The A(i)les of Being a Craft Beer Lover in College
How about this scene: You swing open the back door to a house that leads into a dark basement. A cloud of body heat, and body sweat greets you at the door. Each step taken down the stairs (that surely don’t meet building code) enters you into another level of this nimbus dense, wet heat cluster. Finally on the basement floor you immediately identify the source—a hundred sweat dripping college kids standing shoulder-to-shoulder yelling to one another over the boom of the music. As thirteen dollar handles of vodka are being passed over your head you scale across the side of the basement to make your way around the crowd. There are solo cups filled with last weekend’s beer that were placed and forgotten on the shelves beside you. And is that something growing in the beer? Hard to see, but you can sure smell a festering sourness woft out of the cup. Buddy, that ain’t no lambic. Human traffic is backed up at an unchilled keg. Pour yourself a cup. Oh great, a nice head to this one. The whole cup is foam but it quickly dissipates into a lukewarm puddle. Take a gulp. Gotta’ love Natural Light. Then take a look over to the beer pong table. There’s a guy, ping-pong ball in one hand, snifter glass of Dogfish Head 90 Minute in the other. That’s me. I love craft beer and I’m in college. That guy is me.
A scene exaggerated a bit, sure, but the idea should be clear: It’s not always easy being deeply impassioned with great craft beer in the college scene. After moving away from Colorado to attend school in Boston I have found myself absorbed in two of the best regions for craft beer in the country. My passion for great beer has grown—I started homebrewing, blowing off chapters of economics theory in exchange for chapters on brewing history, and scouring Boston and Colorado for great beer bars and brewpubs. I try my best not to turn into a beer snob and to get along with all of the other college drinkers but after your first can of Dale’s Pale a can of Natty’ is, well…a can of Natty’. Here are some of the hardships of being a craft beer lover in college:
1) How am I supposed to homebrew in this? The ‘great indoor sport’ is more cleanliness and sanitation than anything else. You won’t make good homebrew consistently without extreme care for proper sanitation. My college house poses a significant barrier to brew in this regard—a dwelling of 12 guys all seemingly helpless when it comes to washing a dish or pan—the sinks are often clogged, the countertops house dishes that wait all to patiently to be cleaned, and there are crumbs everywhere. That would explain the ant infestation. Ok, so I’ll clean it all up, wipe it all down, sanitize, and I’m ready right? Wait, my housemate used my primary fermenter for a mop bucket….
2) My friends who just don’t care about craft… I’ll head to a sports bar to watch the game on TV with my friends and have a couple beers. “Hey look at that, the Stone Pale Ale is only fifty cents more than a Bud,” I’ll slyly comment. “I think we’re going to get a few Miller Lites actually,” one says, “Yeah, they have the vortex top,” another adds. I just sigh and drink my Stone, not wanting to act like a snob.
3) …and my friends who think they do. Its irking when another of my friends comes home with a six pack of Blue Moon or Shock Top and proclaims it the best beer he’s ever had. “Craft beer is just so much better,” they say. Yeah…craft beer is so much better. And I’ll just tip my cap to Coors and Busch for tricking the masses once again.
4) The financials. What shall I pair this Founder’s Breakfast Stout with? Ramen noodles with beef flavoring or chicken? It’s no secret college kids don’t have a great cash flow coming in and I’m no exception. Great craft beer usually doesn’t factor into college kids’ budgets. But here I am shifting a few dollars away from groceries so I can pick up a six-pack. Hey it has breakfast in the name doesn’t it?
5) Bastardizing Beer. The word ‘beer’ used in college discourse takes on a much more different meaning than ‘beer’ used around craft beer circles. For the former it is a straw colored liquid that gets drank in copious quantities every weekend. It’s valued as a means to an end—liquid courage, escaping stresses, a filler for my beer pong cup, to get drunk. It is Miller, Coors and Busch. There’s not a whole lot else going on with it, but its fun. So they drink and drink a lot. For the latter, and for myself, it is the end itself. A complex and fascinating beverage that brings joy at every sip. It can range from pale straw to inky black and everywhere in-between, with just as much a range of subtle flavors, aromas and consistencies. A drink rooted in history and culture, this stuff built pyramids and got us out of the great depression. It’s so many things I can’t even begin to discuss here. There’s something to this stuff and I just want all the party-hardy college kids to understand.
And yes, of course, its fun too…
Mirko Kruse was raised in Alamosa, Colorado before attending Boston College where he studies business and economics. Currently he is working for a legal consulting firm in Beacon Hill over the summer.