Variety is the spice of life and so if you are a lover of all things beer, then sampling new brews from all over the world should be right up your alley. The craft beer scene and beer tastings are becoming ever more popular in Vorarlberg, and over the Christmas break I caught up with newbie on the block, Beerstream, to chat with owner Oliver Hinderegger about his beer tasting venture.
Before founding and launching Beerstream in 2017, Oli was a Computer Scientist by day and avid beer lover at all other times and he decided to take his passion to the next level. After completing a large IT project in 2016, Oli explained that the time was right for him to complete his Beer Sommelier course at Mohren and Egger; I wanted to acquire more knowledge about beer in general, the different beer styles, the possibilities beer offers for food and cooking, and the beer brewing process. This course was ideal to cover the topic completely.
Oli is also an avid traveler and the huge variety of beers that are available all over the world that you simply cannot get here in Vorarlberg intrigued him and he began asking himself why; We have wine menus with wines from all corners of the earth and so why is it not the same for beer? When asking for a glass of wine, the waiter or barman will always ask you which kind, and so why should the selection of beer be any different?
When setting up a beer tasting for your guests, how do you decide which will make it onto the menu?
My intention is to present special beers and to introduce their variety to my guests. I am always on the lookout for new beers to offer and I keep an eye on the current trends. Most people leave the beer selection completely up to me. However, I want to make the tastings as individual as possible and I work with the guests to find out what they may enjoy. Tastings for example can be made up of only bio beers, beers only from a certain country, or no more than 300-400 km away from Vorarlberg. You do not have to travel far to sample completely different beers. The choice is entirely up to the guests.
The order in which beers are presented is also considered and can be based on a few things; the alcohol content is obviously important (least to most), any sweet beers come at the end and any incredibly different beers with a special taste will also go towards the end (i.e sour beers or smoked beer, served normally with local smoked meats). People can always ask to try any of the beers again at the end.
What are guests to expect when they come to a tasting with you?
Each tasting lasts between 2.5 to 3 hours and normally they will try between 4 and 8 beers. Each beer is roughly 0.2l and the alcohol content can get up to double figures. For the tasting I make up a beer menu with a full description of each beer, including what foods, especially regional specialities, go well with them. They will also get to sample a range of these specialties including spreads, cheeses and sweet treats, such as chocolate cake. They should also expect a lot of interesting facts about beer in general and of course the specific beers.
Palette cleansers are an important aspect of the tastings and for this I use water and bread, but never with butter as this lingers on the tongue and affects the taste of the beer. I also do not advise that during the tastings the guests smoke, as this can also affect the taste.
Do you have a network of breweries that you work with?
Not really, I work with a few importers directly but not directly with the breweries themselves, only a few within Austria. When I make a tour of the country to try new beers I tend to bring some back with me. I will be establishing more connections with brewers and breweries directly, especially for beer which is not yet available in Austria. In some breweries, unfortunately it is difficult to import and have certain beers on the menu as they are produced to be drunk within a few weeks. When importing there is also the question of how much, as there is generally a minimum amount, but I am not a bottle shop and I must consider how much will be used in tastings, as well as balancing having a bit extra in stock for people to be able to buy the beers that they enjoy.
Do you have a favourite beer?
I do not have a beer that I would drink everyday, it is very dependent on the season and weather, or the food that I am eating. In Winter I normally drink a stronger beer and in summer a much lighter, fresher beer with perhaps only 3.5%. I really enjoy cooking Mexican food, and I’ll pair this with a spicier or fruitier beer and with Chinese food, ginger or chilli beer goes really well.
Based on the beers available in the world, where would be your favourite place to live?
USA would be my clear favorite. There are differently interpreted beer styles from coast to coast. During my many trips there I have had the opportunity to visit a variety of breweries and sample lots of interesting and delicious beers.
Tastings with Oli can be organised pretty much whenever you want. He has space for ten people at his Bregenz location, but he is more than happy to come to your house if you want to experience a tasting in the comfort of your own home.
Oli also makes up beer gift baskets, which are tailor made for the individual with a selection of different beers to suit their tastes. Everything in the basket is made from recycled materials, and can be used again.
So whether you are looking for something different to do with your mates or looking for a gift for a lover of beer, check out the Beerstream website and get in touch in with Oli, and he will be happy to welcome you into his wonderful world of beer.
Oli is also off on another USA trip in the next few weeks and so keep up to date with his travels on his website or check out his Facebook site which is coming soon.