Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now  a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of

Vince's  Adventures in Beerland
                         The Quest
                            by Vince Capano        

It begins with Abbaye de Sant Martin Bruin and ends with Zyweic Porter.  In between there
are 1,058 other items. It's the list of my self-inflicted attempt to drink 1,000 different beers
in one year.  Now, after 365 consecutive days, the official count is in - 1.060.  Success!

As barroom hatched ideas go this one was just slightly dumber than most.  While such
alcohol fueled brainstorms usually center on sports or slightly less important things like
the meaning of life, beer geeks focus on beer.   Always.  So it was no surprise when,
during a one very well fueled conversation, someone asked if it was possible to drink 365
different brews in a year.  Most in the group opined that just finding one new beer each
and every day for a year would be very difficult, providing, of course, that you also have a
day job.  

Never letting a beer challenge go unexamined, I immediately said that 365 was a wimpy
number.  Indeed, 500 would be a more invigorating exercise for a true beer guy.  
Somehow, in the short time it took me to drink two additional pints of Bell's Two Hearted
Ale, I noticed the number had climbed up to 1,000.   Then it hit me, I had become an
auctioneer's dream -  I was bidding against myself.  

Before I knew it, one unsavory character in the group grabbed a napkin..  Then, using his
trusty "Honest Joe, the bail bondsman" pen, proceeded to write down the details of this
1,000 beer challenge.  The particulars were rather straightforward; I would have to come
back one year to the day (June 21) with an official list of the beers I had been able to
drink.  In addition, the date and place associated with each beer must be noted so that
confirming calls could be made.  In God they trusted, all others need verification.

Feigning thoughtfulness while I downed yet another pint, I finally signed my John
Hancock, no not my name, I wrote down "John Hancock" figuring this bozo wouldn't bother
to check the signature until long after he had used that napkin to blow his nose.  That of
course, as any bar regular knows, makes a napkin contract immediately null and void,
even if it had a legitimate, instead of historic, signature.   

The next day, despite knowing I had skillfully avoided any legal obligation, I inexplicably
decided to go for the 1,000.  Maybe it was due to some long dormant competitive instinct
or perhaps the hangover from the night before.  I like to think it was the sincere desire to
do something good for mankind.  And so with the fateful decision made, the hunt was on.  
For the first 100 or so beers this was a fun activity; when I hit number 300 it became a
challenge, at the 500 mark I realized this was now a full blown adventure, and by 700 it
had become....... a Quest.  I was a Knight of Beer, on a mission worthy of the best of
Camelot.

The actual math of the Quest was simple, though daunting in its meaning.  I would have
to average slightly less than 3 beers per day, every day, for a year.  In good health or
bad, thirsty or not, it had to be done.  Neither rain, nor sleet nor a prohibitionist could
stop me from my appointed task.  Just to be on the safe side I immediately doubled my
intake of Flintstone chewable vitamins.

Clearly the consumption part would be easy; the finding part would not.  In that context I
ruefully discovered that even the best stocked beer store offered more illusion that
substance.  Even if they had 60 or 70 different beers, those were mostly the same ones
as the well stocked establishment I had just visited the day before. And, if I had accepted
the offer every time someone said "bet you haven't had this one",  right now  I'd be
complaining about all those new tax increases on the rich instead of writing this story.

Record keeping became even more important than drinking since a beer not written down
was a beer that didn't count.   I soon took to carrying a large, heavy duty, official beer
logbook (cleverly disguised as a bunch of old envelopes) whenever and wherever I was
going to have a brew.  Not surprisingly, I became an object of curiosity for many a pub
patron and bartender.  Inevitably I would be asked what I was so dutifully scribbling down
with each new pint I ordered.  After hearing the story of the 1,000 they always then asked
"why"?  My standard responses were "because they make them", "for my health -it's the
beer version of the red wine paradox", or "I'm part of the economic stimulus package for
the beer industry".  After a while, I just shrugged my shoulders and said I really don't
know but I've had too many beers to stop now.

A few insightful inquires asked how much is all this costing me?  Fortunately that's one
statistic I didn't keep.  My friend Artie once asked if I wanted to join him on a trip to
Belgium where, he claimed, I could find easily find all the beers I would need in a few
days.  “Artie”, I said, “I'm just a poor beer writer and could never afford the trip”.  He
quickly replied, "Hey, dude, you could have gone to Belgium and back three times for
what you’ve already spent on this silly 1,000 thing."  Artie had what I didn't - perspective.

Perhaps the most disheartening part of the Quest was that I couldn't order a second pint
of the same beer no matter how great it might be.  I knew my alcohol consumption limit so
having a repeat meant one less new one for the day.  That clearly didn't seem to make
sense, especially considering that warning label on every bottle.

Now about the beers.  After drinking one thousand and sixty beers in the last year I did
learn a few things.  First, it’s impossible to make a beer too hoppy.  Second, see item
one.  Third, my belief that banana flavors belong on my breakfast cereal and not in beer
was reconfirmed.    Fourth, you can’t find a brewery beginning with the letter "Q".  On my
list of 1,000 there isn't a single one of them.

While I didn't take tasting notes I did check off the truly great ones.  So here goes- the
top dozen in alphabetical order (don't you just love lists like this.  Take it to your local bar
and watch the arguments begin):   Allagash Black Belgium Stout, Art's Baker Street
Wheat, Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Dan Hodge Brewing's Double IPA, Founders' Harvest Ale,
Hoppin' Frog Boris Stout, Lawson's Knock Yer Hops Off IPA, McChouffe, Piratt, Rogue
Yellow Snow, Sierra Nevada 12th Harvest Wet Hop Ale, Six Point Bengali Tiger IPA, Coors
Light (just threw that in to see if you were paying attention.)   

The most historic beers on my list are a Ballantine Burton Ale, $95 for a single 12 oz. can
made in 1946, and a 1973 can of Billy Beer found in a Florida antique store ($15) by my
buddy Pete. For obvious reasons neither came close to making the best 12, or 1,050 for
that matter. The best fruit beer was Ellicottville Blueberry and the worst was everyone
made with pumpkin.  The cheapest beer I bought was a six pack of Piels at $3.00, which
all things considered, was an appropriate price.  

Without a doubt the best part of my Quest was being able to meet so many terrific people
who became part of my "team one thousand".   They were always there with an
encouraging word, a new beer, or most importantly, the willingness to buy a round.  
Thanks to you all.

Oh, now that the Quest is over I was thinking of what my next one will be.  The answer to
that is obvious - lose the 20 pounds I gained from doing this one.




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Editors note:
For more about the 1,000 beer challenge read  
One Thousand and 744 Isn't Too Shabby
The Quest
by
Vince Capano