Friday, May 2, 2008

The Session #15: How did you get into good beer?

The SessionI've been a reader of "The Session" across the blogosphere for several months now and felt compelled to participate in this month's effort. The Session is a collaborative effort by many beer bloggers and writers to share their ideas and experiences on a common topic. This month, the topic is "How did you get into good beer?" and is hosted for May 2008 by Boak and Bailey's blog. Each month a different web site acts as host. Here is how the original suggestion for this month's topic was described:

"Continuing the “Beervangelism” theme, we’d like you to write about 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?"

Dave's Journey Into Better Beer

My roots go back to southwestern Michigan. I grew up along the shore of Lake Michigan in the small town of Saint Joseph. It's virtually directly across the lake from Chicago and on a clear night you can see the glow of the Windy City from our beach.

My first experience with a beer came when I was just a lad of 12 or so. My family was getting together with relatives in South Bend, Indiana for a holiday get together. My uncle and my dad were enjoying a beer when I asked them about what they were drinking. My dad offered a sip to me. Both he and my uncle watched me as I had my first sip of a pale golden pilsner. I'm thinking they were looking for a strong reaction to it on my face. But me, being a 12-year old who wanted to grow up faster than I was, wanted to show them that I could handle a beer. I tasted a bitterness that I had never experienced before. I fought against acting strongly to this and simply came back with a "Hmm, this is pretty good". My dad and uncle both got a kick out of that and laughed knowing that I probably wanted to race to the kitchen to wash my mouth out with a Coke or 7-Up. Truth is, it really wasn't half bad but just not what I was expecting.

It wasn't until several years later in high school that I started drinking beer with friends. The legal drinking age at the time (mid-70s) was 18 and if you had a friend who was of age, you could get yourself some beer easily. In those days, the beer of choice was whatever your friends offered you. And more often than not it was Miller, Strohs, Old Style or Lowenbrau. At the time, we weren't aware of much else. Beer was beer and as long as it gave you a little buzz we were OK with it.

Labatt BlueSadly, my taste in beer really didn't change much until many years later when I was vacationing up in the Canadian Rockies. My brother, dad and I were backpacking around Banff in Alberta. We had just gotten off the trail from camping for a week and we were looking for some real food. We found a dusty old pub in Banff that served burgers and beer. The sign at the door said "Check your Knives with the Bartender". I looked over the selection of beers that the pub offered and noticed that they were all Canadian beers. I had never tried any of those before. I did notice that they did serve one American beer and promptly ordered that. Boy, did I get some looks from the locals in the bar.

A gruff looking local walked over to our table and slammed a beer down and said, "Here, you need to try some of this". It was a Labatt's Blue. I wasn't quite sure what to say so I just thanked him and tried it out. It tasted pretty good actually. I offered to buy him a beer in return and he gladly accepted. Now while Labatts isn't considered a craft beer in today's terms, it was the tipping point that got me to want to try other beers. I was a stick in the mud. I had been set in my ways and was simply complacent on my choice of beers. It took the offer from a stranger to try something new that got me to thinking.

Guinness StoutFlash forward several years later to the mid-80s. I had moved out to Colorado with my new wife and had settled in with a job and a house. I was still primarily a Coors and Budweiser drinker. I joined a bowling league with some co-workers and often had a beer during competition. One of my friends was drinking a very dark beer. I asked him what he was drinking and he told me it was a Guinness Stout. I had never tried a Guinness before let alone a dark beer and wanted to try some. He offered me a sip. My first reaction was not very good. It reminded me of coffee and it coated my tongue with a chalkiness that stuck to my mouth. I wasn't a coffee drinker and the dark malts turned me off. My friend suggested that I try mixing this beer with a lighter beer. So he ordered me a Black and Tan. I reluctantly accepted and tried it. Wow - what a difference! I liked this new taste. The mix was just enough to calm down the dark roastiness but still rich enough to give me a whole new experience. I was sold.

On another occasion, the very same friend had me try another beer. This was a homebrew that he had made himself. He called it a "clone" of an Odell 90 Shilling. I was very impressed that he made his own beer and that the beer was actually quite good. That inspired me to try homebrewing for myself.

Over the course of the next decade, I decided to try out more different kinds of beer. I quickly became a fan of porters and stouts and quickly learned to love them without mixing them with lighter colored beers. By the 90s, microbreweries were opening up all over the state of Colorado and I was eager to try them out. The New Belgium brewery offered up a Fat Tire amber ale and I really enjoyed that beer.

I play a lot of poker and have a regular home game that I participate in with 5 other guys. We've been playing poker together for well over 20 years now. Each time we get together we all bring our favorite beers. I tended to bring the darker beers to the game. My buddies were usually drinking Bud or Coors. I remember how that grizzly local in Banff, Alberta offered me a new beer and I've done the same with my friends. Since then, they too have become better beer drinkers.

Dave ButlerToday, I've really dove in deep to the beer pool and am trying every possible style I can get my hands on. It's only been over the last year that my love of beer has really taken off. I had been blogging about poker for several years and decided to add a beer blog back in October of 2007. I quickly found a wealth of other beer bloggers to share experiences with and it's been a nice ride ever since.

So help out a friend or even a stranger to get onto the road to better beer. Buy them one! If you never plant a seed, you'll never get anything to grow. If it wasn't for the boldness of a stranger, I'd probably still be drinking just Bud.

The origin of The Session came from Appellation Beer.

This article came from FermentedlyChallenged.com
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