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More Than the Sum of Its Parts

More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Reader Matthew Brasch describes his discovery of craft beer.

I think that Michael Jackson said it best:
“To clink glasses of freshly made, seasonal beer, preferably in a pub or garden, with friends and perhaps new acquaintances, is a ritual that makes every participant feel good. We may not rationalize this at the time, but it gives us a sense of place in our common community and our time in the tides of life on earth. This is a way to value beer and treat it with respect.”

Similarly, my appreciation of craft brew has been influenced greatly by the places, seasons, weather and people that were there when I experienced the beer. I believe that an appreciation of craft brew does not solely come from your technical knowledge of how that beer was made, but maybe more importantly, it comes from the environment in which you drink it. Yes, I am a beer geek, but my “geekiness” stems from an appreciation of the entire beer drinking experience.

I was raised in a family who appreciated beer, so my discovery began at an early age. My father was an amateur homebrewer before I was born, and one of my earliest brew memories is of my uncle drinking an English style bitter in the traditional dimpled mug, those crystal circles diffusing the warm glow of light through the dark amber liquid. But the most formative craft brew experience of my early years was a trip to Germany when I was in high school. I can still remember the excitement, at the “illegal” age of 18, sitting in the beer hall of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich and lifting that first “maβ” of helles lager to my lips!

Once I had tasted fresh German beer produced under the Reinheitsgebot, there was no turning back. By the time I went off to college, the craft brew movement had begun. Yes, I had my fair share of Natural Light, Milwaukee’s Best and “MGD” while playing beer pong, but how excited I would get at the beginning of the holiday season when you could actually buy a case of beer from Sam Adams with multiple seasonal styles in it!

After college, my palate was expanded through additional trips to the Old Country, including Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and Germany, twice more. The story of my craft brew journey would be incomplete if I didn’t mention spending several wondrous hours in the biergarten at the Hotel Domhof in Speyer, Germany in 2002. There, with my fiancée, I experienced the exact situation that Michael Jackson described so aptly—the Domhof Dunkel, brewed on site, the coffee colored liquid with its tan, foamy head poured into a glittering glass liter mug, brought to me at a table under trellises overgrown with vines and flowers, sitting across from my beautiful bride-to-be as the sun shone down on the entire scene.

My exposure to such German craft brew most definitely left a scar—a burning desire to find fresh beer and consume it in extraordinary atmospheres! Luckily, my desire can now be quenched right here in the greater Philadelphia area. As a result of the growth of our own microbreweries such as Victory, Stoudt’s, and Forest & Main; to the influx of the myriad varieties of brew from around the country; to the brew pubs and restaurants devoted to nurturing craft brew—these have provided me with the opportunity to consume fresh beer, locally, with my friends and family, in memorable environments.

When these elements converge, that is when I believe the full spectrum of a craft brew can be fully appreciated and the true joy of beer revealed. That is why I am thankful to all those “revolutionaries” who have been working so diligently to raise the craft brew movement to what it is today in the Philadelphia area and have provided me with the opportunity to continue to discover craft brew! a

If you have an interesting story about discovering craft beer, send it to us at discovery@beerscenemag.com.

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