Seventeen years ago, I worked at a small start-up pharmaceutical company in Ft. Washington, PA. One of the friends I made there was a young chemist, Tom Lawler. Tom was a good guy, and we got along well, but Coors Light was where his beer world began and ended. I decided to open his eyes to the variety that was available -- which wasn't really all that much, in 1991, in the Philadelphia area.
The first cracks in the wall were Yuengling Lager and Killian's Irish Red (which was a significantly beefier beer in those days). Tom took to them, and we ran around in Berks County, drinking Yuengling and eating the local Pennsylvania Dutch chow. We grabbed a new toxicologist at the firm, Les Gibbs, a Bud man, and broke him in on beer variety, too.
We toured the Yuengling and Lion breweries (talk about back in the day...our first Lion tour featured scrounging up some hardhats, and duckwalking under tanks in the crowded old fermentation hall). We took a day off work to go down to the old Dock Street brewpub at 18th & Cherry for May Day, when they released their bock and had a farmer bring three goats into the city.
The high point while we were at Greenwich was probably in 1993. (Warning: long and rambling reminiscence ahead.) Eight of us did "The Long Ranger Trip," a three-day journey into New England, where we visited New England Brewing (where I first met Phil Markowski), New Haven Brewing (where we had a very funny and profane tour and walked away with an unexpected free case of each of their beers...those were the days) the Hartford Brewery (where the beer tasted like there'd been a cleaning solution incident, except the alt, which was good), Northampton Brewery (where one of our gang got a quick French lesson), Commonwealth (a sadly missed brewpub that was all about cask ale), Harpoon (we sucked down a lot of Oatmeal Stout on the tour, during which it started snowing heavily), Cambridge Brewing (where we had one of the coolest yards of beer I've ever seen; a dark beer floated on top of a lighter one, and the dark spiraled down into the light), and then a harsh run up a very snowy I-95 that ended just short of the Maine border where we finally gave up and ditched it for the night in a hotel. We'd planned to visit the Portsmouth Brewery and Gritty McDuff's and Geary, but the three hours it took us to go fifty miles up I-95 convinced us otherwise.
The next day we made the 11 AM tour at Catamount, did some drinking at the Inn at Long Trail (still a favorite stop; we dropped off about half the guys here, they were going to stay and ski at Killington), took in the self-guided tour at the old Long Trail brewery (and bought lots of stuff from the powerfully cute woman in the hospitality room), and then finished up in Brattleboro at The Latchis (back when they were still brewing; we were terribly gruffty and rough for the white linen dining room, but the waiter was extremely gracious about it) and the last stop, appropriately, was McNeill's (as rough and gruffty as we were, but friendly, and the beer was excellent).
As you can see, the beer education process had gone well. The point of this whole long post was last night, when I was over at Tom's house for the Super Bowl. The three of us -- me, Les, and Tom -- stood in his barroom, where beer posters lined the overhead, and his "shrine" of Yuengling collectibles and antiques sat proudly below the plasma screen. Each of us was holding a glass of draft Tröegs Nugget Nectar from the sixtel he'd reserved for this occasion, served on his two-tap home draft system (Miller Lite on the other tap, he's a reasonable man). That's when Tom gestured at the shrine, and held up the beer, and said to me, "You know, this is all your fault." We clinked glasses and grinned.
The pleasure of having turned someone on to the fuller joys of the broad spectrum of beer was gratifying. Getting invited to a party where there was draft Nugget Nectar was a nice side benefit as well!