Most Unforgettable

For BeerNexus.com


If you know where to look there are lots of craft beer articles these days. You’re
obviously are a smart reader as you’ve come to the Nexus of the Craft Beer World to
be informed, amused and of course well read, so kudos to you. But yes there are
others out there who write constantly so have to come up with something of interest
and note every day or so. So yes there are a lot of the “best beers to drink now” or
“best unknown breweries” or newest trends or best whatever, you get the idea. I will
look at some of these but usually I’m not all that excited by many of them.


But recently I found one that tweaked my interest titled; “We Asked 16 Beer Pros:
What’s the Most Unforgettable Beer You Ever Had?” Now that’s an interesting and
potentially thought provoking question, unless maybe you’re a millennial that’s only
been drinking a few years, then it’s the one you had yesterday. So they
accomplished step 1, tweaking my interest so I’ll go directly to step 2 which is reading
it, but that doesn’t mean it will be a good article, after all who are the 16 beer pros.


Well the first paragraph does set the stage saying some beers are unforgettable but
they may not necessarily be the best or rarest or most profound. They go on to say
some beers stay with you because they capture a moment, reminding you of special
people or times in your life. I can see immediately that this is a different type of
reflection, the kind that means you understand beer and to a greater extent one of
the major factors in our craft beer experience; that we love to taste different beers
and that it’s not usually the one we’ve sought after that’s the most memorable, but it’s
most fun when we’re in what becomes a specific space/location and sharing it with
friends. I’m liking this article already and I still don’t know who the sixteen are, but it’s
definitely got potential.


First out the gate is Sam Calagione, founder and CEO of Dogfish Head; no slouch
indeed. He talked about having a “super” fresh Herold Pilsner with Michael Jackson
at the Breznice brewery In Czechoslovakia and his vivid memories of a relaxing
afternoon sipping those fresh beers and talking about many other things than beer.
Wow, this article is delivering exactly what I was wondering if it could. It’s not just I had
this awesome beer and now I can go to heaven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it
can also about the circumstances, place and who you were with.


An excellent start and no I’m not going to go through the other fifteen one by one.
First of all I only recognized one of the names, Heidi Geist, who basically designs
beer labels. She created The 48 Beer Project, by driving around the country talking,
writing, photographing and probably even drinking a few beers. I guess if I could get
someone to sponsor me to drive around the country, try beers and therefore be a
craft beer celebrity I’d do it to; oh I thought I was a craft beer celebrity; we may need
to revisit that later. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed I didn’t recognize more of the
names as many were from known places; New Belgium, Modern Times, Brewers
Association, Other Half, Jack’s Abbey and Russian River to name the obvious ones.


As I continued to read through these some were not all that insightful, but some very
interesting like Sam’s. One of the better was being at a family gathering and when
everyone went inside for cake, he grabbed a bottle of Miller High Life, went up into
his treehouse and drank it while the relatives milled around below with the feeling no
one knew where he was or what he was doing. Now that’s an early beer experience
that will stick with you.


Another was someone buying a building for their brewery and the current owner gave
them a bottle of Sam Adams Triple Bock (1994). They opened it when the sale was
finalized to celebrate; drinking a beer produced before they were able to drink by a
craft beer pioneer, christening their craft beer journey.  Doesn’t get much more
memorable than that.


Then there’s the wine drinker who worked in the wine industry and had a 3 Fonteinen
Oude Gueuze which basically changed his life. “Its ability to so clearly represent a
place, the delicate balance yet explosive character, the absolutely unique and
uniquely delightful aroma and flavor, and the clear display of mastery in working with
a few simple ingredients in a specific location; it inspired me to further explore truly
wild beverages and beer and ultimately to work with my wife to open our brewery
years later.” That one beer changed this guy’s life and he vividly remembers much of
the feeling of it almost a decade later; now that’s an impression!


Another early experience was in Germany at a beer garden with his Mom, having a
Hofbrau Dunkel. The environment of the beer garden, the atmosphere and the
culture of beer created a much different setting than you usually have back in the
States. That first experience with a dark lager inspired the first beer recipe he wrote.
Not to mention the look on his mother’s face when she saw the liter stein come out
and when he ordered another five minutes later. We probably surprise our parents
more often than we think; both good and bad.


To me the other experiences weren’t as exciting although I don’t want to give short
shrift to what was to them an unforgettable moment, as I wouldn’t want them to do to
me. A few were when someone opened an old bottle of something, others were I
tasted this beer and it was just the right taste at the right moment or it opened up a
way of thinking about a certain style of beer. As a collection they were all different
and interesting in their own way as one would expect. Our experiences with beer are
unique and they can and do create memorable and in some cases unforgettable
experiences.


Now that was a fun article. It got me to thinking of how I would answer that question.
So I hit the Google brain search function to sort through the moments that pop up as
most memorable or unforgettable. I’m honing in on a few.


The first would be as a sophomore in college. My mother, sister, a cousin and I
headed down to Florida to visit my Grandmother who had moved to St Petersburg.
While there we stopped at Busch Gardens, which was right next to one of the AB
breweries, before InBev ripped that apart. As I’m recalling as part of the admission
price I was entitled to two drafts. I’m not remembering if I had a choice or there was
only one available but I had Michelob, which back then was considered a super-
premium and a beer I wasn’t normally drinking as it was more expensive than the
basic lagers you could get. Michelob, as described by AB, was a malty, full-bodied
European-style premium lager, using European noble aroma hop varieties and a
100% malt blend of the finest two-row and caramel malts. Notice all the references to
European inferring that made a difference compared to our standard American
lagers. Anyway sitting outside in warm sun, relaxing with a couple of probably the
freshest and one of the better beers I had had to that point was something I still
remember. Of course now we can get fresh beer virtually any time we visit a craft
brewery and have one in the tasting room.


My second one is a lot fuzzier as I don’t remember exactly where or when, possibly
the mid 70’s, or who I might have been with but I do remember the beer; it was
Genesee 12 Horse Ale. And I remember really liking it.  According to the Genesee
website 12 Horse is English style ale, brewed with six-row barley malt, hops from
Yakima Valley and their proprietary top-fermenting ale yeast. It was introduced in
1933 and is their most requested Heritage brew so I guess I’m not alone in
remembering it. Again this was a one off, more expensive than the standard lagers
and ales. And yes ales certainly are tastier than lagers, but I can see where this
could have been a crossover beer a decade or so before the craft industry started. I
have looked for it from time to time but never found it. I was duly impressed that my
beer bar the Cloverleaf has an old 12 Horse Ale advertisement framed and up on
their wall.


My next memorable moment would be when we arrived in LA at a friend’s house in
the summer of ’78. We were driving cross country and the stretch from Vegas to LA
was long and hot and I didn’t AC in my van, so it was VERY hot. So yes I needed a
shower when we got there but first I had Coors. I had had Coors before that, but it
still wasn’t distributed east of the Mississippi so it still had that mystique. But hey, it
was good to arrive and get out of the heat; good to see a friend I didn’t get to see
often and yes very good to quench a big thirst.


Those are all “pre” the craft beer revolution that we are currently enjoying as I
started drinking beer well before that. And I must say there are a few times I tried a
craft brew that I had heard a lot about and it didn’t meet expectations. That’s usually
because of too much hype generating too much expectation, which can ruin what is
really a great beer. I do remember my first taste of DFH 60 Minute, Ithaca Flower
Power, Heady Topper, Road to Ruin and many others. But I think my unforgettable
craft beer moment was when my alumni association had an event last summer at The
Other Half. They had, and still do have, quite a reputation. My BeerNexus partner in
crime, Vince, came along also. Both being IPA lovers we knew we were going to love
this, but they exceeded our expectations. Beer after beer was amazingly good and in
a few hours we had tried a great selection of their IPAs and stouts. My taste buds
were in nirvana that afternoon and their beers basically blew me away. Oh and by the
way I took a few cases home.


So when you get a chance, crack a cold one and sit back and run your own Google
brain search and think about the memorable and unforgettable times and places you’
ve been with beer. Hopefully there will be many of them and it will be a worthwhile and
relaxing reminiscing about them. It might even make you want to pick up the phone
and call someone involved just to connect and share the enjoyment.



Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer.
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