Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding the right beer.

I was at a bar with some friends a few weeks back. One of my companions, Whitney, asked me why I like beer. It tastes bad, she said. It smells bad, she said. It's too filling, she said.

Of course, I (with some help of a couple other beer-swilling comerades) was able to counter all of those reasons. Beers come in an almost infinite number of flavors, tastes and aromas, we said. And if she thought it was too filling, there are plenty of beers that taste great but don't leave you feeling stuffed.

Whitney scoffed, as I knew she would. And I and my beer-loving buddies said eventually she'd find the right beer for her and dropped the subject as she consumed a hard liquor-based concoction with an unnatural color and that seemed to contain a lot of very dessert-like ingredients.

I was once like Whitney. I remember the first time I really tried beer in earnest. I was at a bar in Urbana, Illinois. I was visiting my now-ex-girlfriend Olga at college (I was still in high school in Chicago) and she and I met up with some of her friends and a couple of my cousins at a bar called Murphy's. At that time, my underaged alcohol consumption was limited to mostly vodka-based beverages - often vodka with cranberry juice - and some silly concoctions only underage drinkers trying to put together the most potent drinks for the least money could enjoy.

But my cousin David - a rabid consumer of good beer - decided I needed to drink beer. And Olga, born and raised in Poland and in possession of a very fine beer palette, agreed. So David, being over 21, went to the bar and got me (as well as himself and Olga) a beer. It was a Leinenkugel Red. He placed it in front of me and I looked at it. I smelled it. I took a small sip. I didn't care for it one bit. I managed to get it finished, but I didn't enjoy it at all.

At that point, if you told me I'd be posting to a blog about beer, I would have called you nuts. But Olga was determined that I'd like beer somehow. And so she kept introducing me to different beers - dark beers, light beers, ales, lagers, lambics, porters, stouts, IPAs, and everything in between.

And lo and behold, after trying a host of different beers, I found some that I began to like. And as I started to like more beers, I started trying more beers and finding more I liked.

To this day, I still don't like Leinenkugel Red. But I came back to beer because despite a bad first experience, I kept my mind open to the idea the beer could be a wonderful thing. And like Olga and David told me, I now tell people who say they don't like beer they simply haven't found the right beer yet.

If there's a moral here, it's that finding the right beer can be a daunting task, especially with all the crappy beer out there. But with a little help, I think even the most rabid beer opponent can find a beer they enjoy.


evolving.lines said...

Great story - and one to keep in mind when talking to new beer drinkers!

My first exposure to beer was when my parents' friends used to drink Coors Light out of cans while fishing off the house boat. Not the best of introductions.

Later, I was introduced to Guinness (which took some getting used to, but I now enjoy), IPAs (which vary so widely, it's always an adventure), and my favorite, lambic ales (nothing like sipping on a Lindeman's Cassis or Peche - YUM!).

To each their own. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

My appreciation of beer has definately taken off since I've started brewing and consequently drinking more varieties of beer. I started brewing in 2006 at the age of 33 and in the years between 21 and 33 had probably only tried 10 varieties of beer total. Now I'll try 10 different beers at one tasting event. I would never imagined that there were things like sour beers, barleywines or imperial stouts in early 2006, now I can't imagine how it would be without them. Some people are just never going to like beer, some will never try anything more than one of the big macrobrews, that just means there is more for the rest of us.

GROUCHO said...

Ironically... My first good experience with craft beers started with Leinie's. I started digging some of their seasonals, and that led me to try other brands like Schlafly.

It just started snowballing from there.

Alpha King said...

My first craft beer was a Pyramid Hefe draft. I then got on a Maudite kick and moved on to IPAs from there.

Bill M. said...

The first craft beer I remember was St. Bernardus ABT 12. My life was never the same after I drank that first one.

As a side note, I've tried a ton of IPAs and just don't like 'em.