Firstly, apologies for the delay in writing this up, but we wanted to do it justice. We’re very pleased with both the number (43, we make it) and the quality of responses. We’ve gone back to re-read several of them already. Incidentally, if we have left you off – sorry, it’s not intentional, and do let us know!
It’s been absolutely fascinating getting the insight into the people behind these great beer blogs. We’ve all come to “good beer” from very different places. As well as contributions from all over the US, we’ve had posts from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Argentina, and Lithuania.
However, some themes do emerge…
One of the reasons for suggesting the topic is that our epiphany seemed so sudden – during a week-long holiday.
Al at Hop Talk writes about the moment at a barbecue when he realised that two beers he’d thought were more-or-less the same actually had distinct characteristics. A lightbulb moment.
Maeib describes something similar. He was interested to discover several different styles on one day, in one pub, which piqued his curiosity. He’s been on a quest for the perfect beer ever since.
Kieran Haslett-Moore from New Zealand had his big moment on a train when he drank his first Emerson’s and realised beer could have character. He is now one of the keenest proponents of cask ale in his hemisphere. So that would be a life changing moment, then.
Wheat beer is a great introduction to decent beer, and it was an American version which brought Jon at the Brew Site on board. He describes Widmer Hefeweizen as “thick, yeasty, bready, crisp, bracing, and the most delicious beer to pass my lips ever” and says it opened his eyes. Yes, that does indeed sound very tasty.
The Beer Nut’s conversion came shortly before he actually drank the fabled beer, when a polemic printed on the back of a menu at the Porterhouse in Dublin roused his passions. Fortunately, the beer was good enough to justify the rhetoric.
Rick Lyke underlines a point that came through in many people’s posts – the beer that turns you on doesn’t have to be that great, just better than what you’ve been drinking before. In his case, he flashed the cash as a 17 year old and spent nearly four times as much as his mates buying a German import which blew his mind. He’s never looked back! The same goes for Chipper Dave (great nickname!) who had his head turned by a humble bottle of Labatt’s Blue and then again, a few years later, by Guinness. And Eric Delia isn’t ashamed to admit that a can of Miller Lite set his heart aflutter. At the age of 10. Crivens.
Stacey at Hodoeporicon (her first Session) tells us that she “got it” when she drank Schooner, a poorly regarded Canadian beer. It’s not that the beer was especially great – just that it was something other than Bud Light. Now she is “the person who brings good beer to the party & orders draft or cask ales when everyone else is pounding Buds”. From little acorns…
Jay Brooks was stationed on Staten Island with an army band (!) when he tried Bass and Guinness and realised that there was more to beer than light American lagers. If you want to read more, see his semi-fictional memoir of a beer drinker, written in 30 days as part of National Novel Writing Month.
Dr Joel tells of his first sip of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the car park at a gig, which left him dazed and confused and in love with hops. If you decide you love hops, you more-or-less have to give up on bog standard beers, right? And, on the flipside, Thomas at Geistbear Brewing Blog tells us that he had his head turned by a malty dunkelweizen, whilst studying the language in Germany.
Another touching tale of teenage experimentation comes from Heath, whose excellent post sees him admit to something lots of us do – choosing his first batch decent beer based on how cool the labels looked! Not a bad way to go about it, if his list is anything to go by.
Knut Albert discovered an interest in beer whilst travelling around Europe with a gang of friends as a young man. Being a friendly type, he got talking to some British lads in a train station on the continent (he shared a melon with them…) and found himself a few days later drinking Young’s Special with them at a pub in Sutton. Sutton!?
And the last of our batch of people turned on by beers they’re not so keen on these days, Pivni Filosof, who was so used to boring Quilmes in his native Argentina that when a new beer came on the market which was brewed to the Rheinheitsgebot (as opposed to containing “who knew what”) he couldn’t help but be impressed. Then he moved to the Czech republic…
For Chela, enlightenment was a gradual process, including formative periods in London and Edinburgh. Immersion in a particular beer culture did the job, in other words, which is also true for Stonch, whose six months in Prague rewired his tastebuds and brain.
Dr Fabulous (not his birth name) was similarly seduced over the course of years by beers from abroad, but consumed most of them at home, finding in them a hint of the exotic which was hard to resist.
Alan at A Good Beer Blog is a bit fed up of the navel-gazing of recent Sessions, but nonetheless tells a fascinating tale of drinking beer, getting to like beer, and then, after several years, discovering that there a beer scene was emerging which he wanted to be part of. He read an article in the Atlantic Monthly which gave him a glimpse of “what beer could be” and hasn’t looked back.
David at Musings over a pint was drinking “better beer” along with the bog standard stuff for ages without making a particular distinction and, after time, just stuck with the good stuff. No blinding light there. And Stan at Appellation beer (founder of the Session) narrows it down to five incidents over the course of nearly 40 years. Lew Bryson also lists several occasions when it might have happened, or nearly happened, but decides ultimately that the terminal moment was when he started to take notes and keep a diary. To note: Lew’s loyal fans have started recording their own “turning points” in the comments, making his post a session within a session. Take a look!
Brewmaster Matt had a few steps along the way, but thinks several years of being interested in beer all came together on a wine-tasting tour of Europe which ended up as a beer-tasting tour of Germany! That’s what we like to hear…
Martin, the Electric Landlord, was slowly converted by repeated exposure to one beer (Holt’s Bitter) in one pub (the Crescent, Salford) as a student. Is there such a thing as a monogamous beer geek? And if so, what does that make tickers and scoopers? The swingers of the beer drinking world?
The Beer Philosopher also got into beer gradually at college, but the best part of his post is about the moment when he nearly got turned off beer for life, drinking a very cheap, very generic beer with a friend as a thirsty 14 year old.
Which brings us to one of our favourite posts, from the Black Cat Brewery in Ireland. Thom not only took a while to get into beer, but worked bloody hard at it, too. He didn’t, stricly speaking, like the beers he was tasting, but really wanted to. Eventually, Erdinger Weissbier took him by the hand and showed him the ropes with appropriate care and gentleness…
The time, the place, the people
Martynas from Lithuania tells us that, despite drinking baltic porter/barley wine for breakfast as a student, he didn’t really get into beer until he found himself working as cheap labout in Yorkshire and got into the habit of washing the dust from his throat with pints of real ale. Incidentally, we bought a bottle of the breakfast beer he mentions today – we’ll let you know how that goes!
Yorkshire seems to exert a magical effect on potential beer lovers. Andy over at Beerbuzzing grew up in Tadcaster, home of Sam Smiths, so just couldn’t avoid decent beer. He joined CAMRA to get into festivals on the cheap.
Rob at Sophisticated Brews had a relatively late moment of clarity at the age of 41 when he joined an outing to a ball game which stopped off at the Goose Island brewery on the way. He says that, there and then, he “realized how crappy the stuff I’d been drinking was”. Mmmmm. Goose Island. Gargle.
Jessica, the Thirsty Hopster, drank beer at first because everyone else was doing it and she didn’t want to be a pain in the arse. And if she was going to drink beer, she might as well find one she actually liked – which turned out to be Magic Hat No. 9.
Mario at Brewed for Thought also got into beer because he was trying to make friends in a new town and the local pub just happened to have amazing beer. If he’d gone to university in a different city, it might never have happened. Shudder. And Buttle got into beer because he lived around the corner from an import specialist called Beers of the World and thought he might as well have a nose around. Those are both great stories of how making the most of what’s going on in your town can change your life for the better.
Finally, there’s Steve, who was taking part in a USC tailgate (it’s like a foreign language…) when, under the influence of a tasty Sam Adams, he rashly agreed with a fellow sports fan that they should try to drink as many different beers as they could. He didn’t realise quite what a commitment he was making…
A number of people have come to good beer via homebrewing. Legendary home-brew guru Charlie Papazian gives his story here. It’s also and important part of the story for Rick at the Brew Blog, Keith at Brainard Brewing, and Wilson at Brewvana, who was also lucky enough to be born with “the beer gene”. Nicolino at Cerveza al sur de Ecuador in a Spanish-language post mentions hombrewing as an important factor, but also credits the Argentinian economic crisis of 2001; apparently this led to overnight cessation in imports of foreign beers, and subsequently a rise in homegrown microbreweries!
Finally, there is the unclassifiable. Troy at Great Canadian Pubs and Beer reports on how his obsession started with fascinating empty bottles he found in garbage trucks (that’s rubbish lorries to us Brits). Rob from Pfiff! tells us that he was bred on the good stuff, and couldn’t get his hands on crappy macro-brew if he tried. Lucky devil. Similarly, Paul Arthur skipped the fizzy lagers, making his way to beer via single malt whiskies and fine wine. The beer that did it for him was Ommegang Abbey Ale, which we’ve always wanted to try but never seen on sale in the UK.
Flying Dog Brewery tell us about their founding here.
Stephen Beaumont wrote a lovely post, but his site is down right now. We’ll update as and when.
Estoy escribiendo este post en español, pero necesito un poco más tiempo…
The next session will be hosted by Thomas at Geist Bear