head-to-head of beers that are visually indistinguishable.
Beers: North Coast Red Seal & Two Brothers Bitter End Pale Ale

#2 —
Tasters: Devin and Dave KY. Both find the singleton. Dave speculates that the darker tequila is lighter.
Beers <er> tequilas: Jose Cuervo Silver & Sauza Commemerativo.

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