As you probably already know, last week was American Craft Beer Week, a nationwide celebration of craft-made beers and the brewers that bring us pints of liquid joy every day. Like anyone would, I really wanted do my part to participate in an event so near and dear to my heart. My feverish brain plotted and schemed to hit as many pubs as possible, reveling in every stout, porter, pale and IPA sample within reach of my grubby little mitts.
Then again, the best laid plans of mice and men, right? In the end, I’m afraid that between my writing projects, school projects for the kids, baseball practice, and work, work, work and more work, my grand American Craft Beer Week adventure turned out to be a whole lot like my normal, everyday craft beer lack thereof. Yes, I did actually try a couple of new things at home from the comfort of my recliner, but it wasn’t exactly Around the World in 80 Samples.
On Friday night, though, I glimpsed an opportunity to make up slightly for my otherwise lackluster behavior. The family across the street has an in-ground pool, which they just uncovered and opened. They have a custom where they will hang a colored flag from the their porch several times each pool season as an open invitation for anyone to swim. Since it’s family neighborhood, there are always plenty of kids ready to fling themselves into the pool with abandon. And obviously, where there are kids, there are adults happy to enjoy a bit of time with others adult and perhaps a few adult beverages too.
Adults? Enjoying beverages? Oh yes, here was my chance to support Craft Beer Week. The time had finally come to help my neighbors embrace craft beer, and what better way to open their minds than with a growler of my very own homebrew. So I pulled on my Craft Beer Crusader Cape (it’s light amber, the color of an imperial IPA), grabbed a half gallon of Rusty Nail from the fridge, and herded my bathing suit-clad brood across the street.
I might have been hearing patriotic melodies play in my head, but you can’t prove that.
The children swam and the adults chit-chatted and before long everyone was eyeing my unopened growler. So with a minstrel’s flourish (that might be a slight exaggeration), I produced a stack of cups and offered all the adults present a taste. Nearly everyone accepted, and we spoke for a bit about how I used to homebrew frequently and have just gotten back into it. I imagined that as soon as they tasted the delights of a beer with actual flavor, they would be fighting over the last remaining drops in my otherwise empty growler and begging me to tell them more about the myriad of styles and flavors of craft beer available in the world.
What actually happened was almost exactly like that. Except, not really. At all. The ladies generally took a few sips and poured the rest in their husband’s cups. The husbands complimented me on its richness of flavor, but you could see on their respective faces a look that said, “Where’d I put my Captain and diet?”
In retrospect, I probably should have considered a slightly less aggressive brew. The current batch of Rusty Nail is not timid, by any account. Actually, it’s the most hoppy beer I’ve ever made. Truth be told, it took me nearly a decade to truly come to love an assertive IPA-style brew, so it shouldn’t surprise me that it had my neighbors puckering up. I guess it was a little like giving a calculus textbook to a third grader.
At the end of the night, they all thanked me for coming and sharing the beer with them, which, of course, I was happy to do. In all honesty, the outcome was pretty much what I’d expected; I know the Nail isn’t for everybody. But they did tell me to bring more next time, and I don’t think they were simply being polite. Will I ever convert them? Maybe. Maybe not. As I said in my last post, the craft beer missionary succeeds with a light touch, a careful suggestion, and a little generosity. Even then, not everyone is a beer person.
Still, hope springs eternal. Next time, I think I’ll take over a pilsner or a light, summery kolsch.
For me, the best part of the evening happened later, after I finished what little remained of the growler. I decided to have just one more beer before bed, and pulled a Sam Adams’ Latitude 48 from the fridge (out of one of the special “Deconstructed” variation packs). Taking a taste, I was stunned with how sour it seemed, at how much more balanced, with a just bit of sweetness, I found my own. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; I did, after all, make the Nail because I knew it was extremely well-suited to my tastes. But I never expected to find myself thinking I’d prefer a craft brew of my own making over a bottle already sitting in my refrigerator.
When it comes to craft beer, I guess you can’t expect to win them all. At least not right away. But either way, for American Craft Beer Week, it was a pretty good night at my house.