Imagine it’s 1927. You’re standing atop a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s cold. You edge out over the precipice, 500 feet in the air. You're strapped to a small metal chair. That chair is connected to the end of a 3/8-inch-thick steel cable. The cable is controlled by a man you can’t see. The man is listening to a child—a child—shouting directions on how quickly he should lower you. Descend too quickly? You’ll be dragged by your face along the rock and you'll likely die.
[Editor's note: Please don't die.]
After you’ve descended a predetermined distance, you stop. You pull out a few sticks of dynamite, shove them into a crack in the rock, and flash a tepid thumbs up. The child again gives directions to the man, who begins to hand crank the winch, and you begin to rise. After you reach the top, the mountain is cleared, powdermen set off the charge, the granite explodes, it falls to the ground, and the process begins again. Again and again and again.
This is more or less the exact same excrutiatingly precise process I’ve been following for the last few weeks as I've created my Mount Rushmore of beer—my Mount Crushmore, as it were.
I’m left with four beers that occupy a monumental place in my heart and an idyllic place in my mind. These four beers are beers I simply could not do without. That’s not to say these are the best beers I drink, though they’re all spectacular in their own way. And that’s not to say these are the only beers I drink, though they’re pretty much all ever-present in my fridge. Rather, these are the beers that have helped shape me, in much the same way that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln have helped shape these United States.
Sierra Nevada Pale. Bell’s Two Hearted. Coors Banquet. Orval.
There it is. My Mount Crushmore. My personal Beer Hall of Fame. My monument to the steadfast and reliable ones. The beers I can turn to time and again when I’m craving something familiar, something consistent, and something to remind me why I fell in love with beer in the first place.
I mean, who can say anything bad about Sierra? Don’t. I will fight you. It’s the OG, as far as I’m concerned. Unfuckwithable. A paradigm. A mindset. An icon. It is my North Star, and very much the basis by which I judge virtually everything I drink. It’s JAWS. It’s Pet Sounds. It’s Jim Brown. It’s the GOAT. End of story.
Man, Two Hearted is just a legend. It is what my taste buds pulsate over anytime someone utters the letters "IPA." It is the definitive expression of Centennial hops. It is the pride of the Midwest. It’s my go-to beer to slam when I want to get jacked up in short order, and the beer that most reminds of being out of doors. It’s a marvel, and as that fish’s face suggests, it's not to be trifled with.
Banquet. *deep exhale* For starters, it’s the namesake of this blog. It’s also Sam Elliott’s beer of choice. That dude was The Stranger in The Big Lebowski. You can't question his taste. If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s a beer I love to end my evenings with, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a beer that pairs better with grilled hot dogs. In a word, it’s "classic." Long live the banquet beer.
Last but certainly not least, Orval. My heart aches just thinking about it. The story behind it is enough to bring a tear to your eye, and then you taste it. Cue the waterworks. It's rumored to be the beer Da Vinci was drinking when he painted the Mona Lisa. Look at her eyes. Look at how jealous she is. It’s the beer I like to drink the most when I’m reading because holding it in my hand automatically makes me look and feel smarter and more cultured than I am or ever will be. And it’s the beer I treat myself to whenever I’ve achieved something, however modest. It’s a gift to myself, and to all mankind.
(A fun fact: the Orval logo is the only thing I'd ever consider tattooing on my body.)
So there you have it—my Mount Crushmore. Everyone has their own, and I’d venture to guess that none are identical. (Tell me about yours?) They're probably shifting, too, and that’s the great thing: they aren’t carved in stone. They just live in your heart, forged by the dynamite that is your past, the jackhammers that are your memories, and the small child that lives in each of us, whose sole purpose is to instinctively yell out commands because someone’s life depends on it.