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In Buzz

Malley, Dean of beer school, teaches his students the ins and outs -- and malts and hops -- of Belgian beer on last month's class at Comet Café.

In Buzz

Malley, left, and Lucks pour samples of Rodenbach Grand Cru for their students.

In Buzz

Lucks purchased Comet Café when it was a smoky coffee shop and helped renovate it to the neighborhood hangout spot it is today.

Beer school is in session at Comet Cafe

Once a month, a small group of Milwaukeeans get together to talk, laugh, drink beer and learn. Yep, learn. About beer. And what's the best way to learn about beer? Drink it. A lot of it.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Comet Café hosts "beer school," where for $15, 45 lucky people get to sample and learn about a handful of unique beers -- 10 beers, to be exact.

Adam Lucks, Comet's executive chef and co-owner, created Milwaukee's beer school with his childhood friend, Drew Malley. The Chicago natives first encountered beer school at Chicago's Map Room restaurant, where Malley tended bar.

"There was just something so great about their school," says Lucks. "And we decided it was something Milwaukee could use, and that we could make it more fun."

So far, they've been successful. With a core group of regulars and sold-out attendance at many classes, beer school has become something of an underground phenomenon.

Well ... kind of underground. Though class sizes are small, certain businesses in the area have gotten wind of the event -- like Lakefront Brewery, which has already volunteered to host a class. And Lakefront isn't alone; Three Floyds and Unibrew breweries also have hosted classes.

As "dean" of beer school, Malley has been around beer for a long time. He began as a beer buyer for Whole Foods before he was even 21.

"I was buying beer before I was even old enough to buy beer," he laughs. And he had a few other teachers along the way, including the Map Room and the actual "three Floyds" from Three Floyds. These days, he is largely self-taught. "I'll just take some beer home, look it up on the Internet and read about it while drinking," he says.

For each beer school, Malley chooses a theme. Students will learn all about Belgian beers in one class, or imperial stouts or IPAs (one of Lucks' personal favorites). Some classes even have sequels; "Belgian 101" was followed by "Advanced Belgian."

But it's more than just some local people drinking some beer. "Everybody gets to know everybody," says Lucks. "It's like one big group of friends. With one really talky friend with a microphone."

Now approaching its second birthday, beer school is about to get a little brother. After a successful trial run, Lucks and Malley are officially giving birth to Comet Café's "beer dinner" in February. Lucks and his sous chef will carefully prepare a five-course dinner -- French-inspired, he says -- and serve each course with a beer specially matched to the flavors of the food.

What's next for Comet Café? "It's hard to say," says Lucks. "We constantly like to come up with weird things that we think are funny. It's not about raking in money. We like to do things because they're fun, and if we break even, we consider it a success."


Talkbacks

KilgoreTrout | Dec. 4, 2007 at 10:10 a.m. (report)

lol, it's true, Z! I was at the last class, and all of the beers were between 7 and 10.5 percent alcohol. we were pretty toasty after 10 samples :D

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alba | Dec. 4, 2007 at 10:07 a.m. (report)

Are full-arm tattoos required to attend beer school, or just to teach at it?

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Z_boy | Dec. 4, 2007 at 9:40 a.m. (report)

Thanks for the excellent tip, dairyland. Sounds wonderful. I only wish they held their meetings closer to UWM -- Hales Corners is quite a trek, especially if I have a few sampled beers in my system. :-)

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dairyland | Dec. 4, 2007 at 8:44 a.m. (report)

This concept is nothing new to Milwaukee. The local beer enthusiast and homebrewer club, Beer Barons of Milwaukee (http://beerbarons.org), has been doing this since 1989!! The club meets in the hall at Clifford's Supper Club located at 10448 W. Forest Home Ave. in Hales Corners on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7:30pm. Some meetings may be moved due to holidays or other conflicts. A particular style of beer is usually featured each month, and a guest speaker from a brewery, distributor, importer, etc. typically discusses the style. The club and/or the guest speaker provided plenty of samples of that style for all to enjoy. All this is only $5 per meeting and $15 per year for membership! Guests are welcome for up to 3 visits before membership is required. Recent example attendance: October 2007 hosted 93 guests and November hosted 127 guests. The only limit to the size of the meetings is the hall capacity limit - which is quite large. The Beer Barons also put on the annual World of Beer Festival (http://www.beerbarons.org/events/wob/index.html) which features over 200 beers from over 70 breweries from all over the world.

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Z_boy | Dec. 4, 2007 at 7:24 a.m. (report)

This sounds like a lot of fun. Has anybody else been to one of these Tuesday "classes?"

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