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In Praise Of The “One Beer”…

Tens of millions of barrels later, the craft beer renaissance can be traced to a single beer. Now, I don’t mean Anchor Steam, Redhook Ale, or even the New Albion Ale, though they might qualify for some of you. Instead, I’m talking about the experience every dedicated craft beer drinker has enjoyed at one point, the time that “the beer? set them upon the road to beer enrichment. It’s a moment you’d think we could never forget. But with all the excitement our industry has to offer, it sometimes seems as if we’ve forgotten the remarkable place from where we’ve come.

Sparking an interest in craft beer is all about the right beer at the right moment, the one sip that radically transforms the imbiber’s way of thinking about beer. After experiencing a flood of yellow, fizzy, cold monotony, it’s the scene stealing instant of real flavor that stops you in your tracks and ends with an exclamation point hovering in a speech bubble above your head. An internal cymbal crash signifies the breaking of long-held beer stereotypes, be they an avowed dislike of “dark beer? or a staunch opposition to “bitter beers.?

Depending upon when you came of age, the defining beer might be Sierra Nevada IPA or Samuel Adams Boston Lager, recalling a seemingly distant time when these beers were anything but omni-present and not derided by beer geeks as “mainstream brands.? For others, “the beer? may have been a locally produced pale ale, brown ale, or hefe-weizen. Others still may have first seen the light as it passed through an invitingly hazy Blue Moon Belgian White, a laudable product of Coors.

In truth, “the beer? is more likely a series of beer sojourns spaced over an extended journey into craft beer. For every beer lover, life is a series of single beers and defining moments, the right pub and atmosphere at the right time, warm weather and the perfect quencher, celebratory moments with family or stolen seconds of personal solace at the end of a long day, each accompanied by “the beer.?

After a long, monogamous relationship with Miller Genuine Draft, my personal interest in better beer started with the first sip of Guinness. A near polar opposite in terms of body, flavor, and overall perception from American-style premium and light lagers, this “gateway beer? led me to my first brewery tour and a romp through locally available imported brands. When a brewpub opened in my college town, I visited and ordered my first sampler, in the process unknowingly stumbling upon my second “the beer? moment. The first taste of Court Avenue’s Blackhawk Stout subconsciously taught me the difference between ubiquitous Irish dry stouts and the sweeter but less popular foreign-style or export stout variety. From there, Vermont Pub’s syrupy Wee Heavy, Capital’s malty Blonde Doppelbock, and Summit’s bitter IPA and smooth Maibock propelled my interest. And just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes the Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, a wonderfully hoppy German-style pilsner whose remarkable complexity is matched only by the come-full-circle irony of enjoying the beer directly from its can.

These single beers define the development of a craft beer drinker, from early, beerphobic days to passionate travels to far-flung breweries. In this era of eBay’d extreme beers, Dark Lord Days, and famed international brewing collaborations, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of the simple origins of our interest. Perhaps more importantly, our passions can sometimes disconnect us from the 95-percent of beer drinkers who do not share our enthusiasm for the charming marriage of hops and malt. With this in mind, I’ve made a resolution this year to redouble my efforts to spread the good word of “the beer? to friends, family, new acquaintances, and strangers yet to be known.

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2 thoughts on “In Praise Of The “One Beer”…

  1. “After experiencing a flood of yellow, fizzy, cold monotony, it’s the scene stealing instant of real flavor that stops you in your tracks and ends with an exclamation point hovering in a speech bubble above your head.”

    Perfectly said above. I posted a thread on BA posing your question. Hope ok. As a pro brewer I very much enjoy reading your blog.

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