As I lift pen to paper and jot down my thoughts, to my right is a glass filled with a complex Belgian-style golden ale brewed by the Grand Teton brewery in Idaho. I’m a child of the Rocky Mountains, so I can’t help but gravitate to those things crafted in that region. A few days ago, I had an opportunity to try Grand Teton’s Imperial Stout and found it to be fantastic.
The Belgian-style golden ale I wet my lips with tonight is the Grand Teton seasonal ale called Coming Home 2011 and I bought it because of the beauty of the bottle and the positive experience I had with their Imperial Stout. I’m very glad I did. Drinking this beer created a bit of nostalgia in me
When did I first start liking beer?
As many of my friends and family know, I wasn’t a standard person growing up. I did not engage in massive amounts of underage drinking. My first beer, though, was a sip taking from my Dad’s glass… Coors and Clamato juice, I believe. Clearly not a drink for a young palette. Beer to me at that time was a bitter disgusting drink.
The beers I remember the adults around me drinking were odd to me. Lowenbrau. Coors. Hamms. Raineer. Grolsch. St. Pauli’s Girl. None of these seemed to resonate in any way to me. When I did start my drinking career, it was with schnapps. Then vodka. And I stuck with vodka for quite some time. Beer never entered the picture.
When I started going to bars, I frequented Irish bars and only one beer stood out. Guinness. Dark, intense, and historical. Damn, history meant something, even when it came to beer. My choice of beverage was a statement. It represented a pride of heritage. It also said I didn’t shy away from something others feared. Guinness – the steak of beers. Did I truly enjoy it? I don’t think so. This wasn’t a sentiment of the quality of the beer, but really about how much I didn’t know, how underdeveloped my tastes where.
One Fourth of July I sat on my deck with friends and drank can after can of Miller Lite. Can after can. Case after case. We chatted and joked, shared feelings, passions, and all that stuff… and the beer was mere background noise. After that day, I decided it was pointless in drinking anything that I couldn’t taste. Couldn’t enjoy. I didn’t ever want to drink beer in quantity. What is the point in that? I would prefer to have one great beer over twelve crap beers.
I started sampling and trying out new beers. I shoved my ego to the side and allowed bartenders to guide my drinking experience: hoppy ales to bourbon stouts, IPAs, brown ales, and porters.
I dabbled in the world of hard ciders for a long time. Still love hard ciders, truth be told.
In all of this rambling, I still haven’t discussed the first beer I enjoyed. And despite all the types of beer I go through. Moose Drool brown ale, Two Brother’s Farmhouse Ale, Great Divide Fat Tire, Truman Pils, or so many others all were wonderful beers. I’ve had amazing pumpkin beers. In the Netherlands I had my first wheat beer which seemed revolutionary to me.
I do enjoy all sorts of beers. All this summer I shared beers with my neighbor on my deck and each one of those beers, those drinking sessions where we shared thoughts, feelings, analysis are cherished memories. Part of me wants to declare one of those beers the first good beer I had. It did give me guidance as to my first good beer, though.
I won’t ever have my first good beer.
When writing this, I actually started off trying to figure out when the exact moment was when I started to enjoy beer. What I realized while writing was that didn’t matter. It really didn’t. Who cares if I was a dweeb in high school and eschewed alcohol. I didn’t even over indulge in college. Who really cares when I moved from the mass produced macro crap to small breweries crafting delicate and bold, savory and intense beers?
Beer, even that mass produced crap I hate, has always been about the relationships. It has been about the friends, the strangers, and the conversations. The memories and the moments trapped in time are why people place such a high value on crappy beers. Why else do people drink Old Style or Pabst Blue Ribbon?
My first good beer is a beer I won’t ever have. And I don’t mean this to be maudlin. I write a lot about my Mom, because she is very important to me, even after her death. I strive to be someone she can be proud of. What I won’t ever have is something of a time honored tradition.
In my last moments with my Dad, months before his death, we were quite contentious. Arguing over every little thing. Actually, our entire history has been one of arguing. I get so many qualities from him. My sharp intellect and my analytical mind are due to his influence. Debate creates knowledge. Yet, there is a point when it falls apart. I took his debating to the next level. I tore apart everything in my path. I savaged the fields of other’s beliefs with my intense use of logic. It was my father who held back my hand when talking to my Mom regarding religion. “You are allowed to believe whatever you want, but you aren’t allowed to take hope away from other people.”
My dad was a smart man, wise in his own way. His decline in health made him bitter and mean. His world shrunk and he turned to fear and hate. He always had that in him, but his failing health brought it to the surface, suppressing his mental acuity.
My first good beer would have been with my dad. Sitting with him as two adults, discussing the modern economic crisis, the field of political candidates, and the state of the world in general. I won’t have that beer. What I can have is beers with people I admire, respect, and cherish in the same way that I admire, respect, and cherish my dad, Mr. Robert Henry Francis.