How I learned to love craft beer
One of the main goals of this website is to spread the infection that is craft beer far and wide. Knowing that, I started to wonder how I came to love craft beer. When did it happen? How did it happen? What beers led me to love beer? What follows is my beer history (express edition). It’s kind of like a list of all my former girlfriends that I occasionally go back and visit. If you are looking to love craft beer or you want to convince your friends to love craft beer, this is one approach that might work. At least it worked for me.
My first beer love: New Belgium's Fat Tire
This is the beer that turned me out. Fat Tire is filled with malty goodness and subtle hops making it a perfect introduction to craft beer. Before Fat Tire I drank Coors and that was basically all I drank. Coors was the easy girl on the block: I didn’t love her I just knew she would get me to where I wanted to be. When someone suggested an IPA, and I first tried it, I thought it was awful. I just wasn’t ready. Then someone suggested Fat Tire and slowly the first cracks were made into the beer wall that Budweiser and Coors had erected around me. Fat Tire, she had so much more depth then the Coors I knew before her.
Into the depths of blackness: Guinness
The next beer to capture my heart was Guinness. Like so many others the whole idea of a stout was unappealing. I thought it too heavy. Who wants a meal in a glass? Oh, how silly I was! How did I finally give in? Well, I wanted to look cool. I wanted to be manly. How better to do both of these things then drink a jet-black beer called Guinness? In my attempt to be cool and drink cool drinks I discovered that I actually liked Guinness. Wait, this beer isn't heavy at all! Wait, this beer is quite refreshing! I wasn't sold right away, but after several pints I was converted to the black. Oh, sweet Guinness how I once loved thee.
Bring on the hops: Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Ah, the beer that jump-started my hop recovery program. After thinking for several years that hops were the worst part of beer, I finally had my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In retrospect I am not sure what it was about this Pale Ale that got through to me, but it quickly become one of my favorites. After a while I was hungering for more and more hops. Then, quite by surprise, I ran into Dogfish Head's 90 minute IPA. My wife and I had a gift certificate for a restaurant and I wanted to make sure we used the whole card so I randomly picked the most expensive beer on the menu. Dogfish Head. What in the world is a Dogfish Head? The beer was set down on the table and emptied into my pint. Honestly, this is a very vivid memory. I took my first sip without much thought. I didn't look at the beer. I didn't seek out its aroma. And then that tasty hoppy IPA hit my tongue. Looking over at my wife, I said, "holy, shit! That’s a good beer!" It stopped me in my tracks. The world of craft beers was much bigger and interesting than I had previously imagined.
Returning to lagers
After being so thoroughly converted to ales I was actually hesitant to return to the world of lagers. Yet there are so many great lagers in the world and I stuck my snobby beer nose up at them. Somehow I got stuck thinking that craft beer somehow meant hoppy ales. IPA = good. Pilsner = bad. I had overcorrected.
At a German restaurant I gave in and ordered a Paulaner Oktoberfest to go with my schnitzel. How could I have neglected such a great beer for so long? How could I forget about all these great German lagers? Oh yeah, there are great lagers made all over the world that I had been ignoring. Beer is beer and beer is good. An important lesson was learned: don’t get snobbish about beer or you will end up limiting yourself.
The crazy Belgian beers
One fine day a Belgium bar opened up not to far from our house and just when I thought I had tasted all the great beers of the world I discovered these crazy ladies. While I could go on and on about all the Belgian beers that I love I’ll just remark about two of them here. The first was the Duchesse de Bourgogne a Flemish sour ale. When I ordered this beer I had never heard of a sour ale before and wasn’t sure what it meant or what to expect. I was quite floored. I loved the sweetness and that sour bite at the end. The second was Rochefort Trappist Ale 12. This is still my favorite beer. Seriously, how does beer get to be this good?
Homebrew: the greatest love of them all
What? You can make beer at home? So I had heard. I had never seen it or tried it, but it was out there somewhere waiting for me. And then one day, for a Christmas gift, my first homebrew kit arrived. I was so excited opening each of the boxes. I couldn’t wait to brew and better yet drink my first beer. Ever since that day, the best beer is the beer made at home. My homebrew may not always be as good as the finely crafted beer from the pro brewer, but it’s my beer and I love it.
Be warned, craft beer leads to home brewing. It’s unavoidable. And now, I am completely beer obsessed.