Earning our Badges… Ottakringer Beer Sommelier Course

by Will Stafford, Assistant Bar Manager, Charlie P’s

It was with slight anxiety that I headed for Day Two of the Beer Sommeliers Course at the Ottakringer Brauerei. A feeling that was understandable but, as it turns out, unwarranted. The course was carried out completely through German and, despite my German being ‘Verdammt gut für einen Englander’, nine hours of German was stretching my concentration abilities to the maximum. Day One had been a struggle. Day Two, I thought, would be impossible. Oh how wrong I was. 

IMG_1461

Instead of resuming in the conference room of the previous day, we were ushered to the Brauwerk brewery, the latest addition to the Ottakringer Brauerei. There, we found ourselves surrounded by fermentation tanks and were loaded with coffee. Theory, as before, would be given by Tobias Frank, Brewmaster and Chief of the Ottakringer brewery. Even with my limited understanding and occasional daydreaming, this man’s passion and enthusiasm was infectious. His tone lay somewhere between fanatical and childlike excitement, especially as he announced that today our guide would be Martin Simion, the Braumeister at Brauwerk and formly of 1516 and Fano Bryghus.
Martin began by announcing that today we would assist him in making the IPA. For those that do not know IPA or India Pale Ale, it is so called because it was traditionally brewed with a higher hop and alcohol content so it would last the sea voyage to the British Troops in India, with the intention that it would be watered down on arrival, which of course it wasn’t. The excitement was palpable in the room as the hop-heads in training exchanged excited looks.IMG_1465

They say that boys don’t grow up, their toys just get more expensive. We were led upstairs, Martin showed us his playground on the top floor: Mill, Tun, Kettle and Whirlpool. Not a bad place for an office, with a view looking out over Vienna. He then showed us his toys: oats, malts and hops and asked for volunteers to begin the process. The adults, or children as we had become, clamoured to assist, tearing open bags of oats and malts as instructed and pouring them into the Mill. To compare it to a memory of my childhood, it was like baking a cake with my mother. Her telling me what to pour and when, dipping my fingers in and tasting and smelling everything at every given opportunity. Then clinging onto the edge of the table or, in this case, peering into the mash kettle and lautering tun, watching on and waiting desperately for the end result.

IMG_1462

Martin talked us through the process, explaining to us as he worked, using the high tech, German touch-screen operated machines to get the mixer and mash tun started. With it all up and running, we milled around tasting different malts and peering through the glass of the tun. Unfortunately it was time for theory, that was interesting, but everybody would have preferred to literally sit and watch the water boil. However we were here to learn…