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Every now and then we here at PorchDrinking will sit down for a little round table discussion to share our thoughts through our virtual porch. This week’s topic? Well since we’ve been going down memory lane with our fits of nostalgia, I figured it would be appropriate to take it back to the beginning and find out what beer or beers had that life altering impact on our perception on craft beer. This is what ensued. (For this first post I decided to include everyone’s response… future round tables will be a bit abbreviated)
Drew– Hazed & Infused pale ale – Boulder, CO. Though I’m one of the PD members who DOESN’T live in Colorado, I drove through there last year on a cross-country road trip from LA to Cincinnati with two of my best friends. Classic Porch Drinking environment – crashing with family in a college town, roaming around looking for a nice place to grab a beer and relax after a long day of driving. One of the Boulder dive bars carried only cheap domestics and obscure craft beers. I wasn’t in the mood for a Bud Light, so I just went with whatever label design was most eye-catching. My friend Tim and I each bought a Hazed & Infused – it was a sweet pale ale, it tasted good, and now that I’m no longer in Boulder I wish I could have it again. That’s one of the best parts of craft beers – they’re hidden gems, a rare break from the same old, same old.
Stu– Sam Adams Winter Lager
It took me quite a while to know, let alone appreciate or understand, the differences between beers. I never cared to buy anything more than random European imports (Stella Artois, Carlsberg, etc.) when I wasn’t too caught up in drinking the collegiate way. The first beer that made me stop and think what else could be out there was Sam Adams Winter Lager. Although I do not drink many Sam Adam’s these days, on occasion when a winter front blows through Denver, I don’t hesitate give the Winter Lager a go. It usually finds its way onto the seasonal menu in bars and restaurants across the U.S. Its well-spiced and full body flavor makes it ideal in the cold. And unlike other so-called winter lagers, it is neither too dense nor alcoholic to keep you stuck on the couch. So, an ode to craft brew’s patriarch, Samuel Adams, who can still put forth some real quality.
Hank U– When I became legally allowed to buy my own beer, I was already ready to go the craft route. I hadn’t had any traumatic experiences doing it the other way, but I hadn’t found anything that I really liked, either, so I thought I’d see what else was out there. Except I was in a smallish town in Tennessee at the time, and options were slim, even slimmer than they would be now, a few years down the line. Finally I found a six-pack of something from Dogfish Head in a grocery store I’d never been to. 60 Minute IPA, maybe? Anyway, it was good enough for me to keep my eyes open for other things like it.
Cody– I think it is unfair for me to answer this question. Growing up in Fort Collins, good craft beer was something we would always get for parties. Even in my pre-legal age of drinking I had older brothers telling me I knew better than to drink piss water. If this was a discussion about my transition from Canadian Mist to a real whisky or bourbon, that would be a longer story.
‘Cat– I have no idea. This wasn’t some sort of cosmic collismic event for me. I never liked run of the mill american beers–bud, miller, bush (GROSS). In college I went to London and was fond of the dark gold that came out of their pub taps. I never drank Guinness after I came back home because it didn’t taste the same. So I drank Becks Dark, Red Stripe, Stella, Hogarden. I’m from Cleveland so Great Lakes was a no brainier and I had a friend who went to school at Kalamazoo and he always brought back Bell’s Brewery on holidays. I’ve always liked Flying Dog for their inventive names and beautiful artwork/packaging. I guess all I can say is craft brews and I were meant to be. My dad always said I had a campaign taste on a beer budget…
Neil-You know in Beerfest when they first taste their own brilliant brew and they react like they’ve just had a little taste of heaven, like they’ve discovered, at long last, the nectar of the gods? I never had that. No. I had Beer 30. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Beer 30, it’s the cheapest beer you can by, it comes in a purple can, and there’s just a hint of grape flavoring… maybe. No one’s really sure since whenever you drink it you’re trying to get the nauseating flavor out of your mouth as quickly as possible for fear that if you don’t the taste is going to somehow etch its way into your tongue, ruining your palate for the rest of your miserable existence. Long story short, we subjected one poor soul to a blind taste test between this stuff and his beloved Bud Light. We offered him two small samples of beer and told him if he could pick which was the Bud Light he’d get a prize or something (I don’t know, we were drinking). He claimed to recognize the Bud Light sample immediately. Problem was we’d fooled him, both samples were the putrid concoction that is Beer 30, and Budweiser’s biggest fan couldn’t tell the difference. That was really the day I realized, if you want to drink something of a higher quality, you’re going to have to look around a little bit.
Kellyn– More than a beer that helped me transition to craft beers, it was a brewery. After visiting Capitol City Brewing Co. in downtown DC with a good friend, I fell in love with the atmosphere and the idea that we could get fresh, high-quality beer just hours after it’s been brewed in-house. For me, it’s about more than the ABV or amount of hops in a brew, it’s about the food pairing, the good company and the environment in which you experience it all.
Will– It was the Ska Brewing mix pack that did it for me. I remember a few days after I turned 21 my college buddies and I went to go play poker at a friends house and we need to get beer. I felt a little lost as I browsed. Up to that point, I had only had cheap tasteless beer and I had pretty much hated it. I came across the Ska Brewing mix pack. I had always loved punk/ska music growing up as a teenager. I finally knew what to buy. Buster Nut Brown, Pinstripe Red Ale, True Blonde, and Ten Pin Porter greeted my pallet and I never looked back. Moral of the story, it wasn’t a beer that got me into craft beer but, music that did the trick.
Vic– The beer that got me into craft beer was a sampler 6pk of Great Lake beers. Dortmunder Gold & Edmund Fitzgerald were the 2 beers out of that 6pk that really opened my eyes to beers outside of Bud, Miller, & Coors products.
Scott- My oldest brother always used to drink Amstel Light, so that was the first beer I gravitated towards. Partly because he always had it around, and partly because I wanted to emulate him. It’s not a great beer, but it’s leaps and bounds above what I had been drinking at the time, which consisted of Natty or terrible cheap wine. So I started seeking out similar beers. It took me a long time to work my way towards more complex beer, but Amstel was essentially my “gateway drug” of beers. And then Colorado happened, and my snobbery was born.
Drew– A few of you are naming Great Lakes beers. I’m from Ohio, too, but I’ve never been a huge fan. Maybe it’s a Cincinnati/Cleveland thing (Who Dey), but more likely it’s just because my first and only experience drinking Great Lakes was miserable. It was the Nosferatu Halloween ale. That stuff is heavy; I like ambers, but this stuff was crimson. And it was so bitter, I couldn’t even finish the beer. Please tell me that I’m missing out, and that the rest of Great Lakes is more palatable.
Cat– You’re missing out. 🙂 and I’m from Cleveland but I’m blasphemous, who dey!!
Chase- It’s slightly less irritating in an e-mail, but there’s really nothing more annoying than the “Who Dey” chant (“O-H…” “I-O” is a close second though). Anyways, if you’re still in the Midwest, Drew, you should get your hands on some Holy Moses from GLBC. It’ll provide a great reprieve from the stifling heat. (Resident Curmudgeonly Gramps)
Adam-In college, I’d always go to this one dive bar. The first time I went there, I saw they had Red Dog as well as a hundred or so craft brews. Since Red Dog had plagued my childhood, I decided to give it a shot. It was more of a conquer your fear/grow some chest hair situation that ever guy goes through. Bartender Tiffany looked at me when I ordered a Red Dog and told me that if I could choke down that beer, she’d buy me a real beer. So I drank the Red Dog (still hadn’t grown any chest hair), and she came back with an Edmund Fitzgerald (yes, I’m another Great Lake’s advocate). I fell in love. When I got home that night, I took my shirt off and a shag rug had replaced my smooth as a baby’s bottom chest.
Laura VZ– Being from Wisconsin, I first found actual flavor in beer while drinking Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss. Now, that flavor was somewhat reminiscent of Fruity Pebbles, but it was flavor. I found a beer that I didn’t need to take big swigs of in order to avoid tasting. From there, I explored other beer that had flavor like New Castle and Guinness. Then I started exploring beer actually made by craft breweries in Wisconsin. The obsession began…
Kevin– Much like Scott, my gateway to better beer started with my older brother- much like anyone else with an older brother, many of my initial “cool” tastes came from his punch-me-in-the-bicep laden tutelage. My high school collegiate training ground for beer drinking- much like Neil described- was full of cheap horrors and a vague understanding that Guinness wasn’t like the others.
It wasn’t until a formative trip to visit my brother in Seattle that I came to understand what else was out there to be imbibed. Still very much a beer novice, my first taste of the wider world was Stella Artois, a favorite of my brother and a old standby for me now, though I admit that the aroma has some beastly notes of skunk urine and high school locker room (though not nearly as bad as Pilsner Urquell). Though it now constitutes the cheap end of the spectrum of beers I drink, Stella will always bring me comfort and joy because of its long presence in my life and because without it (and my brother) I may have ended up just drinking gin and tonics my whole life and moving to the British Isles.
Caroline– I agree with Cody in that growing up in Colorado the craft beer was always the norm. I didn’t have a taste for beer until I came back from Ireland when I was seventeen. There is something to be said about that, I couldn’t choke down a Coors until I had had a few Guinness’ atop the pint at St. James Gate. But when I got back, a Beehive from Bristol Brewing company was our version of a Smirinoff Ice. When I went to my first party at Miami (at the Jewish frat no less) a brother handed me a Milwaukee’s Best and I was positive it had been poisoned in the can. Putting up with Natty at Miami was part of the culture, but it gave me the opportunity to tech my friends about craft beer who were from the Midwest. Oxford Spirits sold Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, and while it is not my favorite beer ever, it gave me nostalgia and comfort from CO. Finally moving back… probably forever…. craft beer has been a part of my post college experience. Going to breweries with my friends is in my top three pastimes, whether its with out of towners for their first time or the fact that I should probably be paying rent to the Avery Taproom. When it all boils down, craft beer is deeply integrated to my Colorado native pride as well as my deep love for my friends from all over