Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In the beginning...

It's a shock that it has taken me all these years to document my great love of beers.

Of course, our relationship didn't start off so well. It was more like one of those where the girl punches the boy to let him know that she likes him.

In the beginning of my drinking career, I was a one alcohol kind of guy with Southern Comfort being my one and only. Sure, beer made plenty of appearances but how could it not growing up in New Ulm Beer City? But it just punched me in the gut to let it know that it liked me.

At first I was good at slamming (and funneling) beers because it made my slight dislike of the taste less of of an issue. Eventually it grew on me and I started to enjoy beer, even if it was just one sip at a time.

The first few years I stuck mainly to Michelob Golden Draft and saw no real reason to deviate. Eventually the 30 packs of Stroh's for a few bucks less made their appearance as well. I was far from the strapped-for-cash typical college student but I was a business major and my economics class taught me the concept of value and the taste was close enough.

The watershed moment of my beer careerwas the night I was at Big Dog in North Mankato with Tim back in 1995. He handed me a schooner of Killian's Irish Red and said "here, try this." I normally drank Mich Golden when I was there and know you should rarely trust Tim when he says "here, try this" but I tried it anyway.

The first sip wasn't bad so I continued with a few more until it was gone. Before that night all I drank were yellow fizzy beers and this was not only a nice change of pace but an introduction to life outside of macrobrews. I have long considered Killian's to be my "gateway beer."

It didn't start right away but not long after, when I moved to the Twin Cities I started to experiment with different craft beers and for awhile I would buy a new six pack of something I hadn't tried before.

This lasted for quite awhile and I still have some empty bottles saved to document some of those beers. Eventually my hobby slowed to a crawl and while I still preferred beers like Sam Adams and Summit to the Buds and Millers of the world, my regular experimentation had stopped.

Fast forward to the past year and a half or so. I was on my way to a party and wanted to bring a six pack or two and stopped in to the Liquor Barrel in Golden Valley. Much to my surprise they had a great variety of craft beers, much more than my regular store. Remembering that I liked the Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner (which, according the the first clerk I bought it from is "painfully hoppy") I picked up a four pack of beer with hops that made it hurt so good. That night I also acquainted myself with the Flying Dog brand of beers. The seed was planted and was waiting for the catalysts that would bridge the gap to today.

The Liquor Barrel was a bit out of my way so I didn't get down there too much but would buy something new whenever I did.

Then the three things happened that set off a chain reaction that catapulted me into the eyeball deep world of beer than I'm in today.

The first was the opening of a Liquor Barrel a few blocks from my house. The manager of this store was very helpful in advising me on new beers to try and was committed to having a great selection of craft beers in his store.

After taking his advice on the pricey but very tasty Hopslam by Bell's, I continued to ask him for similar ultra-hoppy beers to try. I had heard of Surly Brewing before but wasn't too excited to try anything from a new brewery that only sold beer in cans, even if it was local. But, what the hell, it was only $10 and worth a shot.

That was was catalyst number two. I'm not sure which can did it or me or maybe it was a pint from Mainstreet but Furious has turned into my favorite beer in the world.

This of course led me to seek out more info about the brewery and led to me wanting to explore as much of the local microbrew scene as I can. So far Surly is the only brewery I've toured in the area but there are more on my list.

The last catalyst occurred somewhere during the time of the previous two when Bob told me about a new beer store called the Four Firkins in St. Louis Park. I could write pages about Jason Alvey and his incredible store (and probably will over the years) but for now I'll just say that his willingness to give out advice about beer, even when it leads you to other stores, is something I value greatly.

Of course, this advice has lead me to spend hundreds of dollars over the past few months on new brews. That pace will slow down of course lest I run out of room in my bar and money in my bank account but I'm well on my way to being a beer enthusiast for years to come and I don't see another hiatus coming again.

I've decided to start a blog to keep track of my notes and will use it in conjunction with my beer notebook and tweets and other resources on the web to document my journey through the world of beer and hopefully help guide others on their own journey as well.

Cheers, Skol and Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!

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