Nailing a blind tasting, sort of

CHRISTINA KNOTT/Watertown Daily TimesDennis O’Brien tries to guess what beers he’s tasting at Skewed Brewing, Salmon Run Mall, Watertown. The flight was chosen by his wife, Christina Knott.

So I’ve never understood the whole SPOILERS (all caps intentional) thing.

Last week, I shared a story about “Game of Thrones” on social media … interesting story about the what a letdown the climactic (REDACTED) scene was in the much-dissected Season 8 episode “The Long Night.” Well I woke the next day to at least three private messages, including one from all the way out in Manchester (not the domestic one) telling me I was a jerk for spoiling a major plot line.

Guilty as charged, and I kind of didn’t think twice about it. I love a good twist and turn as much as anyone. One of my all-time favorite films is Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” where the main character famously gets killed halfway through the film, turning the whole story on its ear — a secret so important to the film that Hitchcock’s whole ad campaign hinged on telling people to keep the secret if they’ve seen it.

So I get the desire for spontanaity in your filmgoing experience.

But I’m also too curious for my own good. I can live with the second viewing (the one where you watch for HOW the film fools you or sets up its surprises) as the first.

So it’s not very unusual that when I took my wife Christina out on a rare night without the kids to see Jordan Peele’s “Us” at the Salmon Run Mall, I already knew the film’s much talked-about ending.

Christina seemed a bit surprised that I was so uncautious, since I viewed the film as something a bit weightier than, say, No. 5,560 in a comic book film series. But I was interested in the film, and there was a piece on The Ringer about it that I couldn’t help but click on.

I told Christina I’d tell her the ending if she wanted to know.

“No!” she said, throwing her hands up in the car. “I don’t want to know. I want to actually watch the movie.”

Which is fine. But as we talked about it, I got the sense that she was either annoyed by my “Meh, it’s fine,” defense or disappointed that I wouldn’t have some big, gut-punch moment with the film.

So as we sat at a table outside (inside? outside? I’m not sure how you describe seating just outside of a shop inside the mall) Skewed Brewing, pregaming the film with a few beers, she decided she needed to throw me a curve ball.

“I’m going to order us a flight to share, but only I know what the beers are. You have to guess.”

So when you get to Skewed, they have a pretty thorough draft list of both in-house and guest taps, but you have the list. And even though I wasn’t terribly familiar with most of it, all I had to do was skim the list and try to match what I was tasting to the menu.

I told her this was going to be easy.

“Well then let’s do it.”

So she ordered drinks, along with a pretty decent spicy tofu appetizer that stoked my need for refreshment. We talked about the kids, our 4- and 2-year-olds whom we both missed because we’re dorks. Although it was nice hearing someone’s kid yelling at the other end of the mall and not having to worry that it was one of ours.

Finally ... I don’t know if it was busy that night or if we just picked the worst time because it wasn’t fast. The first beer felt really fresh and crisp in the front, which is why I was pretty surprised when it had this really floral nose and a really dank, hoppy finish.

“I don’t think you’ll get this,” Christina said.

Scanning the list, it was really obvious.

No. 4: Thin Man’s Hoppy Pils (4.7 percent alcohol by volume), out of Buffalo, which is exactly that, a hoppy pilsner. I hit this pretty much right on the head, and it was a pretty terrific beer. Really refreshing and a pretty good start.

Christina’s next choice was a mistake.

We’d been to Skewed a few times before. Not often, because we usually have the kids and it’s usually pretty busy. But one of the few I definitely remembered having was ...

No. 7: Skewed Dovillio (5.7 percent ABV), the in-house sour ale.

This was a pretty fortunate stroke for me because I’d been doing a pretty deep dive on sours (this was before I blamed them for every single Yankee getting hurt in April), and I remembered this one because it was pretty damn good. What I remembered and liked about this kettle sour is the notes of pear. There was lemon zest there, too, to give it kind of a kick in the finish, but the pear was a really unique flavor for a sour ... kind of sweet just a little bit in the front. It’s my favorite beer they make at Skewed, so it was an easy 2-for-2.

Christina liked the Dovillio, too. She’s been getting a little bit into sours lately (either my influence or the fact that when I’m the one who stocks the fridge, it’s either that or stuff too hoppy for her taste.

“I’m going to get all of these,” I said as she drank the rest of the Dovillio.

“Fine, but keep going. And call the waiter over for the check. The movie ... ”

The next beer was a neat change of pace. Kind of a ruddy complexion and a nice malty nose. It was kind of malty, kind of yeasty. I was kind of lost, My guess was the Gun Hill Rise Up Rye, out of the Bronx.

Christina shook her head.


On a second guess, I got it right, mostly because of how red it was.

No. 18: Middle Ages Tipperary Red (5.2 percent ABV), a traditional Irish Red out of Syracuse.

I liked this beer, although it would wind up being my least favorite that night. Nothing fancy, Just some malty goodness, unafraid to shame me for ignoring my heritage by not drinking enough Irish reds.

“You should have gotten that,” Christina said.

“I know!” I said. Ugh. “Maybe I’m drunk.”

“We’ve split two 5-ounce drafts.”

I rallied on the next one, which was an easy enough call as there were only a few sours on the list.

No. 19: Skewed Wild Child (7.2 percent ABV), the house Wild American Ale. Kind of bready, but with kind of tart, grapey notes. I hadn’t had this one before, but I could see what she was doing. The thing about being married to one of your editors is she can kind of shove you in the right direction for a story.

I’d told her I was thinking about writing about sours pretty soon, because I didn’t know enough about them and I literally just hadn’t tried enough of them and thought it was a good excuse to buy new beer, drink new beer and pat myself on the back for drinking professionally.

So on a rare night out alone, she tricked me into this game just to make sure I tried both sours.

At least I think that’s what it was.

The movie turned out to be pretty great, actually. There were a few surprises, even if I knew the broad strokes of the ending. And by the time we picked the kids up, they were fast asleep and we drove home talking about the movie and about my imagined prowess at picking beers in a blind taste test.

“Are you going to write about this?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I said. But I’m probably going to make myself look good, even if I have to make some of it up.”

“Just remember you didn’t get them all.”

Dennis O’Brien’s column runs on the second Tuesday of every month. Follow him on Twitter at @DennisJOBrien and on untappd at or email him at

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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