Friday, May 02, 2008
The Session #15: Can You See the Light?
The beer blogging world is holding another edition of The Session today. This time around Boak and Bailey, a London-based beer blog, is the host. The topic for the 15th edition of Beer Blogging Friday concerns "the moment when you saw the light. At what point did you realize you were a beer lover / geek / enthusiast? What beer(s) triggered the conversion? Did someone help you along your way, or did you come to it yourself? In short; how did you get into good beer?"
For me there is an obvious "first time," but there is also the more accurate answer, which is constantly. I'll cover both because they are equally important in the formation of my geekdom.
My initial realization that good beer was great came when I was 16 or 17 years old. Mind you, the drinking age back then was 18 years old, so while I was breaking the law, I was almost legal. Fridays or Saturdays back in 1977 often meant finding a place that would sell you a six pack to take to a friend's house where the parents were away for the weekend. There were ample domestic six packs available at $1.09 or $1.19 -- you could even find some on sale for just 99-cents. I remember thinking even back then that the bottles, labels, caps and six pack holder had to almost cost that much (not to mention shipping, slotting allowances and taxes). But what high school student was going to argue with low priced beer?
The result was a steady stream of Gibbon's, Genesee Cream Ale, Stegmeier, Narragansett, Hamm's, Schaefer, Pabst, Blatz, MeisterBrau, Schmidt's, Old Milwaukee, Piel's, Carling Black Label and Red White & Blue ending up jammed into coolers and refrigerators for the evening's festivities. Some of it tasted OK, but by today's standards I'd bet it was pretty bad. There were a few good domestic beers around, such as Matt's Premium and Koch's Black Horse Ale, but they were usually selling for $1.39. The light for me got turned on one weekend when I must have been flush with cash. I decided to spend $3.79 for a six pack of St. Pauli Girl from Germany. My friends thought I was nuts, but once I tasted what was inside I never looked at beer the same again.
I know what you're thinking. St. Pauli Girl changed everything? Yup, remember this was the late 1970s and in Upstate New York -- and the rest of America for that matter -- there were no beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. In fact, at the time American brewers appeared to be in a race to see who could use the least amount of barley and the fewest hops. Thankfully, we've come a long way.
Fast forward 30+ years and I still experience beer epiphanies. They are not as surprising as that first taste of St. Pauli Girl, but they are no less exciting. I'm talking about getting a taste of Samuel Adams Utopius, Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter, Westmalle Tripel, Great Divide Yeti, Foothills Sexual Chocolate, Avery Hog Heaven, New Holland Mad Hatter, Cottonwood Endo IPA, Rogue Hop Heaven, Deschutes Cinder Cone Red or Orval.
These are beers that grab my taste buds and remind me that beer can still be a new experience. Thanks to my writing, I get exposed to more of these beers than most people. It would be easy to become jaded, but the sense of discovery that these beers bring keeps that from happening.
I can still see the light, only now it is often amber colored and has a hoppy aroma.