The session round up – there are many roads to good beer

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…

Sud­den epipha­nies

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…

Grad­ual enlight­en­ment

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

12 thoughts on “The session round up – there are many roads to good beer”

  1. Well worth wait­ing for, this detailed round-up cer­tain­ly was! Thanks again for host­ing all 43 (!) of us.

    And for the record, don’t be *too* jeal­ous: While cen­tral Ore­gon was (and is) a damned fine place for craft beer, there were cer­tain oth­er *ahem* cul­tur­al aspects that it lacked at the time…

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  3. I guess that’s the SPIRIT was under­go­ing site main­te­nance over the week­end, but it’s back up now. Thanks for both the host­ing and the ter­rif­ic round-up.

  4. Thanks for host­ing. It was my first ses­sion, and I real­ly enjoyed writ­ing for it. I’m already look­ing for­ward to the next one (I’ve got a idea for one myself, but before mak­ing it known, I must see if it has­n’t been ses­sioned yet).
    BTW, the round up was fun to read, too!
    Na Zdraví!!!

  5. Some­how I com­plete­ly missed this ses­sion, and it was a good one, too!
    I call this phe­nom­e­non of “find­ing” good beer your “gate­way beer.” The one that made you turn the cor­ner. I actu­al­ly hap­pened to have just writ­ten about it recent­ly:
    In which I go on about my love of New Glarus. Great read­ing, every­one!

  6. Anoth­er late entry, this time from from Delir­i­um, based in Valen­cia, about dis­cov­er­ing beer through var­i­ous Bel­gian offer­ings, begin­ning with Belle Vue…

  7. Pingback: Hop Talk » Blog Archive » Session #15 wrap-up

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