Good Beer Hunting

In Good Company

A Family Affair — Aren Rabe and Jamie Wilmoth in Portland, OR

I shouldn’t haven been surprised to find Michigan beer geeks in Portland, OR. But these aren’t your average beer hunters — Aren Rabe is a professional. He was “on assignment” for Kent Beverage out of Grand Rapids, MI where he’s a team lead with accounts like Brewery Vivant, Bells and most recently Greenbush Brewing out of Sawyer.

When I walked in to Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, Aren’s Spartan hat and stack of Bell’s stickers gave him away. And after a bottle of vintage Adam — a thick, rich old world ale — it became clear that beer was a family affair for Aren and Jamie. In fact, they plan to make it a central part of their upcoming wedding plans. So for the first time ever, this post features a couple. And the couple that hunts together, stays together. Just wait until they combine their beer resources! (more fun than combining furniture and insurance)  

What’s your favorite beer and style?

Aren: Well, seeing as how Founders Reds Rye is and will always be my “desert island beer,” I would have to say my “favorite” beer style is Rye Pale Ale. The spicy rye and the hops have my mouth watering right now.

Jamie: Imperial India Pale Ale, Bell’s Hopslam.

What’s in your fridge right now?

A: Just went to the fridge, no Reds Rye. But I do have some Brewery Vivant Kludde, Greenbush Red Bud, Upright Brewing Gose, and a New Holland Charkoota Rye. I’ll have to hit up the kegerator for some of my homebrew Wheat IPA.

J: Founders Double Trouble and Aren’s Imperial Stout (lovingly called Bear Fight Stout) in our kegerator.

What’s the first beer that clued you in?

A: Prior to turning 21, I worked as a server at our local Old Chicago. On the day of my 21st birthday the bartender slid me a sample of Huma-Lupa-Licious and said “you’re not going to like this.” Maybe it was my “against the grain” mentality or the fact that I never really liked the swill I was drinking to fit in at MSU’s house parties, but I loved whatever liquid magic was in that glass. That one beer changed the course of my life. I went from pursuing a career in psychology to being a professional in the wonderful world of craft beer.

J: I didn’t drink beer before because I thought my options were pretty much Budweiser and Miller, which I didn’t like. When I tasted Founders Reds Rye, I realized that beer could have different styles and flavors. 

What’s your most memorable beer moment?

A: I will keep this short and sweet. When on the 3rd date with Jaime, now my fiancé, I ordered a Founders Backwoods Bastard. She took a sip of it and said “That’s really good, I will have one of those next!” Call me sappy, but it was love at first sip!

J: I think I have two. The first is my first sip of Red’s Rye on one of our first dates. I remember very clearly where we were and what I said when Aren convinced me to take thatdrink… “It tastes like grapefruit!” I don’t think Aren got his beer back that night.

My second most memorable beer moment is the first time I had a beer Aren had brewed himself. I had gone directly to Aren’s house after work on a Saturday afternoon during tax season, very tired and stressed. Although it was out of character for me to have a beer in the middle of the day, Aren had just finished carbonating his pale ale and so I thought I would try some. I poured myself a pint, sat down on the couch with my feet up, and found myself amazed that I was actually able to relax, thanks to this wonderful beverage. On top of that, I was pretty proud that my boyfriend made this stuff!

Bartender or brewer?

A: Why choose? I have always felt that good bartender knows the brewing process, and a good brewer knows how to sell a beer.

J: Bartenders can share a love of good beer with so many people. They have the ability to guide people into the world of craft beer, opening their eyes and their taste buds to things they might never try on their own. A certain former bartender I know still helps guide me every day, and it’s really handy that he lives with me.

What was your greatest beer hunt?

A: It was 2010 and I had just received a tip from a beer sales rep that an account in Nowheresville, MI had two bottles of 2008 Founders Blushing Monk in the cold box. I immediately turned my car around and drove 45 minutes out of my way. I clearly remember speeding trying to beat some unknown enthusiast to the punch; it did hit me later that these bottles had been on a shelf in a cooler for two years and my fears were much unfounded.

J: When Founders released Blushing Monk again in 2011, I went into two or three — or five beer stores on a Tuesday afternoon when I should have been at work. This being a very rare release, I may have used my feminine wiles and batted my eyelashes a few times to get a couple extra bottles. At the end of my first beer hunt, I was very happy with the 7 bottles I had gathered.

What’s a beer on your wish list?

A: I would love to get my hands on a Thomas Hardy Ale that is older than I am.

J: Rock n’ Roll Jamie, a very special barelywine brewed for me by one of the greatest brewers Aren and I know. The beer will make its debut at our wedding. Thanks Matt (we know this is only possible with the support of your amazing wife Irene)!

What other beers will you have at your wedding?

J: Bell’s Oberon, Founders Reds Rye, and a couple homebrews. We also plan to tap a firkin of beer together to serve as a symbol of our unity and love for each other, and in honor of the libation that brought us together. Jamie holds the hammer, Aren holds the tap. Did we mention we’re having a beer themed wedding?

Michael Kiser