Just as John traveled around baptizing future Christians
in water, so have  I spent some time and taken great
pleasure from baptizing future beer geeks in beer. Of
course, to equate the two is ridiculous and belittling to
John the Baptist but there is a similarity in the degree of
satisfaction achieved by both of us in bringing
newcomers into the fold.

I had long wondered (and still do) how so much Coor’s
Light can be sold while the craft beer aisles grow by
leaps and bounds, with new breweries and brews
appearing every day. Obviously a good part of the
reason is that few persons have spent the time
necessary to convert the unsaved and field the retorts
of potential converts, figuring that it’s just not worth
the aggravation, even though the conversion process
invariably involves the drinking of beer.

To be sure, not all Coor’s Light drinkers can be made to
see the light and even those that do occasionally have
to be converted in stages. Offering a can of Yuengling
Black & Tan to a thirsty Coor’s man is perhaps a baby
step on the road to craft beer but you have to start
somewhere, and once he’s received his first communion
with Yuengling, his confirmation with Sierra Nevada or
Victory will be much easier. But sometimes, even if the
original baby step is taken, the prospective convert will
get mired in the Yuengling and never make the final
transition to “real” craft beer, as in the case of my first
novitiate, my friend Ted.

Ted was addicted to Stroh’s in its iconic blue cans. We
usually took turns wandering into each other’s
backyards to see what the other was up to and the
wanderer was always greeted with the words “Do you
want a beer?” That question was always answered
“Yes”, but if I happened to be the wanderer my positive
response would be fulfilled with the Stroh’s which tasted
like Coor’s in which someone had soaked rusty nails for
a couple of weeks. But when Ted wandered into to my
backyard he invariably was offered something much
better than Stroh’s, perhaps a Cricket Hill Hopnotic IPA
or Berkshire Oktoberfest. So, in order to even the
playing field, I had to get Ted to stock something that
would provide me with suitable beer when I entered his
backyard and the obvious way to do that was to
convert him.

Little by little, stimulated by the always excellent craft
brews I provided for him, his palate began to revert
back to his German heritage and soon I was offered
bottles of beers such Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest and
Paulaner Hefeweizen.  However,Ted himself did a little
backsliding and now rarely drinks anything other than
Yuengling lager, a good every day brew and certainly
many steps ahead of Stroh’s, but definitely not a craft
beer. He’s made his first communion, but is still years
away from confirmation.

A Friday afternoon ritual in our suburban neighborhood
was watching the Paul , my across the streetneighbor,
exit his car after work toting his “suitcase” 30 pack of
Budweiser cans. Here too, was a man who was not to
be diverted from his devotion to Bud. That is until I
invited him (and Ted) to accompany me to a Friday night
“tour” of Cricket Hill Brewery.  Downing a half dozen
pints and purchasing a case of East Coast Lager to
enjoy at home was proof positive that this was a man
who was ready to repent.

With further encouragement from his friend, The Screwy
Brewer, (innovator of a homebrewing website of the
same name) his beer revival was in full swing and the
final conversion may well now be complete. Just a week
ago he announced to me that he hadn’t had a
Budweiser in months and when preparing for a party at
his home, he handed his son $100 and told him to go
get some good beer for the festivities!

With friendly persuasion and occasional badgering by
me, ALL of my siblings are now craft brew enthusiasts.
Even my sister Jane, former fan of Coor’s light, now
makes sure that decent brew is always available for
family gatherings at her house.

Sometimes in the conversion process Satan rears his
ugly head and fights tooth and nail to keep beer
drinkers in HIS fold. Recently, on our annual St. Patricks
Day four day sojurn in Western Massachusetts my
mummers band was fulfilling one of its obligations by
playing a concert at Smith’s Billiards in Springfield. Smith’
s has a wide and varied selection of craft brews available
on tap. (See Beer my Way article “Mum’s the Word…for
Beer!”).Looking at the board on which the beers were
listed, and respecting my well known penchant for craft
beer, long time member and friend Tom Maminski said
“Okay, Hodge, I’m ready to try something new. What do
you recommend?” I was astounded! I had never seen
Tom drink anything other than Bud Light and on many
occasions had even heard him expound on its
goodness. Surely, here was a man ready to see the light
and be saved!

Not wanting to overwhelm him with an Oaked Imperial
Stout, Belgian tripel or Quadruple IPA all of which were
prominently listed on the board and which could easily
make him revert back to watery Bud Light, I studied the
offerings for just the right beer for his first foray into
the world of craft and decided on a nice, unassuming
saison. We ordered it and I was pleased to see that it
was poured into a proper stemmed glass. I carefully
advised him how to smell it, observe its color and taste
it, looking for all the flavor notes a saison should have.
He did all that and said “Hey! This isn’t bad!” I figured I
had brought another errant lamb back into the fold. But
I was hasty. Satan must have been working on him
also. Shortly after playing our next set, I noticed Tom
ordering another of the scores of Bud Lights he would
consume that weekend. You can lead a horse to water,
but you can’t make him drink!

My proudest achievement in the conversion process is
my new neighbor Matt Chuchla, native Buffalonian and
active duty member of the US Coast Guard. When Matt
moved in two years ago I welcomed him to the
neighborhood by engaging in conversation over the
fence between our yards. After a short while we got
talking about beer and Matt informed me that having
grown up so close to the land of the maple leaf, he was
extremely partial to Canadian beers. He praised Molson,
Sleeman’s, Moosehead and even the bland Labatt’s
Blue. Obviously this was a new challenge for Dan the

I had just returned from a trip to restock the beer
fridge and had probably 10 or 12 different brews
available in addition to a couple of homebrews. Several
hours later, legless and wavering, Matt returned to his
abode with his belly full of Victory Hop Devil, Lakefront
Big Easy maibock, Sam Adams Boston Ale, Dog Fish
Head Raison d’etre and Hodge’s Raj IPA. It was almost
too easy. I wondered if perhaps the great onslaught of
craft brews would confuse him and make him long for
the comfort and familiarity of Labatt’s Blue. But my
worries were needless. In fact, I may have created a
monster. Matt eagerly became a dues paying, card
carrying member of Draught Board 15, and a regular
patron of the Gaslight who wonders why their
“Governator” Vienna Lager is only available once a year.

Matt has accompanied me on  a few Friday night visits
to Climax brewery, was a very early sign up for the New
York TAP beerfest trip and I haven’t seen an empty
Molson bottle in over a year. It’s not unusual for him to
say “I just went to store and got a case of Sam Adams
Cold Snap. We’ll have to have a few later”. Last fall he
drove himself crazy trying to find more Flying Dog Dead
Rise Summer Ale with Old Bay seasoning. It was heart
rending having to explain to him that it was a summer
seasonal and it wouldn’t reappear before next summer .
Just recently I was listening to the Mets at my picnic
table and he came into view carrying a large bottle of
Ommegang Brewery’s Three Philosophers Quad. A few
of those and you’ll be down for the count by the
seventh inning stretch!

Hallelujah! If I ever decide to put up a tent and hold a
beer revival meeting, Matt will definitely be called upon to
offer the first testimonial! Amen, brother!


Another two
glasses up
article from
Dan Hodge!
has to say
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