Evolution of a Beer Snob

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My Dad was a beer drinker. “Nasty stuff,” I thought as I gagged on the sip he gave me when I was 10. My Mom thought beer was the devil’s brew and led people to debauchery and disarray. She was delighted when I told my Dad beer tasted bad. Root beer! Now that was a good beverage.

I had little attraction to beer through my early years of college. By the time I turned 21 I had started to enjoy rum and coke, although I did spend a lot of time at the Northlake Tavern pizza joint during my Senior year. Pitchers of some forgettable brand of beer flowed freely, but we went there mostly for the fantastic pizza. Logeybeers were the drinks of sin we sought; cheap tap beer mixed with loganberry wine, especially at the close of finals week.

When I joined the workforce, the after-hour meet-ups gave me the opportunity to learn about Tequila Sunrises and Sunsets, Black Russians, something called a Beautiful, and the Flat of Your Back Special. Seems like everything had to have some 151-proof rum floating on top or it wasn’t considered “adult”. Beer was “kid stuff”. And by Gawd, at 21 and 22 you really wanted people to think of you as an adult. Funny how at 62, you don’t give a rat’s *^$# what people think about you anymore.

Beer was something we sought out for celebrations after the wins in the tavern league softball games . . . or losses. You didn’t really care what kind of beer you were drinking as long as it was cold and wet and fizzed.

I joined up with the Puget Sound Hash House Harriers, a drinking club with a running problem. After trying to run a trail for two hours through varieties of shiggy; brambles, mud and slime to the On-In and the Piss-up, the consumption of beer was most often in the form of a down-down* gurgled from a bed pan or poured in a funnel and power chugged through a surgical tube (aka “beer bong”). The quality of the beer being consumed was not even really a consideration. On-On!

Then one of my college buds decided to get a group of us together on Wednesday nights for dinner and do some world touring of FX McRory’s extensive imported beers. Boy did we feel fancy with our Dortmunders, Hacker-Pschorrs, Carlsbergs and Guinesses.

Chugging a Hamm’s just wasn’t the same anymore. Rainier Brewing Company came out with something called “Ale”. It was a malt liquor, basically meaning that it had more ABV than the 3% ABV that commercial beers had. We called it Green Death due to its shocking 7% alcohol content. A local beer . . . no, an American beer . . that wasn’t marked Lager, or Pilsner was just radical. So we loved it.

“Ale” conjured images of mediaeval jousting matches and ribald wenches. Wait. That would be a good thing for a young man in his 20’s to use as a foundation for his fantasies. So we became “Ale” drinkers.

Fast forward to the emergence of a new kid in town named Red Hook, and soon after, Thomas Kemper and our local craft brew scene began to unfold. Beer could actually have flavor, not just one kind of flavor, but many very different kinds of flavors.

A couple of us began home brewing and the days of Hamm’s, Bud, Coors, Miller and the rest were over. A whole new appreciation for what we used to think of as beer took shape and transformed us into the affable beer snobs that we are today. Now we are fine-tuned to know the difference between a Hefe, Wit, Pale, IPA, Red, Brown, Amber, Porter, and Stout; also a Helles, Marzen and a Saison. Shoot we have even come to the age where we can make discriminations between an American Stout, European Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Sweet Stout, Mocha Stout, Chocolate Stout, Espresso Stout and Imperial Stout.

Some people even can line up 10 different IPAs (India Pale Ale) and rank them one to ten in terms of what is benchmarked as the truest representative of the style. Sort of like judging dogs in a dog show. But with hops.

Hopefully this blog will encourage you to try some different kinds of ales, and change your image of what ‘beer” is. It’s not MY daddy’s beer anymore. That’s for sure.

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*Down-downs

A down-down is a means of punishing, rewarding, or merely recognizing an individual for any action or behaviour according to the customs or whims of the group. Generally, the individual in question is asked to consume without pause the contents of his or her drinking vessel or risk pouring the remaining contents on his or her head. Individuals may be recognized for outstanding service, or for their status as a visitor or newcomer. Down-Downs also serve as punishment for misdemeanours real, imagined, or blatantly made up. Such transgressions may include: failing to stop at the beer check, pointing with a finger, or the use of real names. Commonly, hashers who wear new shoes to an event can be required to drink from that shoe.

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