I remember my first beer. It was mid-summer and I was about 12 years old. My friend grabbed a couple of bottles of Old Milwaukee when his father wasn’t looking, and we put them in the creek to chill. When we finally drank them, I found it wasn’t as cold or as tasty as I thought it would be.
Years later when I turned 18 it was legal for me to purchase and drink beer (they hadn’t raised the drinking age for beer to 21 yet). Having very little money, I bought and drank Red White and Blue, and Black Label because they were the cheapest beer I could get. I eventually got a real job and began earning a decent wage. This enabled me to move up to Miller Lite and Coors. At the time I was pretty happy.
Then sometime in my late 20’s I was sitting in a bar and a friend pushes a pint of what looked like coffee to me and says “Try this.”
Despite serious reservations I did try it, and something called Guinness changed what I thought of as beer forever.
This beer had flavor- not taste, but flavor! And the aroma! It was like nothing I had ever had. It made me wonder, what else I had been missing, and I began to look a little more closely at the taps behind the bar. I tried Killian’s, Yuengling, and a few others, and discovered a world of flavor I hadn’t known existed. I tried to drink Miller and Budweiser again, but couldn’t. I branched out into imports like Becks, Heineken, Harps, Stella, New Castle, and more! I had been living in darkness and had finally come into the light! There was color and texture in the world I had not known existed.
And then the craft beer revolution happened, and my head nearly exploded.
Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium, Deschutes, Stone, Loose Cannon, Steamship, Hardywood Park and, and so many more! Small mom and pop craft breweries opening everywhere. Microbreweries, Nano breweries, new flavors, new aromas, new styles, and even experimental beers like Oreo Cookie, peach cobbler, fried chicken, key lime pie, and bacon! If it can be imagined, for good or bad, a craft brewer will probably try and brew it.
Craft beer represents limitless creativity, imagination, and so many choices. Craft brewers are rediscovering hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of years of brewing tradition. Alewerks Brewing in Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to recreate 3 colonial beers from the 1700’s. Off Color Brewing in Chicago, working with the Field Museum of Natural History recreated beers of the Wari Empire in Peru from the 11th century. Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio revived a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer recipe!
Today, everywhere I go, when I’m asked what I would like to drink, I always ask, “What do you have that’s local?”.
I’m always looking for the best beer I’ve never had.