Friday, October 15, 2010

Does God Drink Coors Lite?

The first time I tasted beer I thought it was the most foul, nasty, vile stuff I had ever encountered. I was about 8 years old and had accompanied my mother to a neighbor's house one afternoon. My mother accepted the woman's offer of a beer (much to my astonishment, since I rarely saw my mother drink alcohol of any kind). I must have pestered her for a sip, thinking it must be something really good if they were treating it so special. It was awful.

Fast forward to teenage high school years. Beer was the easiest thing my friends and I could get illegally. It really didn't matter what kind it was or what it tasted like, as long as it would get us drunk.

Fast forward to college days at the University of Colorado. At that time the drinking age was 18 for 3.2 percent beer. Being the local brew, Coors was our favorite, and the subtleties of taste were far less important than cost and availability. It takes a lot of 3.2 beer to have much effect, and we drank gallons. I recall once standing at the urinal in a local bar and the fellow next to me joked, "Why don't we just dump the pitcher in here and cut out the middle man?!"

Fast forward to early career years. We hosted a dinner party for friends in a "gourmet club." Each couple brought a different dish on the the menu, and our role as hosts was to furnish the drinks. The particular menu called for us to have available a variety of interesting, flavorful beers. This clearly did not mean Coors, Miller, or Budweiser. I consulted with the owner of the local beverage shop and let him pick out a bunch of single bottles of beer brands that I had never heard of before. At the party I recall my moment of epiphany when I tried some of these -- they tasted really, really good!!

From then on I realized that beer was in the same category as fine food and wine; it was something with subtlety, complexity, and endless variation. As we traveled the world I would make a point of trying whatever was the local favorite. I discovered that there was good beer nearly everywhere! Tusker's in East Africa, for instance, or Amstel in Germany, or Negra Modelo in Mexico. These were the early days of my budding beer snobbery. More recently I've made pilgrimages to the historic beer capitals of the world -- Czech Republic (where the real Budweiser is, and where "pilsner" beer traces its origins to the city of Pilsen) and Belgium (where Trappist Monks produce truly heavenly brews). In fact these last two countries are where two of my current favorite beers are: Regent Ale, brewed in a tiny town in Bohemia called Cesky Krumlov, and Rochefort Ale from a Trappist monastery in Belgium. These beers have about as much in common with Coors, Budweiser, and Schlitz as a LaFite Rothchild wine has with KoolAid.

I also discovered that there was good beer even in the U.S.! Particularly over the past 15 years or so, small "craft" breweries have sprung up all over the country and some of them have extraordinarily good beer. My favorites seem to be in Colorado and the north central states, but the west coast also has some highly acclaimed craft beers (too "hoppy" for my tastes). My current favorites include the Colorado beers Fat Tire (New Belgium Brewery) and 90 Schillings (Odell's Brewery), Montana's Moose Drool Brown Ale, Michigan's Eliot Ness Ale (Great Lakes Brewery), and Oregon's Dead Guy Red Ale (Rogue Brewery). Feel free to post your own personal list.

Ok, I'm sure that I've left many of you way behind. The message here is that it may take a while to develop a taste for beer, but if you are patient and diligent in your efforts you will be amply rewarded.

Now, to the question "Does God drink Coors Lite?" My answer is maybe. But I bet there is a smile on his face when he drinks a 90 Schillings....

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