Rustico’s Beer Academy

courtesy of Hans Bruesch

Remember that class you took in college where after fifteen minutes or so you realized that the professor had forgotten more about the subject at hand than you could ever hope to learn? This past Saturday, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Beer Director, Greg Engert, did his best professor impression (complete with button-down sweater) and reminded the participants in the inaugural Beer Academy class just how little they really knew about beer. Add in six absolutely delicious beers and even the frigid weather and coating of ice couldn’t keep the class from being a huge success.

I used to think I knew a lot about beer. After two hours of listening to Greg school the assembled crowd that packed Rustico’s back room on the intricacies of beer, brewing, and the associated geopolitical and regional complexities, I realized that I had only begun to scratch the surface on the knowledge of beer.

According to Greg, he had been wanting to do such a class since 2006, but had been limited by space constraints at his various restaurants, until the Arlington Rustico opened in 2010. The curriculum follows the same one that Greg uses for his well-versed bartenders and servers at NRG’s restaurants.

courtesy of Hans Bruesch

The initial class covered the basics of beer and the six main flavor profiles of the beer that Greg serves: tart and funky, smoke, fruit and spice, hop, roast, and crisp. Participants were able to sip on a (healthy) sample of one beer from each flavor while the class was taking place, resulting in a good mixing of education and imbibing. While this initial class was more of an general beer overview, future classes promise to focus more on specific types of beer (see schedule below).

In general, the beer academy was a great way to spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon. There were a couple of faults with the class, but they were more technical than anything else. The class takes place in a restaurant, not an actual classroom, so things were a bit noisy, but Greg did assure us that the restaurant would have a PA and microphone in place in time for the next class, which should help assuage the noise situation.

Additionally, while the amount of beer wasn’t particularly large, some of the beers were higher alcohol, and there was no food available. Even some pretzels or nuts would have been nice to clear the palate and cut down the buzz a little bit.

Overall, however, the class was informative, humorous, and, at $24 a session, an absolutely fantastic value. Whether you know nothing about beer or everything, Rustico’s year long Beer Academy will surely be a hit with area beer aficionados.

courtesy of Hans Bruesch

Scheduled Classes:
Jan 21 & 28 (BOTH SOLD OUT) – Craft Beer Flavor Spectrum
Feb 11 & 18 (18th SOLD OUT) – Farmhouse Ales
March 17 & 24 (17th SOLD OUT) – Local Brewing & Sourcing
April 14 & 21 (14th SOLD OUT) – Sour Ales: The Old & New
May 12: Real Ale: A Cask Ale Primer
June 9: Barrel-Aged Beers
Rest of the year TBD.

Beer Academy classes are $24 per person, with reduced pricing offered for packages of 3, 6 or 12 classes. All classes include tasters of at least six beers and are held at Rustico at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Arlington from 1 to 3 p.m. Call 571-384-1820 to reserve.

Addison is a fourth generation Washingtonian, actually born and raised within city limits of DC. He currently resides in Arlington and works in DC as a government lackey. Addison can be reached at addison (at)

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