I remember the first time I realized beer could be special.
It was in the mid-’00s, and I’d been reading about these crazy beers that Trappist monks were brewing in Belgium. As a recent college grad who 1) wanted to be snobby about everything and 2) was kind of a theology dork, this was right up my alley. I went with a friend to the local beer store and picked up a bottle of Chimay Blue to split.
We cooled it off, and each of us poured some into dirty pint glasses (this was a post-college apartment, after all). We didn’t know the proper temperature it needed to be for drinking, what kind of glassware we were supposed to use (I hoped the “drink this out of a goblet” illustration was more of a suggestion), or what on earth a “Belgian Strong Dark Ale” was. We each smelled our glasses and took a sip of this weird beer that smelled like candy and Christmas spices.
It was delicious.
And more to the point, it showed me what beer could be. I began to learn more about beer’s wildly exciting varieties, its links to politics and religion, its inextricable link to towns and regions, how the history of beer can tell us about the history of the world and how exciting beer is right now. I learned to love how beer could bring people together who might not have anything else in common, and how a conversation over a beer could take a turn into something that bonds people together. Religion, politics, philosophy, art … these can be the most treacherous of discussions among friends and neighbors, but put some beers on the table (provided both sides of the table are committed to moderation!), and something special can happen.
In short, I fell in love with beer. I channeled that into a stint at one of the best beer bars in the country, which taught me how much I didn’t know about beer. The owners and bartenders there weekly gave a master class in beer types, trends, and knowledge, just by being around. And I also learned: It’s a great time to be a beer geek.
So with that, welcome to The Brewhaha! This new column will explore a new beer type or theme every two weeks. Mostly, the column will revolve around seasons (just like beer has and does!), but there will be some detours here and there. This won’t be a place where beer snobs can talk about how gross Bud Light is–there are plenty of places online that do that, and I’m not interested in making people feel smug about what’s in their stein. Instead, this is a place to be excited—excited about the beer, of course, but also to be excited about sharing a beer with someone.
If you’ve got a friend who loves Bud Light more than any other beer, go ahead and offer her a Weihenstephaner Original, but mostly, offer her a beer and a willing ear. If you’ve got a friend who’s just brought back a bottle of Cantillon Kriek from Brussels, accept this invitation (and give him the biggest hug you possibly can), but enjoy sharing a bottle together.
Drinking beer can be fun on your own, but drinking a beer you’re excited about with someone you care about? That’s magic. That’s the brewhaha (GET IT?).
Tune in next week for the first installment in our twice-monthly column—we’ll be going through a quick list of some of the best IPAs out there to enjoy this spring. If you’ve got ideas for future columns, I’m all ears! Find me on Twitter or email me, and I’ll do my best to keep the conversation two-sided.
Until then, cheers, and good drinking.