Friday, May 2, 2008

The Session #15: How did it all start for you?

The blogging duo of Boak and Bailey is hosting this month's round of The Session. The London-based writers ask the question "How did it all start for you?
Continuing the “Beervangelism” theme, we’d like you to write about the moment when you saw the light. At what point did you realise 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?

In short; how did you get into good beer?
That's a question I'm asked pretty often when folks find out I enjoy craft beer. I have given it a fair amount of thought but still, the start is nebulous. Colleen and I have been drinking better beer for quite some time. See, the thing is, we didn't know there was such a thing as "craft beer." Some beers we just liked better than others. Didn't everyone? I wasn't so much disgusted by the big factory beers, as much as I liked other beers better. (I'm not saying our early choices were excellent beers, just better.)

Yes, I used to be a big Budweiser drinker. I could walk in to my local watering hole and the ice-cold bottle would be open and on the bar before I got to my seat. ("Glass? I don't need no stinkin' glass.") On thinking back, I absolutely hated warm beer, it had to be very cold. Of course today I know why my beer was so undrinkable if it wasn't ice-cold. One of the first other beers I can recall drinking regularly was Pete's Wicked Ale. This "dark" beer, what I now know was a Brown Ale, offered more flavor than I was used to from my macro-choice, and I liked that. We bought a lot of Pete's back then. I can recall the day I stopped in the beer aisle while we were grocery shopping and found no Pete's in stock. We looked for something else and eventually selected Redhook Nut Brown Ale. Soon we couldn't find our latest favorite beer as it was apparently a seasonal (Spring) release.

The first major hint we had that there was even more to be discovered was when we wandered into a local beer & wine store in search of the aforementioned Redhook Nut Brown Ale. Not finding it, we somehow settled on John Courage Amber, an English Pale Ale, or perhaps it was an ESB. I recall thinking how expensive this beer was compared to the other beers we had been trying. Now this was something different. It had a nice bitterness and it was imported. Recently I went looking for John Courage Amber. I wanted to see if I still thought it was so good but have been unable to find it. I believe that Courage Brewing was swallowed by Scottish & Newcastle, and in turn the Courage line was later acquired by the Wells & Young’s Brewing Company, and indications are that this beer is no longer being produced, or at least exported to the U.S.

For years we'd randomly try other beers in addition to those highlighted above, often choosing the usual "craft" suspects one could find at the grocery stores; Shiner Bock, Bass Ale, St. Pauli Girl, Foster's, all come to mind. Then I was introduced to the Blue & Gray Brewery here in Fredericksburg. That was, I think, my first "fresh" beer. The light started getting brighter about that time regarding the myriad of flavors and styles that are available from beer. Soon afterwards I was given a gift membership in the Beer of the Month Club for Fathers' Day. And as they say, the rest is history. I started researching "craft beer" on the Internet. Suddenly the downstairs "spare" fridge was filled with beer, and the bottled water was now relegated to the garage. The Beer of the Month club soon was boring. Before I knew it, friends started jokingly (I hope) referring to me as a beer snob and asking questions. Last Fall I took the additional step of starting this blog. That's when things really spun out of control. The secret was out. I was an official beer geek.

I must say I've met more people through this hobby than I could have ever imagined. We went from simply searching out new beers, and being thought of slightly eccentric by friends, to enjoying a full-time passion. So to answer the original questions, we essentially started on our own, and learned by hit or miss. Eventually the passion was fueled by the many new friends, both live and online, with whom we share this passion. So, no lightening bolts or epiphanies here, but an ongoing evolution.

Be sure to visit Boak and Bailey to see a summary of the contributions to this month's Session.

Update, May 4: The hosts have posted the Session roundup.


  1. About five years ago I had a friend coming over to visit from Maine. I asked her to bring me a bottle of a beer that had been intriguing me for ages: Killian's Red (a pseudo-Irish beer? Why would anyone make that?). She said "Ooookay, but everyone here drinks Pete's Wicked". So she brought me a bottle of that as well, and a dubbel from her local brewery: some bunch of nobodies called Allagash.

    I still remember how good the Allagash was and how tasteless the Killian's was, but sadly I have no memory of the Pete's. It's lapses like this that started me writing a beer blog. I will get reacquainted with it at some point though.

  2. I've not had Pete's in many years. Can't really say if I'd enjoy it now or not. I think have have to grab a single and try it again.

    I do avoid Killian's tho'.

  3. I'm intrigued by this Pete's Wicked. Presumably it's relatively easy on the tongue if you graduated to it naturally from Budweiser?

    I think you should do a tasting for this blog!

    thanks for posting.


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