Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Beer Journey: Where do I begin?

Where do I begin to tell of my journeys through many years of better beer drinking?

I certainly should not start with Miller High Life, Keystone, Molson, Moosehead, Busch, or Schmidt's in my later high school or college years. Or, maybe I should. It would demonstrate how far I've come (seriously, haven't we all come a long way?!)

But, later in my college years, round about 1991/1992 I discovered a wonderful brewpub in Center City Philadelphia named Dock Street. It is thanks to Dock Street and the better beer revolution that they were part of in Philadelphia that has led me to where I am today with my beer appreciation.

It was Adam's question the other day of "What is it about beer?" that got me to thinking about the 15 years and the many good (and sometimes not so good) beers that I have enjoyed. As I mentioned earlier this week, Boston Beer Works also contributed to my early years of dabbling in good beer. Some decent craft beer would wander into our off-campus housing, to the strange looks of my roommates. But, more often than not, they were willing participants!

The mid-1990s were consumed (literally!) by a lot of Guinness, John Courage, Bass, Harp, Dock Street, Red Bell, Samuel Adams, and Saranac. In other words, certainly better than average beers, but still sticking to the mostly formulaic ale and lager styles that the world was ready for at that time.

In the latter half of the 1990s, I started discovering the real craft beer scene. Victory Brewing opened in the Philadelphia suburbs and it did not take long to fall in love with their Hop Devil. By 1998, 1999, 2000 I was completely hooked on anything different than the mainstream. To me, the mainstream began to include anything widely available like Guinness, Harp, and Bass (just as a few examples). The harder it was to find and the more different/interesting the taste, the more I wanted it. I became, of sorts, a beer least in the Philly area.

Helping to fuel this obsession was our friend Mark, a homebrewer. His nut brown ale, schwarzbier, and grand cru are excellent brews that go down all too easily and demonstrate wonderful flavors and aromas that you look for in craft beer. After he moved away to Madison, another new friend, Adam, came onto the scene when we moved into the house behind his. He is also, as you know, a homebrewer and helps me to appreciate even more greatly the wonder behind what goes into making beer. He may even make a homebrewer out of me soon!

Now, the next phase appears to be taking a hold of me. As you have read in previous posts from us, we are evermore fascinated with sour/tart beers, especially those originating from the Flanders region of Belgium. American breweries are also now starting to dabble in them. A perfect experience of our newfound fascination was the Monk's dinner that we attended in January of 2006, featuring Russian River and Port Brewing (aka Lost Abbey).

Today, I suppose you could call me a bit of a beer traveler. In other words, just as I've planned trips around family, relaxation, or baseball, I now include breweries, beer bars, and brewpubs in my travel itineraries. Each region and location has beer styles and personalities that can be considered unique to their respective areas. This can certainly add a very nice layer to traveling, don't you think? After all, we do have to eat and drink, yes?!

So, as any of you who have followed a similar path as mine know very well, the world of craft beer is long and interesting and everchanging (mostly for the better). You can't expect to comprehend and appreciate it all at once. Beer is 4 main ingredients, but beer is also more than just 4 main ingredients. What do I mean by this? Check back again later to The Brew Lounge for more of my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Your journey sounds an awful lot like mine. I just don't seem to be able to get into most Belgian styles; English styles are more my speed.

With a couple of kids, beer doesn't really factor into travel plans, but a couple of liquor stores near me have pretty good craft brew selections. When I go, I try to pick up a six-pack of something I know I like, and another of something I haven't tried yet.

Adam said...

Do you have any brew pubs near you or where you travel? I've been to Stoudt's, McKenzies and John Harvards to name a few. The family enjoyed the food and I enjoyed a couple good brews.

Jeremy said...

I was in AC this weekend and paid a visit to the Firewaters in the Tropicana. The selection of draft and bottled beer was excellent and was therefore taking me a while to choose a beer. The bar tender made several trips over to ask if I had decided... and I asked him if they had anything special that was not on the menu. To make a long story short... they had Dogfish Head's 120 minute IPA on DRAFT!!! It was $8.00 and they served it in a 16 Oz. Pint glass. It made my weekend :-)

Anonymous said...

There are two brewpubs within 30 minutes of me. If I expand that to an hour, there's about five, although I haven't made it to them all yet.

Brewer's Alley I really rather like.

Bryan Kolesar said...

I've heard good things about Brewer's from you too. Gotta put it on my list for the next time going between Philly and D.C. Especially, a nice add-on after DFH in Gaithersburg.

Or maybe when my wife visits here alma mater at Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg.

Thanks for the good word on Brewer's Alley!