Boak & Bailey invited us to tell stories for this month's Session: how did 'it' -- seeing beer in a different light -- start for you? I've always been a traveling kind of beer guy, so I decided to focus on where it started for me.
I had my first beer, my first full beer, in 1978. I was 19 years old, a late bloomer. It was a Genesee Cream Ale. I liked it. That's not where it started.
I had my first beer out of the American mainstream in 1981. I was 22, and I thought I knew a lot about beer. It was an Altenmünster. I liked it. That's not where it started.
I brewed my first batch of homebrew in 1986. I was single, living in a dry county in Kentucky. I read Charlie Papazian's book, I got the equipment and supplies, and I brewed. The first batch sucked. The second one was pretty decent. That's not where it started.
I had my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on August 14, 1987 in Tahoe City, at a deli, a little before noon (hey, like I always say: some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot...and I'm dissembling: it wasn't "a little before noon," it was 11:55. I looked at a clock, it was so good). I got a bottle to go with my corned beef special. I loved it. That's not where it started.
Where it started was at the Front Street Pub, a brewpub in Santa Cruz, California. It was October of 1987, and I'd been living in California for two months, and the beer scene was just starting to pop. My boss's husband was a Brit, a likable guy who ran computers for one of the big vegetable outfits in the Salinas Valley. One day in September I was driving home and saw him jogging alongside the road. I stopped, said hi, and we got to talking beer. He told me I should really go over to Santa Cruz and see this place.
I did, and I was so taken that I got out a little notebook I'd been carrying for grocery lists and such, and started keeping a Beer Diary. That's where it really started, because that's when I started thinking about beer, about why I liked it, what it tasted like, what the people who drank it were like, what they said, how they thought about it, and about how we'd gotten to the place we were in.
I started it that day, and I've been keeping them for 20 years; I've got a file drawer full of them. I kept them for six years before I ever even thought about writing about beer for money; I just wanted to get some thoughts down so I could go back and look at them and think some more.
And you see, once I started thinking about what I was drinking, it just got more and more interesting. I went out to find more to read, more to drink, more people to talk to...and that's what I've been doing ever since, and in the process, I talked to a LOT of people. I became unafraid of stating opinions, and thinking as deeply about beer as I felt the urge to, and not worrying about what beer was supposed to be. That's some of the most important stuff to me about how I experience beer today: clearing my mind of pre-formed impressions and diving into the beer in front of me and enjoying it...assuming it's worth enjoying!
It all started at the Front Street Pub, a wonderful place in memory.