Four years ago today was the day after I turned 21 (so, if you’re keeping score at home, that means I turned 25 yesterday, September 11th, 2009). I was a junior in college at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. My parents came down from Maine to celebrate with me and, being the kick ass parents they were, took me on a tour of the Sam Adams brewery in nearby Boston, MA — for all intents and purposes, this was my first real exposure to “craft beer”. Sure, I drank plenty of beer before then. But, like most underage American college students, the majority of the beer I drank was really whatever I could get my hands on, and that was usually piss-warm frat house swill. And the reason I drank was almost always to get drunk; never to really enjoy what I was drinking.
Taking the Sam Adams tour really opened my eyes to what better beer was all about. Of course since then I’ve moved beyond Sam Adams (although I still enjoy many of their beers from time-to-time) but it was during that tour that I learned how to properly look at, smell and taste beer. I learned about hops, barley and yeast. I learned that there was a whole lot more to beer than getting drunk.
It was also for that birthday that my brother passed down his copy of The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing to me, and a few weeks later (when home in Maine for mid-term break) that I got my first homebrew kit. I still say, once you’ve brewed your own beer, and learned what really goes into making your own brew, your appreciation of the craft of beer-making reaches entirely new heights.
That same kit was later confiscated from me – turns out colleges frown on brewing beer in your dorm room. Prior to 2006 there was no rule in the Clark University handbook that said specifically that you couldn’t brew beer (so I didn’t really get in trouble, but they did take away my carboy all the same), now there is 😉
So as I sit here in my kitchen, staring at the keg of Gritty’s Halloween ale which was gifted to me for my birthday weekend festivities by a brewer friend and reflecting on my albeit short life of “better beer”, I have to be happy about how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time. Craft beer really is a great world to be in and I’m really quite pleased that, from the day of my Sam Adams tour onward, I never looked back to my days of drinking swill.
What was the one event in your life which opened your eyes to better beer?