Photo by Jennifer Maiser.
Fridays when I am in town, you will likely find me at The Jug Shop participating in beer tastings organized by Eric Cripe, Beer and Spirits Specialist and a certified cicerone (cicerones are the beer world's version wine sommeliers). Over the past couple years, I have been able to taste literally hundreds of different beers under Eric's guidance, many of them hard to find and specifically curated for these tastings.
When a friend and I stumbled upon the beer tastings at The Jug Shop in early 2010, we immediately noted the differences between these tastings and a typical wine tasting that is held at The Jug Shop tasting bar, which is located in the back of the popular liquor store. Where the wine tastings are quiet and small, the beer tastings are raucous and often crowded. Locals of all ages attend The Jug Shop tastings, and the group size can range from about 10 people to groups of more than 50, dependent on the theme. If an important sports game is playing, Eric will often have it playing in the background as he pours.
Eric Cripe leads the beer tastings. Photo courtesy of Joe, Beer at Joe's blog.
That's not to say that it's a drunken frat party. Underneath the fun atmosphere is a current of education. At The Jug Shop, I've been able to explore beers from all over the world and hone my taste buds to understand clearly what attributes I like and don't like in beers, and I've been able to do it at an affordable price. Eric is a master, and is able to answer nearly all of the (many, many) questions we often have. He is a true teacher who is happy to host aficionados of all levels without judgment or attitude.