Beer, when did I develop this love affair with beer? For as long as I can remember, beer has always held a fascination for me. As a small child, the house where I grew up there were no drinkers, including beer, but I found an affinity and a desire for the beverage locked in my imagination. When I was about 8, I was given a tour of the Desnoes and Gedes (D&G) Brewery in Kingston, Jamaica. D&G is the brewer of Red Stripe, a fine lager, when consumed in Jamaica or other parts of the Caribbean! On that tour, I tasted the flavor of the chief ingredients of most beer, malt and hops; a lofty combination that would later slake my thirst on many occasions.
Now living in New York as a young teenager and beer taster, (not yet of legal drinking age), I would get the occasional can of Pabst Blue Ribbon whenever I visited my grand uncle. At home, I would get to sample Rheingold, the beer of choice in the house because they were the official sponsors of the NY Mets baseball team, the family favorite and the team I still root for.
It was 1972 when I began legally buying beer at 18 (New York State law at the time was 18 until 1984 when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted and raised the legal minimum purchase and public consumption age to 21). Beer choices were limited and so was purchasing power. The cheapest or what was on sale was always the best. There was no “lite” beer or microbrews on the scene. When we went “upscale” it was imports such as Heineken, Beck's or St. Pauli Girl, rare treats indeed. But mostly it was Miller or Budweiser. And for extra kick, there were the malt liquor brands like Colt 45, Schlitz or Olde English 800. Oh, the folly of youth.
Throughout college, the aforementioned domestic brands stained my palate but fortunately never dulled them for the taste of brews to come. It is amazing what the very first taste of beer did for my flavor linked memories. I knew the watered down and weakened samplings of those first years was but an interim or stepping stone to a better tasting beverage. And then I discovered Heineken Dark, a rich, full bodied brew that had a complex flavor. I discovered this elixir one day by accident and I splurged ($.75/bottle) at the time. Seventy-five cents was a lot spend on beer back then, but I was hooked. No going back. I really enjoyed that brew.
The '80s saw a proliferation of the Microbrews and beer varieties and flavors started to explode. There were Sam Adams, Anchor,and Sierra Nevada, just to name a few. The best microbrews existed on the west coast of the US, but their products often were only for local markets. In 1987, I traveled to Portland, Oregon and discovered some fantastic tasting offerings available only to the local bars. That experience was incredible. It reaffirmed what I innately knew about beer: I liked it, and that intricacies and complexities exist in the brewing process.
Beginning in the early '90s, my cultural world was about to expand as I sought to travel to different countries. And when in a new country, I never missed an opportunity to “sample” the “local” brew(s). But one outstanding lesson in all my travels, beer or native drink never tastes quite as good as when consumed at the point of origin. And even if you transport a bottle or two back home, the influence of the "local air" definitely affects the perception of taste. And of course, imports always pale in comparison but offer a viable alternative to US domestics. I will not attempt to list all the countries and beers that I have quaffed over the years. But, I will share a few available photos of me in the act at home and abroad. Click here “Beer Here” or the button at the top left of this page to see my photos. Also by clicking either photo in the album at the of this page, it will take you to a site called sloshspot.com\blog that lists (with pictures) “the most popular domestically produced beers” for the majority of the countries on Earth. At last count. I have sampled just over half of these brews...unfortunately not all those were on site...yet!
But in the meantime, I have taken up brewing as a hobby and have produced several fine batches of different styles in the past several years. Most of the styles brewed in the home are ales, porters and stouts. These are the darker colored brews and do not require strict temperature controlled environments as lagers and pilsners do. Lagers and pilsners require refrigeration as part of the brewing process. Although temperature control is not essential for the styles that I have brewed successfully so far, the first basic rule of brewing is to maintain a clean environment and sanitize your equipment, including bottles. The use of soap (any kind) as a cleansing agent spells ruination for the home brewer.
In conclusion, there is nothing like beer. And as the saying/lyrics goes, ‘There is no beer in heaven, so we drink it here.
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