It’s our distinct pleasure to introduce our newest contributor. He writes his own blog about life, the universe and everything that’s one of Tom’s favorites. When he wrote this piece about the changing of the seasons as marked by beer, Tom nearly became a stalker in order to convince him to contribute here when he could. Please join us in welcoming him, and get ready for a treat.
Greetings and salutations, fellow lovers of Better Beer. If you’ve never heard of me, and most of you likely haven’t, my name is Puddin (rumor has it I’ll occasionally answer to Jason). For the record, I’m Hoperative #24, although I’ve done little but lurk about around here, unseen and unheard. I’m sure many of you are probably curious how I ended up taking such pride in a nickname so clearly meant to be insulting, and that’s…well…a long story. The wonderful people who created and control the fabulous Hoperatives machine have been foolish enough to give me a little time and a little space to ramble about, so I’d best not waste it going on about nicknames.
Indeed, let’s talk about beer. I like beer, a lot.
My first memories of beer go back to my maternal grandfather, an old-fashioned, conservative German who was…um…frugal, and who was never once (that I witnessed) without a can of Pabst in hand. Well, with either that or the occasional something cheaper, if he could find it. I pestered him from the age of four to let me have a little drink, a tiny sip to see what it was like, and at some point during my formative grade-school years he did just that. I can’t accurately describe exactly what I thought or felt at the time, but I’m pretty sure it was plainly written on my face. In fact, I suspect I very much resembled the twisted up, wrinkled mug of those old guys from the Keystone “bitter beer face” commercials of the 90s.
I swore that day that I would never again allow such a terrible-tasting concoction to pass my lips, and wondered at the undeniable cruelty of the people who devised it. My grandmother chuckled, told me it was an “acquired taste,” and assured me that some day, I would drink beer again.
Grandmothers are generally very wise; mine was no exception. In my sad defense, I can count the number of cans of Pabst I’ve tasted since on one hand.
By the time I was preparing to graduate from college, I’d indeed grown to, well, if not exactly appreciate beer, at least put it to good use on occasion. I did all the horrible things college students are expected to do, with the usual cast of infamous and inexpensive suspects, including “The Beast”, “‘Nati Light”, and occasionally even the “higher end” light beers. Admittedly, I didn’t care for any of them too greatly, but they got the job done on nights when bourbon was maybe a step too far.
During the very chilly fall of my senior year, two good friends of mine and I began a weekly Thursday night ritual we called “Beer Night.” Beer plus video games in someone’s basement, making fools of ourselves. December then rolled around, and we found ourselves prepped for an exciting Beer Night adventure with tickets to see Nine Inch Nails at Hara Arena in Dayton. One of us nobly volunteered to drive, leaving me and the other guy free to do what college dudes are supposed to do before going to a concert: the pre-concert application of (comparatively) cheap alcohol. As we stood at the refrigerated case at the liquor store, my friend said to me, “we could get the usual (a 12-pack of something light and fizzy), but that’ll get us there quicker. Plus, it tastes a whole better.” He pointed to a six-pack of the Christian Moerlein winter seasonal from that year.
Sadly, I don’t remember exactly what that brew was named. It was a long time ago, and the fact that I remember anything about that night is still something of a miracle. Plus, that was a completely different incarnation of Moerlein. What I do remember is having a revelation as the warm, dark malt, the winter spice, and the delicate hint of hops slid across my tongue.
This was what beer was supposed to taste like. This beer had flavor, this beer had body. This type of beer was something I could truly enjoy.
That marvelous beverage, a distant relative of the beers of my grandfather, instantly earned my devotion.
A few years later I completely gave up drinking most “corporate” beer. If I didn’t truly enjoy the flavor of it, I reckoned, I was only consuming it for the alcohol. I’d gotten old enough by then that I wasn’t just chasing a good buzz anymore. Also, there are better, tastier ways to get blitzed.
I remember those few first steps along the Path of Beer Enlightenment very well, and very fondly. Not only because that young, wet-behind-the-ears version of Puddin was glad to be introduced to the tasty glory of craft beers, but also because to me, that night represented my initial turn toward a little maturity and a greater appreciation of the world as a whole.
While my trek toward maturity wasn’t nearly as successful (the Puddinette still hopes that someday I’ll stop acting like a 13 year-old), craft beer has taken my taste buds on an extensive journey from Cincinnati to California, Canada to the UK, Poland to India, the Far East and beyond. It’s a journey I’ve enjoyed every second of, a journey I hope never ends, and a journey I’m lucky and proud to be taking with each of you.
One night 15 years ago, a dumb college kid accidentally became a fervent believer in better beer. Today, there are roughly 230 Hoperatives out there, which means 230 other believers in better beer, with 230 unique stories of dedication to it.
This story is mine. What’s yours?