There are plenty of people who know more about beer than I do. But I know a little bit about it… In fact, I’ve become sort of a beer snob over the years. It pisses me off, for instance, when I’m in a bar with thirty microbrews on tap, and some shitkicker sits down, slaps the counter, and says, “Coors Light!”
It’s like being in Manhattan, or San Francisco, and going to TGI Friday’s for lunch. It’s almost a sin, in my book.
Anyway, I can tell you exactly when my beer snobbery took root. Well, not exactly — I can’t give you a day of the week — but I can tell you about the event.
It was 1991 or thereabouts, and Toney and I had only been dating for a few months. One day she told me she was planning to fly to Oregon, to visit her sister (Nancy!), and wanted to know if I’d be interested in going with her.
With the exception of a lightning-fast work-related California trip, I’d never been west of Tennessee, and Oregon seemed impossibly exotic to me. I told her I’d love to go, so we started making plans.
I didn’t know much about Nancy at that point, I’d only met her twice: at a Braves game, and for drinks at a bar called Aunt Charley’s, in Atlanta. She seemed kinda flaky and scattered, but nice enough.
And for many years my favorite beer was Rolling Rock. It was more of a brand loyalty thing, than any kind of real appreciation for beer quality. I liked the old-fashioned longneck bottles, more than anything else.
But on that trip to Oregon, everything changed.
In 1991 there was no such thing (as far as I knew) as a brewpub, or microbrews, or anything of the sort. Whenever we were feeling the urge for something “fancy” we’d grab some shitty import, like Foster’s — which cost more, but tasted exactly like what we were accustomed to.
On that trip, however, Nancy exposed me to beers that blew me away. Many had a bitter aftertaste, which was completely new to me. But, man, I loved it. I later learned it was hops, and I’d never experienced anything quite like it.
We also went to several brewpubs, where they made their own beers inside the restaurant. All incredibly tasty…
I remember sitting in one such place in Eugene, and a hippie came in with an empty orange juice jar. He handed it to the bartender, who filled the jar, and the hippie Birkenstocked his patchouli ass on down the road with it.
It was a beer lover’s paradise!
There were two store-bought beers, in particular, that were so incredibly good, they nearly brought tears to my eyes: Bridgeport Blue Heron Ale and Full Sail Pale Ale. Neither are available in the East, and I haven’t had them in years. But they almost made me cry in 1991.
The Pacific Northwest was way ahead of the rest of the country when it came to craft beers, and we landed right in the middle of it. I couldn’t believe it; I had no idea. And, thanks in part to Nancy, I’ve been interested in quality beers ever since.
In fact, just this past weekend Toney bought a six-pack of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. We’d had it before, but it had probably been a year. And when we took the first sip, both of us said at the same time: “Mmmm… tastes like Oregon.”
So, even now, we judge all beers against that trip. “Not exactly Oregon,” is something we say when we’re disappointed with a selection. It was a life-changing event, and that’s no exaggeration.
When we got back to Atlanta I went to a large liquor store in Buckhead, and talked to them about special ordering microbrews from Oregon or Washington. It broke my heart to go back to Rolling Rock.
There wasn’t much to choose from — none of my favorites could be shipped to Georgia. So I ordered a case of something unfamiliar, from Seattle, for some ENORMOUS amount of money. And it tasted like a liquefied whisk broom.
Toney drank one, and washed her hands of the whole exercise. And I choked them down (they were expensive!) over a three month period, or so. Blecch. Instead of Cascade hops, I think they used pee-soaked hay from a dairy farm.
And so, that’s how I became a kinda-sorta beer snob. It’s not something I chose, it just happened. My first encounter with that hoppy aftertaste changed everything.
Dogfish Head 60 Minute and Stone IPA are two beers available in this area that really “taste like Oregon.” Mmmm… I wish I had one right now.
And, in my way of thinking, there’s a big difference between microbrews and an everyday beer. There are plenty of great microbrews that I enjoy, but keep Yuengling Lager in the fridge for casual drinking.
It’s unfair to compare beers from different categories, with different purposes. It irritates me when people say, “You think Yuengling is a good beer? Have you tried <insert ultra-obscure brew from Vermont or New Hampshire>?”
Not the same thing, shitlips. I love all sorts of great microbrews, prefer Yuengling as an everyday beer, and used to drink Pabst during the “lean years.” PBR is always a decent, dirt-cheap option.
So, there you go. What’s the best beer you’ve ever tasted? What’s your everyday beer of choice? And how about the cheap-ass category?
You don’t like beer, you say? Well, maybe I’ll write about something that interests you tomorrow. I can’t make any promises, of course, because I have no idea what I’ll be writing about tomorrow.
But I’ll see you then!