The first beer I can remember actually enjoying was Sam Adams Light. It wasn’t enough to get me drinking beer regularly, though. That beer was Goose Island 312. Its minimalist yellow and black box beckoned me from all the way across the liquor department of a large grocery store. It wasn’t until I moved back to Chicago after a brief stint in Rockford that I discovered Half Acre Gossamer Golden Ale. Drinking that beer on a strangely warm April day was definitely what set me on a path that led me here talking to some of the most passionate beer drinkers from all over the world. This week we asked them what were the beers that set them on the path to be adventurous drinkers.
“I thought SweetWater Hummer was the shit. It was the best beer I had ever had at the time and better than all the Natty Light my friends were drinking. I bought a case that Fourth of July and have been hooked on craft ever since.”
“I was visiting my now-wife’s family in Michigan, back when New Holland mug club members could get $2 growlers on Tuesdays. Upon each arrival, a New Holland beverage of sorts was thrust into my hands, regardless of the hour of the day. For a summer, I just bounced between Zoomer, Poet, Hatter, Sundog, Dragon’s Milk… There were never less than six growlers in the fridge.”
“My gateway beer was Foothills Brewing's Carolina Blonde from Winston-Salem (where I was in college). I had an awesome friend who took whatever light beer I was drinking out of my hand and gave me a bottle of that instead. Not only was it cool that it was craft, but also that it was brewed down the street!“
“Either Magic Hat #9 or Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.”
“I had drank craft beer rarely up until I was 25 when I had Rochefort 10. It blew me away.”
“I was going to college in Chico, CA and, while I love Sierra Nevada's beers, I was at a new bar that just opened up with some friends and one of my buddies recommended that I try Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. I was hooked from that point forward.”
“Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. I had been drinking Harpoon IPA and some other craft beer, but that was the first beer that made me think, 'Wow, beer can taste like this?!'"
“For me, it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Stone IPA/Arrogant Bastard, followed by Sculpin IPA. [I was] spoiled by being born/raised in San Diego and growing up at the same time as the San Diego craft beer boom.”
“The year was 2008, and after an entire summer of drinking Bud Light Lime with my roommate at the time, I wanted to branch out. So I went to the grocery store across the street and bought two six packs, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Blue Moon. We proceeded to drink them in the same fashion as our Bud Light Lime and quickly realized two things: they were significantly better tasting, and we were significantly more inebriated.”
“College in Central PA was filled with Budweiser and Yuengling until I visited Troegs and tried Troeganator. That beer blew my mind. [It was] filled with so much flavor—a beer style that I have never experienced.”
“In college I remember finishing up a 40 of Old E when a buddy handed me a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Mind blown. In the context of the malt liquor, Pale Ale was quite a jump—and one I was glad I made.”
“I drank a ton of Oberon in college (at the University of Michigan). That never seemed particularly special or unique—just better than the other stuff. The first beer that really stands out was Bell's Special Double Cream Stout. Sophomore and junior year, I lived in this giant U-shaped building. We were having a courtyard party, so we gave this guy Brody $100 to go get beer. He came back with one keg of the stout. We decided not to serve general party-goers such good beer, so we took the keg up to our apartment, got some generic beer for the courtyard, and we would go refill our glasses with Bell's from our apartment.”
“My gateway to craft was Allagash White, which lead to their other offerings. The rest is history.”
“North Coast Red Seal Ale was the cool find back in late '80s. It was such a different beer from what was available and it really started me thinking about hops and hoppy beer.”
“Rebel Red by my local pub Franciscan Well in 2001. [I] thought brewpubs were the norm until I realized that it was only one of three in Ireland. It had flavor, I could see where it was actually brewed. It was in line with cooking food. More than something you buy without thinking about. It wasn’t always the same. I liked that.”
“I started to pick up random six packs of anything other than a light Lager when I had some extra cash. I remember grabbing Honey Brown a decent bit. I also attended an annual design show that always had an open bar providing an endless amount of Penn Dark. But it wasn't until my brother ordered me my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I remember thinking, 'What is this stuff?!' That same weekend we randomly went to a beer festival and I've never looked back.”
“I did a semester abroad in London and tried as wide a range of beers I could. My mind was blown by Hoegaarden, just how refreshing and unique the flavor was compared to everything I had tried up to that point.”
“We had a lot of British classics, so I learned to like London Pride and ESB in my early twenties. But then in 2003-2004 I got my first bottle of Brooklyn's EIPA and had a profound moment which is still etched in my soul. In 2008, I got to attend Brooklyn's brewery tour and that was the start of my quest to find the truth in beer.”
“Sumpin when it first came out and I was spending a lot of time in NoCal. That was what I always had in my fridge, but that was also what made me start paying attention and seeking out new and exciting stuff.”
“My gateway beer would have to be Goose Island’s 312. The beer my grandmother used to say was 'an ale, not a beer' with a slight sneer.”
“Lagunitas IPA. I drank it in college (in San Francisco) while we were using Keystone Light as our beer game beers. It was our every once and awhile 'treat yourself' purchase. I turned into a little bit of hop head, just trying to get the highest IBUs I could.”
Follow up question: Once you’ve established your love affair with craft beer most of us go whale hunting. And trying to find a great barrel-aged beer or one-off IPA is fine, but what happens when your hunting goes too far? I once waited in line for three hours just to walk away with two 12-ounce bottles of beer. Nothing's worth that. These are the beers and experiences that broke us.
“I went too far when I stood in line for Bourbon County Stout one Black Friday. It was snowing and I couldn't feel my fingers or toes. That's when I got out of the 'lining up for a beer release' world.”
“The Bruery Chocolate Rain. For some reason I had been dying to try that beer. I knew I had chased it too far because when I finally traded for it I couldn't bring myself to open it. For a while. One day I finally did. It was good, even great, but it was hard to live up to the anticipation I had built up in my mind. From then on I've sought after beers I've wanted to try but it's more about getting to try new things, sharing, and the entire experience of traveling to visit the brewery, not just the victory of purchasing the bottle.”
“I waited in line for the coveted 2013 Bourbon County Coffee Stout. [After I got home,] I was unloading my car and it shattered. I was devastated.”
“I convinced my unsuspecting parents to sit in line at a liquor store to try and get one of the Westy 12 six packs that had been allotted a few years back. It was in Colorado Springs and it was not a nice day. Needless to say, my parents sat there for nine hours in the cold and scored the last six pack. They were not very happy and I realized I had probably gone a little overboard.”
“Dark Lord was one I traded for, but [wasn't] real impressed. By the time I first tried it, I already had some massive stouts. Black Tuesday, Black Ops, etc.”
“I booked a flight to San Jose, rented a car and drove to Russian River. Spent as much money on Pliny, Blind Pig, and their sours as I did on a flight, just to fly out the next morning back home in time for classes. Looking back on my bank statements and credit card I knew I had made a mistake. Since then I have practiced serious restraint.”
“Being from Florida, I had heard a lot about Cigar City but never had the chance to try the renowned Hunahpu's Imperial Stout. However, I had a college buddy move to South Florida at the same time I moved to Boston. We stayed in touch and shared an interest in craft beer. That is when the first of many beer trades started for me. I traded several beers for my first taste of Hunahpu and went on to spend a great deal of time and money trading for other whales across the country. After a while it was too much and I stopped trading completely. There's just too much good beer nearby to spend time searching!”
Our final questions: What beers made you stop and realize that driving all over the state and trading across the country wasn’t necessary? What’s the beer you could drink every day and be happy?
“My go-to is Dovetail Lager. But if I had to go with something that's bottled/canned, I'd say Pipeworks Lizard King.”
“Locally, I would say Trillium Fort Point. It's heavy, but such a solid beer. Not local, Three Floyds Gumballhead. I could drink that for days.”
"There's always a six pack of Creature Comforts Bibo or Athena in my fridge. Bibo has changed a lot for me, and it's such a great beer. A non-local: I wish I had more of it, but Ourison from Tired Hands. Can't get tired of drinking that beer.”
“I try to keep super drinkable beer in our fridge. A current favorite is Allagash's Table Beer. I'd drink that all day.”
“What brings me back from the brink is walking into a small brewery that I'm unfamiliar with and being blown away by the quality, freshness, and a great staff.”
“Murphy’s Stout on draft when it’s running. Such a relatively full-flavored stout which we were scared to embrace but opted for the blander option out of a national thirst.”
“Right now, that’s usually short cans of Side Launch Mountain Lager and Wellington’s Helles Lager.”
“Lately, I just check dates on fresh hoppy pales or grab a sixer of Pivo/Trumer Pils.”
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