23 Oct Beer Tasting as Incentive Solution
Beer is one of the most common product of the Western gastronomic culture. Spread throughout the world, especially in Europe, this drink has become an international icon, present in numerous occasions such as concerts, culinary events or simple parties among friends. Its production has long since acquired an industrial aspect, and for this beer often appears as a granted element, typically “modern” and suitable for every kitchen in the world. In truth, beer is one of the most ancient foods of history and its production is the result of millennia of trials, experiments and failures: in other words, an extraordinary cultural heritage, to defend and capitalize with an incredible incentive event.
Beer is a product obtained from the alcoholic fermentation of sugars coming from starch sources such as malted barley, wheat, corn or rise. As mentioned before, the history of this drink is extremely ancient, dating back to many thousands of years ago. According the archaeological data, the first glimmers of brewing already appeared in the VII millennium BC, but only the Egyptians and the Sumerians turned beer in a food product for daily use, sometime also employed as medicine as with mystical powers. After being imported in Europe by the Germanic and Celtic tribes, brewing knows a great development in the Middle Age, when the Christian monasteries adopted it as daily practice and source of income.
The painstaking work of these monks, carried on in constant manner for more than a millennium, has left us a procedure almost unchanged. The first phase is “mashing” and consists in soaking malt (or any other cereal) for three or four days, maintaining a constant temperature between 12°C and 15°C. In this phase, the enzymes presents in the cereal’s radicle begin to degrade the starch into simpler sugars (called “fermentable”). The product of this first phase is called “malt”, which is then aromatized using mostly hops, but sometime also fruits and aromatic herbs. The fermentation takes place when yeast is added to the mixture, with the production of alcohol, carbon dioxide and other waste products. The malt is then filtered and further treated to produce the final beer.
This is a very complex process and can be classified according to the traditions, the production details and the ingredients used. Each one of these elements influence a particular aspect of brewing. The malt cooking, for example, called “roasting”, determines the color of the product. If during this phase the temperature is kept low you get a beer with a light color or with a “pale malt”, otherwise a dark beer with a “dark malt”. The taste, instead, is determined by the addition to the mixture of cereals and addition of other additives.
In beer classification, one of the most important factors to take into consideration is represented by yeast. Basically, there are two main species of fungi used in brewing, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces carlsbergensis. The fist one is a very common yeast in the cereal stem and usually works at temperatures between 12°C and 15°C. During fermentation, it remains in suspension on the surface of the malt, which is why it is known “top fermentation”. Beers produced with this process are called “ale”. Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, instead, is mainly used in the South of Germany, where brewers ripened malt in low temperature conditions in the nearby alpine caves. This organism, in fact, works at lower temperatures, between 7°C and 13°C, and takes a little bit longer than species cerevisiae to act. Since during the procedure the yeast settles to the fermenter’s bottom, the process is called “bottom fermentation”. Beers so obtained are denominated “larger”.
There is also a third category called “limbic”, less known and produced only in the Southern Belgium. The fermentation is due to the action of the indigenous yeasts and is denominated “spontaneous” (spontaneous fermentation).
The complexity of this process offers many ideas for a very interesting incentive activity, to organize with different ways and times according to necessity. Our format might begin from the production sites, such as old breweries and ancient monasteries. The historical trait of these locations could represent an added value for the experience, to use for an eventual integration of a format from the series Art. The visit to the brewery could be guided by a brewer that explains all the production phases. The expert might teach the participants to make a beer, showing them the procedures to obtain the different colors or the different types of roasting and highlighting the problems created by the modern industrial brewing, increasingly oriented towards the use of additives and preservatives at the expense of quality. Guided by the teacher’s passion, the participants would become acquainted with the best ingredients, the characteristics of the modern facilities, the traditional production techniques and the substantial differences between these latter two. In this way, our experience would turn in a real journey in search of the genuine beer flavor.
A second phase of the format might be tasting. This could be organized with great flexibility: as a real lesson, to set up in a proper location, or as a short entertainment during lunches and business dinners. Beer tasting might be seen as a sensorial process involving all senses, with a procedure made by passages previously studied. In this phase the brewer explains the color analysis, the olfactory investigation and the taste/aftertaste evaluation, and underlines the importance that each one of these elements has in the final beer production.
The tasting could be divided into two sub-phases. The first would be a theoretical presentation, focused on some themes such as the main production areas, the principles of the sensorial analysis and the characteristics of some major brand. The second, instead, would be a real practical phase, with a short quiz to probe the preparation andthe taste of a wide range of beers. This sub-phase might be integrated with the taste of other dishes, including grilled meats, where the expert explains the main beer-food pairings.
The last phase of this total beer experience could be an applicative challenge, in which the participants, divided in teams, challenge each other to make the best beer. Each team could be organized as a little company, with different roles in different departments (such as research and development or quality control). The reconstruction of a company’s microenvironment could make a direct team building impact and add a substantial dose of effectiveness to the fun of this activity, as well as highlight important aspects such as competitiveness and team spirit.
The benefits of this format are multiple. First of all, stimulated by the interesting information given to the expert, the participants develop their concentration. Moreover, the intimacy of the experience leads them to develop empathy andlistening skills, strengthening the interpersonal bonds and thus the sense of belonging. Lastly, as already underlined, the format provides a substantial amount of flexibility. In fact, there would be no need to literally follow the procedure indicated so far, but we could organize just the single parts, suitably modified, in order to suit any kind of need and necessity.