I am a reformed wine collector of over 15 years. I took myself and the wine way too seriously, collecting and storing well over 200 bottles at a time. I would buy Bordeaux and Napa Cabernets and sometimes spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle. I would even buy wine futures and wait years for the bottles to arrive at my door.
My wife, Mylene, would point out that I was buying bottles to collect but not to drink, as most of my wine needed years of cellaring. I would read about wine and talk about wine, but I wouldn’t drink wine very often. Sure, I loved a big Cabernet with a juicy steak or a fine Chardonnay with a nice piece of fish, but I was not that interested in popping a bottle open for our regular pizza or Chinese dinners. Back then, that’s where beer came in.
For most of my adult life, beer was just something you drank at parties because everyone would ask, “Want a beer?” And when I say beer, I mean Bud or Coors or Miller. It didn’t really matter to me because they all tasted the same–and they all tasted bad. Luckily, I eventually found Samuel Adams and learned that American beer could have flavor, but I still wasn’t hooked. Unlike wine, beer wasn’t something to savor or learn about, it wasn’t something to pair with different foods, as most major brands tasted the same. And, it certainly wasn’t worth taking the time to search out different brands or styles. It was just some yellow fizzy stuff to drink at the bar, right? Boy, was I wrong.
Three years ago, I moved to Downingtown, PA and soon after, learned about the local brewery, Victory–a brand I had never heard of before. I found out they had a restaurant, so my wife and I decided to give it a try. My journey to craft beer began! Not only did I learn that there are many different styles of beers, but that they have very different flavor and bitterness profiles. I quickly moved from the Victory Lager on to more interesting styles. I learned to love stouts, both Victory’s Donnybrook and Storm King. I learned about hops with HopDevil and Hop Wallop. I learned that “Belgian style” beers can vary greatly, from the strong and rich Golden Monkey to the subtle and sublime Whirlwind Witbier. I also experienced the exotic flavors that come with seasonal brews–the spice and lemongrass of Summa and the smoke of Scarlet Fire. As a newbie to Pennsylvania, I then discovered that my new home state yielded the mother-load of top of the line craft beers – Tröegs, Yards, Sly Fox, and others. I am curently in the process of tasting some other top craft beers from other states, like Dogfish Head, Stone, and Ommegang, but my loyalty to the PA brands remains strong. There is just something special about a freshly brewed quality beer from a local business.
Taking this new obsession to the next level, my wife and I have started on some home brews. Although I don’t expect my beer to rival the craft beers, I’ll probably do better than Bud, plus we have a new hobby to do together. Using Victory’s Brewpub as my guide, I have even started buying different glasses for different styles of beer, as beer in a glass where you can see the head and color just tastes better to me than straight out of the bottle. Sure, this can get expensive, but not compared to wine.
Although I still enjoy a fine wine, craft beer has become my staple with dinner or while entertaining friends. As for those yellow fizzy beers? Well, after watching the documentary Beer Wars and tasting the flavors of my local craft brews, I think I am done with drinking bad beer.