this is why we’re here.

The list of reasons that I love the craft beer industry could explode even Buzzfeed’s listicle servers, but the primary one, the one that beats out all others, the one that isn’t determined by location or how thirsty I am or what time of year it is, is this:

the craft beer industry is a community of incredible, creative, loving people who truly want to make the world a better place, one pint at a time.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates that commitment to community (both within the industry and the community at large) than the event last Sunday: A Night to Remember beer festival.

Alex Teves was a regular – and beer club member #28 (that’s a number sign, for all those of you born after 1990) – at Copper Kettle Brewing Company in Denver on the border with Aurora. From all accounts he was a true beer geek (his photo, which remains in the mug case at the brewery, is of him stoically hoisting his mug in salute) and all-around warm, funny guy. From all of the stories we heard of him this weekend, he sounded like exactly the kind of guy we like to strike up a lively conversation with when we visit breweries. Who knows, on one of our many visits to Copper Kettle, we might have.

He lost his life at the age of 24 while watching the Dark Knight Rises with his girlfriend and a friend on July 20, 2012.

In honor of their patron and friend, Copper Kettle put together a gathering to memorialize Alex at their brewery, inviting others to join in on the remembrance and giving the proceeds away to charity. Since that initial event, the fest has grown significantly, moved out of the Copper Kettle parking lot, and to the beautiful Four Mile Historic Park. This year was the 4th annual A Night to Remember, celebrating the life of Alex and the other victims of July 20, 2012, and bringing people together for beer and laughter and charity and community. The charity is the ACT Foundation, founded in Alex’s name to provide funding and scholarships for Humanex Academy. While I had wanted to go to this event since first hearing about it in 2012 (more on that in a minute), finding out that it was a fundraiser for Humanex, where the Beerded Brewer himself attended high school, meant that, this year, we would scrape together our meager funds and make it happen.

What happened on July 2oth hit me deeply (as it did many others). While I can never fully understand what the people who were there that night went through, I may understand more than some. I was a student at Columbine High School in 1999 when we experienced our own shooting. And while what happened in Littleton and what happened in Aurora are very, very different, the way both happened in “safe” spaces, the way both became media spectacles, the way both killed people who had not yet had a chance to really live, the way the area became so much more than a town or a neighborhood… but a true community, were very much the same.

The differences are many… maybe it was because what happened at Columbine was so huge compared to what came before. Maybe it was because it lasted for so long. Maybe it was because it unfolded on TV in front of the world in a way no other incident of its kind ever had. Maybe it was because the perpetrators took their lives before we could ask why. Why? But, afterwards, there was so much anger. So much hatred and vitriol and grief without an outlet, that cracks formed in that community. Cracks that some of us slipped right out of and have only been able to tenuously hold our grip onto.

That is the opposite of what I saw on Sunday. Three years on, I saw a celebration of life and living and togetherness that I never felt after Columbine. It was not the kind of grief-laden, obligatory gathering that follows a tragedy where people want to say so much and can’t figure out what to say because there simply aren’t words. It isn’t the false comfort of strangers who come from afar with good intentions and bad assumptions. It also wasn’t a beer fest full of rowdy revelers drinking to distraction and drunkenness. We all knew why we were there. We felt it.

It was, simply, beautiful.

Breweries wrapping around Four Mile Historic Park.

Breweries wrapping around Four Mile Historic Park.

And there were some great beers there. I can’t go without mentioning them because this is, allegedly, a beer blog.

The most pleasant surprise of the night were the beers from WeldWerks out of Greeley. All four of their beers were clean and very tasty. I particularly enjoyed their coffee brown which retained it’s beer profile which still being very coffee-forward. Even their hefe – most definitely not a style I go for – was well-rounded with just the right amount of isoamyl acetate (banana esters).

Ratio Beerworks brought their strawberry Berliner weiss which was a great refresher for the oppressively muggy night. You could tell that they used real strawberries (side note: please stop using extracts, breweries, they are icky) and it provided just the right amount of tart and sweet. It was one of the few beers I went back for seconds (and thirds… and fourths…) for.

Locavore Beer Works showed up with their exemplary double IPA: Lightnin’ Hopkiss. I was sorely disappointed to hear that they had not entered this beer into GABF, because it is one of the most finely balanced double IPAs I have ever had. A high tropical note is balanced by a little malt sweetness (but not at all sticky or cloying) and just a little dankness to finish it off.

Grimm Brothers’ maibock was also a pleasant surprise. For a couple of years, maibocks were the “hot thing” in craft brewing. Seeing as it is one of my favorite styles, this way great. But, like so many fads (I’m looking at you, gose), they tend to fade back into obsurity, leaving us all a little thirstier. It was on the malt-heavy side for a maibock, but was in no way sweet. A very nice example of the style and a good reminder of why German lagers are so popular.

Sporting his ACT Foundation pin in the absolutely most logical place.

Sporting his ACT Foundation pin in the absolutely most logical place.

A Night to Remember was a lot of fun. So many excellent breweries and food trucks attended and I enjoyed talking to old friends and making some new ones. But it was also emotional. The Beerded Brewer and I were honored to meet Alex’s parents, Tom and Caren, who are warm, passionate individuals of incredible strength. Tom was cracking us up and making us cry all at once – turning my strawberry Berliner weiss into a strawberry gose.* He told us: “Caren looks forward to this day all year.” And, looking around at all of the people there because of Alex, supporting a cause he believed in, delighting in one of his favorite activities… it felt like a party where Alex was the guest of honor. And he was.

Alex was there in the obvious ways: his silhouette on our cups and on shirts, but he was also there in his parents and family and friends who knew him and came to honor him. And he was there in those of us who never had the privilege to meet him, but came anyway. Some may have come only for the beer, but we all left with more.

I find myself overwhelmed at times by how incredibly good people can be, and events like this one serve to remind me that, by being a part of the craft beer industry, I have chosen to surround myself with some of the best people in the world. I am so very, very lucky.

A beautiful video was made of the 2nd annual event. It made me cry. Because I can’t help it.

– Cheers

Special thanks to Doug at Dry Dock for sharing one of their passes with us. Without it, we would not have been able to attend.

*I was going to apologize for that joke. But now by the time I finished, I decided that I refuse. Haha! Terrible beer jokes forever!!!

Advertisements

stop pissing on my beer (forum).

I am a member of a good number of beer-related Facebook groups (which may or may not be one of the reasons I don’t post regularly… ooo! Shiny!) and I’ve noticed several trends across them that are… frankly… irritating. In the bizarro world that is the interwebs, I understand that people tend towards dickishness and trollism and vaguary, but that doesn’t excuse the behavior – and, dammit, I’m calling these folks out on their bullshit. Here are some of the posts that particularly stick in my craw, as well as recommendations to fix a few of them:

“How long can I keep [random IPA] in a growler and it still taste good?”

Jane, you ignorant slut. IPAs – yes, ALL IPAs – are better drank fresh. Open that bitch up and enjoy. Why are you trying to save it? Come on…

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I’m going to a party on Saturday and bought a growler of [random IPA] today. Do you think it will last or should I drink it now and buy more later?”

“How long can I keep [any other style of beer but IPA] in a growler and it still taste good?”

What kind of growler? How was it filled? Have you kept it cold? Is it closed properly and tightly? Was the growler clean – not “meh, looks okay” clean – but beer clean? What type of beer? What’s the ABV? What’s the hop content?

Stop asking complex questions and pretending they are simple. Just… stop.

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I have a Drink Tank of 11% barleywine I picked up today and was wondering if I could age it. The growler was clean and there aren’t any leaks. What do you think?”

“ISO: [super rare, super expensive beer]

FT: [beers with regional distribution that you already have on hand]”

Nope. Nope nope nope. Unless your “FT” is something equally rare or desirable, why even bother? In general, if it’s a regionally-distributed beer, I’m probably going to want it fresh anyway, so it is mildly concerning that you already have it when you don’t have a trader yet.

“ISO: [beer only available on tap… let’s say… Pliny the Younger]”

Here’s the thing… the most respected taphouses in the country have to fight to get beers like Pliny the Younger, why do you think someone would have a keg sitting around just waiting to trade? It’s not going to happen. But that’s not the worst part of these posts… the absolute most mindboggling thing is (A) the sheer volume of them and (B) when someone points out that the beer is only available on tap and helpfully links to more info and the OP goes all bargly because being told no sucks. I KNOW that you really want to try Pliny the Younger… but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t available in bottles or cans. YELLING AT PEOPLE WHO POINT THIS OUT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACTS.

Actually, yelling at ANYONE exposing you to reality DOESN’T CHANGE THE FUCKING FACTS.

“Here’s a photo of this beer: is it any good?”

I don’t fucking know. Why don’t you open it and try? My palate is different than your palate so I don’t know whether or not you’ll like it. And you know as well as I do that this isn’t a real question; you just want to show off whatever “amazing” beer you found and get people to oo and ah all over you.

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I haven’t tried this beer [photo of beer] before and was wondering what it’s like before I crack it. I’d hate to waste a beer that might be better enjoyed by someone besides myself.”

“[Photo of really amazing, usually rare beer] Look at these shelf turds!”

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. Holy FUCK you are hilarious! I cannot handle it! Did you come up with that on your own? I mean… to take something valueable and imply that it has no value… wow… you are a comedic genius. Listen: I’m as big of a fan of sarcasm as the next person, but this isn’t good sarcasm. It’s lazy… and I mean lazier than posting a Grumpy Cat meme lazy. I want to say that this was funny once… but it wasn’t. Also, “shelf turds”?

Any video of a drain-pour.

Yep. You’re pouring that beer down the drain. Sometimes it happens. Maybe it was bad. Maybe you just didn’t like it. No biggie. But why would you open yourself to ridicule and derision from fellow beer lovers because of your need to dump your beer? Do you think it makes you look like a badass or somehow “counter-culture” when you pour a beer other people love? I’m here to let you know: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like the attention whore you are.

Any chugging video.

Do I really..? Apparently I do. Congratulations frat boys of the world: you are all growed up and done found that there is more to life than Keystone Light. But you still have a desire… a lust… to hear that sweet, sweet chant: CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! It eats at your bones and you must… you must obey. Nothing says “I am a MAN” quite like chugging 12- or 16- or 20- or 80-ounces of sweet, sweet fermented malt… especially on video… and especially if that malt happens to comprise an expensive/rare/special beer. How about you just do us all a favor and go ahead and crush that growler right on your forehead?

“I’m going to [very large area – city, state, country] and need some good brews. Where should I go?”

Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve been partially guilty of this. Yes, on the surface this seems like a good question. In fact, I would argue that it’s pretty damn perfect for an online forum discussion. However, there are two major issues with it. First: no one no one NO ONE ever checks to see (by this amazing little feature called the “search” box) if anyone else has asked the same or similar question and received answers. I swear I saw four people in one day ask about beer in NYC. What has happened to doing the sparest amount of research, folks?! The other is this: it is way too vague. If you tell me that you are coming out to Colorado and looking for “good brews”, there are just WAY too many for me to recommend. And, more than likely, the majority won’t be applicable because you will be regulating your visit to a very specific area. I hate spending 10 minutes constructing a thoughtful response about breweries in Denver, Boulder, Ft Collins, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Durango as well as ones available statewise to get a reply to my comment of “oh… well I’m going to be in Craig, so I was really looking for places out there.” THEN TELL ME THAT FROM THE GET GO YOU LAZY BASTARD! The other side to that is the “good brews.” What in the name of Chuthulu does that even mean? Do you mean breweries? Taphouses? Sports bars? Beers you can pick up from the liquor store?

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I’m going to San Diego for the weekend and will be staying in Point Loma. I really like visiting breweries and would like to bring back some beers – I like pretty much everything – any recommendations?”

OR

“I’m going to be driving from Denver to Asheville this November through KC, Saint Louis, Lexington, and Louisville. Any small breweries I absolutely must hit on my route?”

“Half of the posts on here are just trolls looking for comments.”

WHAAAAA!? You mean that people are posting to a public forum in order to get FEEDBACK!? OMG WTF!? How daaarrrrreeeeeeeee they.

“[Insert general bigotry] Cheers!”

Yeah… go fuck yourself. This is a beer group. We want to talk about beer. Bring your filth elsewhere.

[Photos of scantily-clad women with not-very-good beer. Usually only shows boobs, butt, or (lack of) bush]

Yeah, yeah, I like boobs, too. They are great. However, maybe objectifying women is the reason that you are posting these photos at 8pm on a Saturday night… mmmm?

Any post followed by demeaning, disrespectful, nonconstructive commentary.

We’re online where everything is “anonymous”. I know. It’s easy to let off some steam by being horrible to some stranger online. I get that there are bad traders: and making those people know is necessary, but doxxing is not okay, especially not over $40 in beer. So what if the OP enjoys Samuel Adams and you don’t, you don’t have to call them terrible names and threaten to rape them. This person readily admits that they aren’t “beer savvy”, so why are you being a dick instead of answering their question in the spirit in which it was intended? I get that you live a block from the Alchemist, but the rest of the world doesn’t, so calling everyone who doesn’t have unmitigated access to Heady Topper “faggy bitches” is uncalled for. This is a beer discussion and we are trying to have fun… ask yourself: why are you trying to ruin it?

Calling into question any woman’s knowledge of beer… which usually reverts to commenting on her appearance.

I know that women are primarily intended to be eye candy and beer delivery mechanisms. I’m not disputing that. I mean… look at us… but we also serve other functions. There are women who drink beer… even women who drink craft beer… even women who visit breweries… even women who work at breweries… even women who are homebrewers… even women who are Cicerones and professional brewers and founders of breweries. It’s amazing what we have learned to do over our (roughly) 4 billion years of evolution that would shock even the most learned of our male masters.

But seriously. I know this is one of my beer box issues, but this sexist shit has to stop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just exist in online forums (although, I would argue, it’s there that it reaches is ugliest and most honest form).

It exists in commercials (this is insulting to men, too, by the way):

It exists in print advertising (holy fuck there’s a Buzzfeed list):

http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/13-of-the-most-sexist-beer-ads-of-all-time#.pgoXW8aLyv

It exists in beer labels (for the record, I find juvenile sexual innuendo HILARIOUS, but there are some labels that cross way, way over the line). It exists in the fact that a large number of breweries carry men’s sizes in small through triple-extra-large and only carry women’s in small, medium, and large (I have a whole upcoming post about this… promise). It exists when someone walks into a brewery and assumes that the brewer must be a man (even the Beerded Brewer, who is a proud feminist, makes this mistake).

I get that sexism is a systemic problem, but in an industry as progressive as the brewing industry, we are failing dramatically on this one. Why do we continue to feed the sexist trolls out there by allowing them to believe that craft beer is just the grown-up version of a frat party? Yeah, we drink a lot. Yeah, we tell really inappropriate jokes. Yeah, we like to have a good time. But this isn’t an industry of hate and descrimination. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that when they say that a women isn’t “capable” of doing something like brewing that they are going home and treating their wife or daughter or mother or sister with respect. It just ain’t happenin’.

Okay. Enough of the negativity. ENOUGH. I’m done. I’m over it. I’m moving on.

Luckily, not everything is toxic. A lot of it is lovely and informative and just smile-inducing. Here’s some of what makes me dribble beer because I’m smiling whilst drinking (more dangerous than chewing and walking, I tell you).

Shit I love that people post:

“My wife just had a kid! Here’s the beer I’ll be toasting my new baby with… and I can’t wait to share on with the wife. Nine months is a long time. Good job, sweetie!”

“I’m new to craft beer and was wondering what the difference between a stout and a porter is.”

“I just bought a Hydroflask. Does it keep beer better than a glass growler?”

“Holy shit! I just scored a bottle of [rare, awesome beer]! I can’t wait to pop this puppy open!”

“I just scored a case of [really kickass beer] and would like to trade most of it. ISO [list of styles or equally as kickass beers]. Will trade $ for $.”

“My buddies and I just visited our 30th brewery this year. Pretty badass, if I do say so myself.”

“[Untappd badge] 1000 Check-ins! I know I’m behind a lot of you… but since I just started keeping track a year ago, that’s not too shabby.”

“My Grandpa just passed this morning. Please give him a toast today. He was a pretty great guy.”

[Photos of dogs or cats with beer]

[Photos of beer crafts]

[Photos of people at breweries/beer festivals/on beer trips]

[Photos of beer]

See where I’m going here? I joined these online communities because I wanted to talk about beer. I wanted to have beer-drinking buddies across the world with whom I could have discussions, see great photos, trade, and maybe even meet IRL for a drink (or three). I didn’t join because I wanted a bunch of middle-aged, sexist frat boys who think that respect is what they get when their dog pees itself when they come home.

Most of all, I joined these groups to have fun and gain some knowledge. I’ve definitely discovered the latter: great beers, great breweries and bars and pubs across the country and the world, and even made a couple of friends. The former… eh… I find myself getting more frustrated and angry than anything. When I first joined RateBeer and Beer Advocate, I delighted in finding a community of beer drinkers with whom I could connect. I thought I’d found an easier (in that it’s a platform I almost obsessively use) forum in Facebook beer groups. Instead, I found people taking an industry, a community, and a product I love and perverting it into something mean, angry, and hateful. While this kind of negativity is getting progressively worse across all of Facebook, chatting about beer shouldn’t create the amount of vitriol that, say, traffic in a small town does.

Before you post, think about what you’re saying. Are you contributing to the conversation? Are you posting something that others will enjoy? Or is your post simply masturbatory? Because no one wants to read that (says the chick with a blog)…

Now, please excuse me while I take a photo of myself drain-pouring Heady Topper while doing a keg stand on Pliny the Younger.

Cheers.

musings on friendship.

We grow old, we grow up, we move away, we get married, we have children, we move back, we travel, we stay, we die.

And thru it all we cry, we smile, we bear it, we work, we play, and above all – we laugh. And it is in those moment of laughter and joy that we connect. It is as simple as a “hi” on a hard day, maybe a note passed in class, a beer spilled on a shirt. But we find someway, despite all the obstacles trying to keep us from it, we find a true and honest connection with someone else.

We call those people “friends.”

They may be friends for a day or a lifetime – but something in them touched us and made us remember them as important. They made an impact. Their world stopped to make a dent in ours and change our history a little, or a lot.

When we emerge into this huge, crazy, wonderful world there is a straight and boring path laid out before us. But with each kind smile, every loving touch, all the beautiful, caressing words – our path changes, twists and morphs. Those dips, curves, and kinks are frightening as we approach and satisfying as we pass. But when we look back – they write the story of our triumphs, our failures, our growth, and our loves. And at those moments of greatest importance – whether we remember them or forget – there are intersections with other paths – and those paths with still others – until we are all woven together in an inseparable pattern that is the very fabric of life.

Thank you to all who have crossed into my life and become a part of my pattern. There is a long, hard path behind… and an even longer path ahead – and I am truly honored to have you as companions on the road.

Cheers.

my name is dev, and you sound like an ass.

This is a quick response to an article that David Chang wrote for GQ Magazine titled “My Name is David Chang and I Hate Fancy Beer.” The amazing Garrett Oliver penned a response a few days later: “My Name is Garrett Oliver and I Hate Crappy Beer.” Please read both, as both are interesting and give some insight into the rising tide of disdain for beer geeks and the craft brewing industry. My comments were originally posted to a comment on Eater.com, but I have made some changes for this blog.

I love craft beer. I love it because I love seeking out new flavors and experiences and the people who work in the industry. It is my passion. I love educating others about beer and its history and complexities and how to pair it with food. Beer challenges me and delights me and makes me happy.

What I don’t like are people who judge others for their drink choices. Those who think that someone else’s decisions somehow negatively affect them. If you want to drink industrial beer and like it, great! Go for it! But if you ask me for a suggestion on what to drink, I’ll steer you towards a good craft or import that you might enjoy, just to expand your palate.

David Chang’s article was obnoxious and pretentious. His choice to constantly crow about his supposed “love” for industrial beer is just a way for him to put down those around him seeking different choices. He comes off as a prat, and one I wouldn’t want to eat or drink with. The fact that he has repeatedly approached Garrett Oliver, one of the gods of the craft beer industry, and “bragged” about how much he loves mass market brews just shows how crummy his character is. Also, the title of his article is about how he “hates fancy beer.” Except that he doesn’t. He flat-out says that he enjoys the flavors of many craft beer styles and that he has “seen the sunrise from the bar at Mikkeller” (good for you). This just proves that his headline is nothing but click bait. He is making the point that even though he has access to some of the best beers in the world – and clearly has favor with some brewers that many of us would kill to hang out with – he would rather shove it in their faces that he would prefer mass market beer.

And if he eschews beers even he calls “delicious” for mass market, flavorless beer… what does that say about his food? And if he is willing to be a creep to some of the greatest minds (and palates) in the beer industry, how does he treat others in his own? As someone not nearly famous or rich enough to be able to get a reservation at Momofuku, I can only speculate.

Oliver’s response is great. I love that he calls Chang out on the carpet and doesn’t let him get away with what is so clearly a cry for attention.

Yes, beer geeks (and foodies and wine snobs) can come off as pretentious. I know we can. I’m sorry for that – it’s really not (the majority of us, at least) our intention. We are just seeking out something new and different and exciting. We don’t want to waste our time and money and experiences (and calories, let’s be real, here) on something boring. I don’t think anyone has had an epiphany while drinking a Bud or felt true, deep delight while supping an MGD. But I cried when I first tried Westvleteren XII and I giggled in excitement when I tasted the Rare Barrel‘s Egregious.

Beer, for me, is so much more than something to quench my thirst.

And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay for beer to JUST be something to quench your thirst. But Chang’s crowing about how he so proudly struts his industrial beer love in the face of people just trying to do their jobs and share their enthusiasm makes him come off as a pretentious jerk. A pretentious jerk with bad taste, at that.

10 beers.

There is a fairly interesting/annoying (aren’t they all?) chain status post rolling around Facebook asking people to list the 10 books that have had some sort of influence or left a lasting impression on their lives. If for no other reason, it’s a good way to add to your reading list. But you know what’s more interesting than books? Nothing. But do you know what is a close second? Beer!

A buddy of mine tagged me on a twist to this meme: the 10 beers that have left a lingering flavor, and I thought it would be a fun post. These may not be my favorite beers (but some are), or even very good beers (most are), but they always bring me back to a specific time and place in my life. Some have even resulted in my life spinning off in an entirely different direction.

So, the 10 beers that have stayed with me in some way, in rough chronological order, are:

#1

The beer: Odell 90 Shilling

On the list because: It was my gateway

The story: I grew up in a valley between the foothills and the plains in South Denver. For a long time, all I remember being in my house for alcohol was either Coors or boxed white wine. Then, through some miracle, my parents discovered Odell (or Odell’s as it was called back then). Weekend after weekend my parents would make the almost 2-hour-each-way trek from our little burg to Fort Collins to fill their (clear, unmarked) growler of the dark amber liquid called 90 Shilling. Even when I was eight, I knew that this was something special. This was different than Coors. This was different than boxed wine kept in its special little cupboard (yes, warm). I actually didn’t make the connection that Coors and 90 Shilling were even in the same category of drink until high school. My dad loved it so much, his friends got him a half BBL keg of 90 Shilling for his 45th birthday celebration. 90 Shilling is still a solid choice when I visit a bar and they don’t have a solid selection. And it will always be my gateway craft. Not too shabby of a start, really.

#2

The beer: Guinness Stout

On the list because: A rule breaking, a great day, and an epic night

The story: My history with Guinness goes back to high school. On my senior trip to the UK and Ireland with my AP English class, I spent a couple of days with my sister’s now in-laws. They are, probably, the sweetest people on the planet. I was ill with the flu, so they gave me medicine and took care of me. They also took me around Dublin and took me out to a very fancy restaurant (yes, there are fancy restaurants in Ireland). Before my trip, my (now) brother-in-law told me how to ask for a Guinness in Irish. I told his father, and Paddy was delighted (yes, his name is really Paddy. I am not making any of this up). I did say, however, that it was against the rules for me to drink on the trip, so Paddy only ordered me a half pint. It was like drinking coffee mixed with motor oil. I hated it. But considering all of my classmates thought I was the person narcking them out when they went clubbing (hint: it wasn’t me) and were trying to make my trip miserable, it felt pretty damn good to break the rules.

A few years later, I returned to Dublin with my parents. While there, my dad at I visited the Guinness Brewery (or The Brewery). It was a flashy, commercialized tour without any personal touch, but it was educational if not fascinating. As a bonus, it was great to spend the day alone with my dad (which is a very rare thing) and to enjoy a beer, poured properly, at the place where it’s produced. It was just about as perfect as a day can get.

Finally, when my sister’s eldest was Christened, my parents and I went back to Ireland. Christenings, like most formal events in Ireland, usually end up at the pub. As we all did that night. It was about as stereotypically Irish as you can get: a group of lads sitting around telling stories and singing songs, everyone drinking Guinness, a Southwestern restaurant attached to the bar (wait… what?), deep conversations about sentence structure and symantics (huh?), my mom telling me that I should just stay in a much older friend’s room (yikes), and my mother drinking 17 Guinnesses (Guinni?) and me close behind her with 15. Now, when you have three adults sharing one hotel room after drinking that much Guinness, a fun night quickly turns into a disturbing morning. But nothing could ruin how awesome that party was. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is like a post-Christening party in Ireland.

And my mom and I are now legends. I’m pretty sure we will never pay for another pint in Ireland.

#3

The beer: Le Fruit Defendu (Verboden Vrucht)

On the list because: I had to pick just one of the beers I drank in Belgium

The story: When you fly from Denver to Brussels, you leave at 10:30am and arrive at 7:30am. And when you are flying coach, it can be absolutely brutal. When I landed in Belgium for the first time to visit my parents on their amazing overseas adventure, I was one whupped puppy.

One whupped puppy in the Delirium Cafe.

One whupped puppy in the Delirium Cafe.

But, of course, you’re not allowed to sleep because then the world will be eaten by Chuthlu or something. So, my parents promptly took my vacant shell to the Grand Place (Grawn Plaws) and stuck a waffle in one hand and a beer in the other. I believe the beer was Leffe Blonde and the waffle was made out of the ground up remains of pixies. Regardless, it was amazing. For the remainder of my month there, my mom and I would visit the supermarket every 2-3 days and grab two beers of 10-12 varieties (as well as the proper glassware, of course) and take them home. We would also try new beers when we went out (I remember eating at one Mediterranean restaurant that only had Jupiler in the can and didn’t have the glassware. It was scandalous).

My two visits to Belgium, despite being distracted by the beautiful countryside, culture, food, and potatoes, was defined by beer. It was because of that trip to Belgium that I fell, unwittingly, in love with beer. And, it was because of that trip, that I landed the job at Flying Dog Brewery, which really started me on this whole crazy (downward?) spiral. I chose Le Fruit Defendu, out of all of the other beers I had that trip, because it was one of the only beers I had again and again. I loved the glass with a tiny, naked Adam and Eve on it and the twisted stem, but the complexity of the beer: spicy, sweet, fruity, deep was what really had me enthralled. Whenever I look at my glassware collection, it is that glass I hold most dear.

#4

The beer: Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter on Brett

On the list because: It completely changed my palate

The story: Speaking of Flying Dog… There are so many stories I could tell about the beers I drank, the people I met, and the crazy experiences I had during my time at Flying Dog, but none was so profound nor life-altering as my experience with Gonzo, aged in Stranahan’s barrels, with Brettonomyces yeast. This was back when I knew I liked beer, I could tell the difference between major styles, but I didn’t know much about the subtleties and intricacies of beer. I knew I liked Gonzo, and I knew I liked Stranahan’s, so I figured I’d like a marriage of the two. When they popped the bung on this beer, you could smell it throughout the brewery. It was funky and weird and sour and like nothing I had ever smelled. I had briefly flirted with a couple of Flanders Reds when in Belgium, but none of them came close to this. When my boss had me take a drink, it was like a Sour Patch Kid had sex with a vanilla bean on a horse blanket. It was horrifying and intriguing and absolutely impossible to stop drinking. I think I consumed at least half of the barrel. Now, eight years later, I still adore sour and funky beers more than almost any other style for their complexity and perplexity.

#5

The beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon

On the list because: We were so, so broke

The story: There was a stretch of time in 2007 that neither Josh nor I was gainfully employed. Although we were making it rain resumes, we were getting a whole lot of nowhere. Of course, when you don’t have any money, you can’t afford good beer. So, after depleting our supply of Flying Dog beers, we were forced to turn to PBR. Our local liquor store sold 30-packs for cheap enough that we could get one a week and drink on that. The downsides were that PBR tastes slightly like pee and it has the magical ability to have the blasting power of 10 cans of beans. The upside was that at least we had beer. Even now the Bearded One will proclaim that PBR is the only shlocky beer he likes. I will attest to no such thing. I still get the farts just thinking about it.

#6

The beer: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

On the list because: It introduced me to California beer

The story: After regaining employment, we were so in debt that we still didn’t have a lot of disposable income. Luckily, around that time, our local liquor store started carrying Ballast Point for $5.99 a six pack. Not nearly as cheap as PBR, but a hell of a lot better. We bought 90% of the Ballast Point the liquor store brought in. The one we liked the best was the Yellowtail Pale Ale. It was more of a hoppy blonde than a pale ale, but it was just so drinkable. Soon the Bearded One introduced me to Port and Stone and Anderson Valley, and my love for California beers grew. In 2010, we drove out to San Diego for San Diego Beer Week and, sure enough, Ballast Point was our favorite brewery we visited. Too bad more cities don’t have a beer week like San Diego (ehem: Denver). Even the year we went, which was just prior to the craft beer explosion there, we had 650 events over 10 days to choose from. That is how you do a beer week.

Reflecting on beer at Ballast Point.

Reflecting on beer at Ballast Point.

#7

The beer: Twisted Pine Billy’s Chilis

On the list because: It defined a year of our lives

The story: One rainy spring Sunday, Beardy and I decided to go up to Boulder and try some Boulder breweries that we had never before visited. Boulder Beer was closed, and Crystal Springs didn’t yet have a tasting room, so we stopped by Walnut, Mountain Sun, and, despite having a pre-conceived notion of mediocrity, made our way to Twisted Pine. What we found there were some of the nicest servers in the industry, a great atmosphere, and beers we genuinely enjoyed. So, the next Sunday, we decided that we would go back again. And the Sunday after that. And the Sunday after that. Every week we would order two pitchers (not at once) of Billy’s Chilis and sit and watch skateboarding or snowboarding or football while grabbing a bite to eat and chatting with our new friends. One time we visited on a Thursday, and when we walked in and Jayson, the bartender, was already pouring us a pitcher of Billy’s, another patron said, “so you are the couple that drinks all the chili beer.” Legends, we were. We loved it so much there that I even brought my mom there for Mother’s Day (sorry, Mom). After about a year we stopped going to Twisted Pine as it was an hour drive each way and we needed to save some money, but we still stop by occasionally to quench our thirst for chili beer and reminisce about the good ol’ days when we were locals at a brewery 50 miles from our house.

#8

The beer: Brewery Rickoli’s Single Hop 5256

On the list because: It changed how I understood hops

The story: For about a year, the Bearded Brewer and I worked at Brewery Rickoli. It was an amazing 12 months, and one that saw the Bearded One start to live his dream and really flourish. During that time I drank so many amazing beers, as Rick is a truly amazing brewer. But one stuck out, not just because it tasted good, but because it changed everything I thought I knew about hops. Rickoli’s came out with a flight of four single-hop pale ales for tasting during Colorado Craft Beer Week. It was the same base with just a different hop. The goal was to find the hop that customers enjoyed most and pick a name for the resultant beer. Of the four beers, there were two with hops that were absolutely different than anything I had ever had before: 6300, which had a distinct dill flavor, and 5256, which smelled and tasted of black currant. When I was studying in London, my drink of choice was Strongbow with black currant liquour. I love the tart, dank, only very slightly sweet taste of black currant and to find it in a hop was delightful. After trying that beer (trying it so much I drank ~2 gallons before it was gone), I started doing more research on hops and what causes all of the different flavors and aromas and how to best coax them out. That research was invaluable as I went for my Cicerone certification, and is part of the reason that I did so well.

#9

The beer: Westvleteren 12 (Westy 12)

On the list because: It lived up to expectations

The story: If you haven’t heard of Westy 12, stop reading now and go read about it. Seriously. Just go to Rate Beer or Beer Advocate or any of the other 1000 beer websites and look up Westy 12. Now, there is a lot of hype about a lot of beers that may or may not be 100% valid (I’m looking at you Pliny the Younger), but, as we all know, beer is a very subjective thing. Rarely, there is a consensus that a certain beer is pretty damned great. Westy 12 is one of those beers. Yes, it has been mythologized because of the difficulty in obtaining it (only by reservation, only at the monastery). Yes, many of those who claim to adore this beer have never even tasted it. However, for those few of us lucky enough to have supped of these suds, it is a near-religious experience. But my story of how I was able to taste it was pretty sweet as well.

Last spring, when Pliny the Younger made its yearly rounds, we thought we would stake out a spot in line at Hops & Pie to get a taste. When we arrived, four hours before tapping, there was already a line of ~10 people and it was 14 degrees out. We sat in the car for a little bit and decided that, while we really wanted to try the beer, it wasn’t worth the frostbite. To drown our sorrows at our own wussiness, we visited a couple of local breweries, including TRVE. At TRVE we met a lovely guy who works at World of Beer in Glendale (east Denver). We told him that we missed out on the Pliny tapping due to an aversion to frostbite, and he mentioned that they were tapping Younger at WOB the following week and gave us all of the details. Score! I then casually mentioned that, while I was excited to taste Younger, it was nothing like my desire to try Westy 12. His response: “well, I’ll bring one of my bottles down for you to try, then.” Wait… what!? So, that next week, I sat at the bar at WOB and had two of the highest ranked beers in the world in my hands at the same time.

While I liked Pliny the Younger, Westy 12 absolutely blew me away. It was like someone had taken my mom’s very buttery cinnamon sugar toast and turned it into a beer. It was all bread crusts and sugar and toast and perfection. Sometimes beers disappoint. Sometimes they meet your expectations. And sometimes they nuke anything you thought might be true and replace it with magic. Pure, unadulterated magic.

Pure, unadulterated bliss.

Pure, unadulterated bliss.

#10

The beer: Wet Hose IPA

On this list because: It is the first beer I ever helped homebrew

The story: The Bearded One’s boss managed to get his hands on a large amount of fresh Cascade hops, and since they couldn’t be utilized at the brewery, we decided to brew a double-IPA with them. We used a Blickmann kettle and a giant cooler-tun. It took about seven hours, all told, and was an absolute blast. I cannot wait to get our keggle system up and running (we finally got the extra kegs we needed!) and we will be homebrewing like maniacs. Now if I could just afford some nice conical fermenters. The beer will be ready in another 9 days or so, and I am in absolute bits waiting to try it.

First hop addition, Wet Hose IPA.

First hop addition, Wet Hose IPA.

There are so many more beers I want to put on this list: Dom Kolsch, Flying Dog Road Dog, Port Brewing High Tide IPA, Pisgah Breakfast Stout, Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, Yuengling, Flying Dog Horn Dog, Green Man ESB, Sweetwater IPA, Odell St Lupulin, New Belgium Le Terrior, Steamworks Steam Engine Lager, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Hazelnut Brown, Brewery Rickoli Elke’s Brown Ale, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest, Blackstone Chocolate Milk Stout, Lefthand Milk Stout, Paradox Skully #1…

Beer is more than a beverage. It is a part of a memory. Drinking a beer can bring you back to a time and place like few other things. And, being that beer is an excellent social lubricant, those memories tend to be pretty great.

What are the beers that you most remember? Is it because they bring back a memory? Because it’s your favorite beer? Because it was so rare?

Go out. Drink some beer. Make some memories.

Cheers.

autumn.

I am ready for crisp days and cold nights.
For crackling fires and musty books.
For food full of earth and cream and spice.
For beer that smells of leaves shuffled underfoot.
For leaves shuffled underfoot.
For high-pitched calls driven by instinct and desire.
For the crash and clash of sparring brothers.
For the yellows oranges reds that are so intense as to feel supernatural.
For blue skies a color that is not to be believed.
For the soothing sound of rain.
For the distant smell of snow.
For cozy rainbow wool slippers.
For the chunky sweater that still smells slightly of sheep.
For pumpkins and candy and little kids pretending to be terrifying.
For football.
For the reminder that, even in death, life is beautiful.
For the epiphany that, especially in death, life can be beautiful.
For mushrooms replacing grass in all their alienness.
For the chattering quake of golden aspen leaves sharing their mesmerizing secrets.
For the lengthing of shadows.
For September and October.
For autumn.
For the fall.
For today.

a wee little follow-up.

In my review “a plethora of pilsners“, I reviewed five pilsners produced by Saint Patrick’s Brewing Company in Englewood, Colorado. One of these beers I was not too kind to (I believe the word “harsh” was used) was the German Pilsner.

Well, the beauty of Saint Pat’s lagers is that they are lagered in the bottle, so are very much alive when poured into your glass.  As such, these beers will change over time. Of course, I failed to mention this or take it into account when talking about these beers. And that was wrong. So very, very wrong.

Because that German pilsner, when I drank it a week later, became my favorite of the pilsners. The hops have smoothed out and are now really playing nicely with the malts. Still very easy to drink, but with a distinct hop character.

Anyway, this is just a short mea culpa. But it’s also a good example of why my opinion – or anyone’s opinion – of such a subjective thing, should be treated as a guideline and not biblical truth. Like I said in my post about Lugene Stout, there are many, many people who love it, I just don’t. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad beer, it just means that my palate is not fond of it. I will always give reasons why I am not a fan of one beer or another so that you can make an educated decision.

However, if a beer does have severe issues with it, such as off-flavors, I will call it out. I will also try to identify where the problems are coming from (brewing, fermenting, packaging, etc). Again, education!

There is a part of me that doesn’t really want to do beer reviews. It’s kind of been done. But, at the same time, I’m approaching it from the angle of education rather than just bitching about what I do or do not like. Yeah – let’s pretend it’s about education. That’ll work.

I promise a longer post in the next week. The PJ has eaten away at my brain and my time, but there’s always room for beer!

Cheers.