Ladies-Only Beer Classes on Tap at New Astoria Brewery

By Jeanmarie Evelly on February 11, 2013 6:55am 

ASTORIA — Don't expect any spritzers or fruity cocktails at this ladies' night out.

New Queens brewery SingleCut Beersmiths is hosting a series of women-only beer classes for gals who want to learn the ins and outs of brewing, and how to tell the difference between an ale and a lager.

The beer info sessions are led by Trista Harnisch, a homebrewer and beer connoisseur who heads up sales at the brewery, where she’s affectionately dubbed the “Queen of Kegs.

"I've always just been interested in teaching girls about beer," she said. "Often there’s that stigma of, 'Oh, girls don’t like beer. Girls don’t really like to drink beer. Just give them something light, like a hard lemonade.'"

Harnisch's classes cover the basics of beer ingredients and the brewing process — which includes a tour of the SingleCut brew room — as well as the finer points of beer taste and style, like alcohol content and the difference between hoppy and malty.

The classes started this month and will run every other Wednesday through April at SingleCut's taproom, at 19-33 37th St.

About 10 women attended the brewery's second workshop earlier this month. Among them was Meredith Berrett, an Astoria resident who said she's the lone beer lover in a group of wine-drinking girlfriends.

"I always preferred beer over wine," she said, though she doesn't consider herself a beer expert. "I know a bit, but not a lot."

For the next class on Feb. 20, the group will take a field trip to a craft beer event at Idle Hands in the East Village, where they'll get a lesson on bar etiquette.

With so many bars now offering an extensive craft beer menu, ordering the right brew can be complicated, Harnisch says, and both men and women can fall prey to common misconceptions such as associating the alcohol content with the color of the beer.

"Some people will say, 'I don’t like dark beer,' but you can’t really say that," she said. "There’s more to it, because dark beer isn’t just one beer — it’s a whole different style."

SingleCut's own Billy Full Stack, for example, is one of the brewery's lighter looking beers, but it's actually a double IPA packed with 8.6 percent alcohol by volume.

"It's a powerful beer," Harnisch said. "Just because something’s light in color doesn’t necessarily mean it’s light-tasting or light-drinking."

A native Texan, Harnisch said she didn’t give much thought to beer quality when she was younger, and spent her college years drinking cheap brews. But then she sipped her first Chimay at a Belgian pub in Dallas and got hooked on the craft beer lifestyle.

“That was the one that did it for me,” she said.

Last spring she started a blog called Pint of Reference, with the aim of chronicling her own beer explorations and encouraging more women to strike an interest in brews.

It's tagline? "Beer isn’t just for boys."

Jenny Lando sat in on the class earlier this month, and said SingleCut has been integral to building her beer knowledge. She was always a beer fan, but she became a regular at the brewery after a beer-savvy friend brought her there when it first opened its doors two months ago.

"Everyone here has been so open to wanting to teach people," she said. "Everything I know about beer is what I've learned here."

The sessions are $25, and the price gets reduced with each class. For more information or to register for a class, e-mail Trista Harnisch at trista@singlecutbeer.com.

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