Beer Wars

I know I’m late to the game, but I just recently had the opportunity to watch Beer Wars, a documentary on how craft brewing is having such a hard time against the big three. One thing I learned watching the film was that I should do a blind taste test myself to determine the difference among Coors, Budweiser, and Miller. The folks in the documentary were 100% confused about what they were drinking, and I figure I need to have that little experience on my belt to explain to the public how shitty the corn/rice beer is.

Craft brewers produce something that is admittedly for a select market, but that doesn’t mean everyone else should go and piss off. We’re connoisseurs, not snobs. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a variety of beers where I live. When I go to a package store, I find it annoying that I don’t see much that I haven’t already had. My location severely limits my selection of craft beer and that bothers me most of the time.

The fact that mainstream media has a stronghold in the Southeast doesn’t help my case at all. Quite a few people believe what they hear other people say in front of them in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, and the major cable news stations are gospel. So when it comes to deciding on beer, that 64-calorie bullshit seems cool on the commercial…

If anyone had the chance and the desire to learn about the history of beer, they would certainly and quickly find out that until the 1800’s in the United States, beer wasn’t so light on color and taste. It was dark at times, murky, nutritious, and necessary for survival. The push to sell more and beat the competition led to the unfortunate majority of beer we have on the market today.

Still, the United States has the most diverse beer market in the world. With a reported 1,938 craft breweries in this country operating in 2011 (including brewpubs), we have a nearly endless selection across this land. I share my favorites with my readers all the time, and I get new favorites every month. I just discovered the Clown Shoes series of beers by Mercury Brewing Company, and the Muffin Top – a “Belgian Style Tripel India Pale Ale” – is exactly what it says. To me, anyway.

Back to my point, which is really just a call-t0-action: Learn about beer. The history, how it’s made, and the immeasurable variety of it that we have to choose from. Vote with your dollar. Craft beer is good for the economy, and I’m not going to elaborate on that point. To know your beer is to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need some pointers on where to begin your craft beer journey, just ask me.

Oh, and one last thing (I’m going to make this a point at the end of every podcast): enjoy your craft beer responsibly.

Cheers!

My History

I suppose my first installment here should be about me and my history with beer. That would be the best way, in my opinion, to establish with the reader my level of experience. I assure you that I am neither a professional beer judge nor a commercial brewer. I’m simply a guy who has a great interest in beer and the business. I am also a budding home brewer and will be sharing my adventures here as well.

I didn’t really like beer as a teenager. No, honestly – the taste wasn’t something I would have craved. Of course, beer to a teenager was “anything you can get your hands on,” and the adults who obliged were definitely not connoisseurs. Whatever it was they gave us probably came from a 30-pack of cans – obviously meant for rapid consumption and inebriation. I doubt many high-schoolers have had much craft beer.

I’ll pause here to ensure the reader that I am in fact aware of the legal drinking age and I do respect it. However, the reality of teenage alcohol consumption cannot be ignored, and I was no different in that respect back in the 1990s. I learned a lot of valuable lessons and was fortunate enough not to have killed myself or generated a criminal record.

I, through an interesting series of events, found myself in the Army out in Colorado as an impressionable soldier, arm-twisted to go out to nightclubs with people whose company I typically would not have had. I gained an affinity for rum & cola somehow (it’s what my friends had), but I never developed the habit of keeping rum at home. My neighbor, with whom I never shared a beer while we were in the Army, had a Mr. Beer kit but never showed me anything about it. Being the person I was at the time, I didn’t really ask. Scott is now and has been a great friend and we talk beer every once in a while. Maybe one day we’ll get around to brewing something with raspberries – the flavor of the cosmos.

Shortly after the Army I met a friend, Mike, who introduced me to Newcastle Brown Ale during an after-work stop at a pub in a strip mall. I remember that we’d ridden bicycles to work that day. It was sometime in 2002, and I fell in love with the stuff. I was very surprised to find a beer from a place other than the mega-breweries that I could palate. I was elated, and wanted nothing else.

Then I found a plethora of other beers with the help of Mike, like John Courage, Smithwick’s, Fuller’s, and all the others no one else I’d ever known had ever heard of. An entirely new world opened up and it was just the beginning of my discoveries.

There’s a franchise scattered across the country called Old Chicago, which features a club one can join and earn points for trying all the different beers available. They call it the World Beer Tour. In my selfish drive to build a large list of beers I’ve had, I must have tried over a hundred just for the points. The tour showed me the sheer variety and complexity of beer, and often got me thinking about its origins and contents. Mike knew so much about what was available, but we never got around to discussing the content of it. At the time we would rather have just consumed.

A few years ago I somehow came across the Mr. Beer starter kit and decided to dive in (if Scott did it in the Army barracks, I certainly had a shot in my own house!) My success with Mr. Beer was such that I figured I could probably make larger batches, so I ordered some proper home brewing equipment and began producing five gallons at a time with extract kits.

I’d have to check my brewing log, but I think I put out 20 or more batches. I’m sure that’s nothing compared to the avid home brewer, but at my house it’s a feat. This summer I’d like to dust off my ale pails and have another go, but this time I want to get into all-grain brewing. I want to have absolute control over the quality and palatability of my beer. I’ll have no excuses for any bad part – whatever it is will be my own fault. I’ll document my brewing experiences here and give the world a chance to learn from what I’m doing or give me tips on how to improve. Whatever the case, we’ll all end up with better beer!

On this site I plan to post articles on many topics related to beer:

  • Home brewing adventures
  • My thoughts on different beers (reviews)
  • The science of beer
  • How-to’s and home brewing tips
  • Beer events
  • Brewery business stories and opinions

I hope I can keep up with this blog. If ever I stop posting and you wonder where I’ve gone, shoot an e-mail to benonbeer@gmail.com and ask what’s happened to me. I am often quite busy with life and writing here will be a challenge! You can also find me on Twitter @benonbeer, and you can subscribe to this blog by going here.

Cheers!

 

-ben