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May 14, 2010

The folks at New Brew Thursday are sponsoring a contest of sorts.  They are asking for submissions from their readership/viewership as to how they are an advocate for craft beer.  I’ve got a story or two about my advocacy for craft beer.  How ’bout you?  Here’s mine:

It’s the story of an evolution of taste, really.  It involves an obsession of sorts.  The story starts back when I was in college at Texas A&M.  I lived in Schuhmacher Hall, second floor.  It was days when we Aggies still had bonfire on campus, and dorm life was centered around this major event.  Moreover, the beer culture was centered around such establishments as the Dixie Chicken, where rumor has it that more beer consumed per square foot than any other establishment in the world.  I suppose that is possible, since on any given weekend there is standing room only and the most exotic thing served is Shiner Bock.  Standard fare, is American light lager, in large quantities.

This was the culture in which I had my first beer.  I was naïve.  I was ignorant.  But I remember that evening rather vividly.  It was Monday night, and the football game was on tv.  Dallas Cowboys vs. NY Giants.  (Cowboys won 35-0, which included a TD from Emmitt Smith on the first play from scrimmage.)  The beer was Milwaukee’s Best Light… a.k.a. Beast Light.  Well, there was some pucker factor.  I didn’t much care for it, but I finished anyway.  I swiftly upgraded to Budweiser and Coors products while attending dorm parties.

But something was missing.  I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I wasn’t satisfied, and so my quest began.  I recall my first trip to the store to buy beer with a friend.  I was astonished at the selection.  All sorts of things from various countries from around the world.  I don’t recall all we purchased, but I do know that among our purchases was Foster’s and Elephant Beer.  We went in to this rather blind, mostly making our selections based on the artwork rather than the style.  What we found were more robust flavors, even in the Elephant Beer than what our peers were offering.  I was hooked.  I would never look back.

Soon after this trip, I began to explore German beers primarily because of my family’s Germanic roots.  Hefeweizen.  Dunkelweizen.  Dopplebock.  Weizen dopplebock!  It was with German beer, that I found my first love, so to speak.  Gradually, my tastes matured and my horizons broadened.  This is where my obsession with beer really set in.  And I knew this was too good of a secret to keep for myself.  I began talking about these beers with my friends, encouraging them to go for a stout than a Bud.  Have a weissbier instead of a Corona.  Grab a pale ale!

We soon discovered on local establishment had a weekly special:  $2 pints every Thursday.  Budweiser, Maredsous, Sierra Nevada, Hacker Pschorr, and Dos Equis were all the same price.  This was the great equalizer.  The menu listed more than 50 beers on draught.  No excuses.  Try something new.  Well into my beer obsession, my friends knew I had gathered quite a bit of knowledge and thus I was now a beer consultant.  🙂

This was always a stop for someone’s 21st birthday too.  Constantly peppered with questions as to what they should order.  I usually started those new to craft beer with a hefeweizen.  It’s rather light in texture, yet full of flavor.  And it’s flavor, when brewed as the Bavarians do, is almost always going to surprise those who’ve quipped, “I don’t like beer.  All beer is the same.”  To get them past the dark/light “barrier”, I’ll suggest a dunkelweizen too.  It’s flavor is similar to that of the hefeweizen, but of course the color is rather different.  Sometimes I’d surprise them with a Trappist of Abbey style ale.  Even still, there are times when those don’t do the trick.  But I don’t despair.  I just have them try a Lambic, usually of the framboise variety.

These days, it’s not uncommon to see my own father drinking something other than the Coors Light he drank as I was growing up.  My mother still prefers a Coors Light, yet on a visit out here, she really enjoyed a local version of a Belgian Tripel weighing in at nearly 9% abv.  While not as extreme and obsessive as me, it’s rewarding and exciting to see friends and family members try something new and enjoy it.  It’s great to see them appreciate something that pushes their boundaries just a little bit, and challenge their conception of beer.

Another more recent success story is a friend who really enjoys mixed drinks, of foo-foo drinks, as he puts it.  He’s not ashamed, he just likes his booze sweet.  Well, after one guys’ night, he was raving about an Imperial IPA brewed at a local establishment.  He appreciated the balance between the malt and hops, yet the aroma coming from it was what impressed him the most.

These days, my advocacy takes a different approach.  The vast majority of my friends enjoy beer.  Of that group, I don’t know of anyone that prefers light lager to craft beer.  My target audience is my children.  Usually when I grab a beer, I’m besieged with requests for a sip.  More often than not, I’ll share a sip with them.  We sometimes discuss the flavors they notice in the beer, or what style the beer is.  Of those beers brewed at home, we’ll even talk a bit about the ingredients and how they affect the overall product.  As they grow and mature, it is my hope that they will have a sophisticated palate, one that will be discerning.  Just as imporant, it is my hope that they gain an appreciation for beer as a delicious beverage to be enjoyed in moderation, rather than a means to drunkenness.  Responsibility and sophistification, not debauchery and banality.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2010 4:44 pm

    Great story! Is that the game where Emmit’s shoulder was all busted up? Great stuff!

    Anyway, I think the last sentence really sums it up. “…beer as a delicious beverage to be enjoyed in moderation, rather than a means to drunkenness. Responsibility and sophistification, not debauchery and banality.”

    I think if more people got that message, the view of beer would improve vastly. Over time, people like yourself will help make that happen!

  2. Big Tex permalink
    May 14, 2010 4:51 pm

    No, I don’t think that was the game where he had a busted shoulder and 100+ yards. I think that was a playoff game. This was week 1 in 1995, and he scored 4 TD’s that night. That first one was awesome. The Cowboys o-line created a gaping hole that sent him down field untouched. The game was much better than the beast light.

    As I think about my final thoughts on this post, it really is what I’m after. Much of that culture that I was successfully rescued from was just about that… find the cheapest stuff to get you wasted. I recall guys bragging about how many beers they could drink. It wasn’t for me, and that’s not the lesson I want to impart to my friends and my family.

  3. May 15, 2010 2:13 pm

    A man after my own heart. We’ve expressed this sentiment in a variety of ways and variety of times. I knew some of this just because of your great interaction over the course of our site writing. It’s nice to see another good and informative beer blog out there (rather than just another one). I’m glad your writing.

  4. Don permalink
    May 17, 2010 1:14 pm

    It is kind of funny, I eventually came to craft beer in a very checkered way. I remember in college buying a case of Blatz for $2.99. My thought was if I could get it cold enough, I could drink it and get waisted on the cheap. Well, I am here to say that it isn’t possible to get Blatz cold enough to drink. I ended up giving away about 21 of the 24 beers. It sucked. That was when i realized that beer had to be better. It really wasn’t until my late 20’s that I found Sam Adams Boston Lager, and that beer started the ball rolling. Great Post.

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