February 18th, 2009
If you want to know what’s going on in this town beer-wise, let me introduce you to Kris Butler. First, she’s a certified beer judge, with several homebrew and commercial beer competitions on her resumÃ©, including the Samuel Adams LongShot homebrew contest. Second, she’s the president of the Boston Wort Processors, a homebrew club that turns 25 this year (she’s the second woman to hold that post). And third, she publishes Boston Beer News, a monthly e-newsletter with a hand-picked listing of the best beer events around town (like this Thursday night’s Extreme Beer Fest Pre-party at the People’s Republik), plus product recommendations and fun facts. Want to get her newsletter? Email kris.butler at hklaw dot com.
“A ‘certified beer judge’ — says who?” you might ask. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), a nationwide organization established in 1985, bestows the title on anyone who passes its rigorous exam, which Butler, who works for a law firm, once declared was “harder than the bar exam.”
Speaking of which, the BJCP is roughly to beer appreciation what the BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program is to mixology. Here’s a sample exam question from the former: “Identify three top-fermenting beer styles where the minimum original gravity is 1.070 or higher. For each style provide a statement describing the style as well as the differences and similarities between the styles by addressing the following topics …” You got it — this test ain’t for sissies.
Butler proudly points out that the original BJCP Style Guidelines — a bible of sorts on the world’s major beer styles — came from New England homebrewers during the rise of craft beer.
Recently, I asked Butler to name two or three beers that have knocked her socks off lately, and also whether she had any guilty-pleasure beers.
She said, “My favorite brewer is Jerome Rebetez of BFM [Brasserie des Franche Montagnes] in Switzerland. His background is wine, and his barrel-aging experiments are stunning, especially L’Abbaye de St. Bon Chien, named after a beloved cat in the brewery. I’ve lately been delighted by the craft beer coming out of Italy and France, too, Thiriez being one of my favorites — funky, hoppy farmhouse-style brew. Yum! Locally, Megan Parisi’s CaCow stout is my latest worth-a-trip beer [Parisi brews her stout at the Cambridge Brewing Co.].
“My confession (‘pleasure’ would be a stretch) is, on a really hot day when I want a glass of water and a buzz (not a beer), I’ll have a Miller Lite.”
Butler is a passionate proselytizer of craft beer. With her knowledge, she can out-do the geekiest of beer geeks, yet she doesn’t come across as one. She just believes everyone would love beer if only they’d discover the good stuff.
“To me, tasting a fine craft beer is a true sensory awakening. When someone says they don’t like beer, I know they haven’t tasted anything beyond the ubiquitous, well-marketed, watery Bud/Miller/Coors/Heineken/Stella lager. It’s like saying you don’t like cheese when all you’ve had is the wrapped American processed slices. And I think, ‘How sad!’”