I don’t think there’s a more blasphemous way of starting a piece for a beer blog than making the statement, “I didn’t like beer a few years ago.” Either that or me openly discussing my dislike for stouts, but I digress. This piece isn’t about me airing my sins against beer or indeed seeking redemption for them, more how my beer journey is probably different to that of many others out there. In some respects, I think I may have benefitted from it and come full circle. I imagine if you asked most drinkers how they stumbled into this craft beer world they would start in one of maybe three places; drinking lager when they were younger, drinking real ale or drinking Belgian/Continental styles. In my case, none of the above are applicable.
Until around 2016 I didn’t touch beer, or many other forms of alcohol for that matter. Lagers didn’t interest me, cask beer didn’t get me excited and I had no idea that craft beer was slowly changing the beer world at this time. That is despite repeated attempts from both my dad and brother, Andrew, trying to convince me I was missing out (the same is now happening with stouts.) But, their attempts were to no avail and I wasn’t having any of it. Much to the delight of my partner at the time and now wife, Ana, however, this meant that I could play designated driver, or ‘Des’ for short.
It wasn’t until an auspicious meeting with a pack of Brewdog, that I was finally convinced I was missing out on something hype worthy. I know uttering the ‘B’ word can be dangerous but without them, I simply wouldn’t have gotten into craft beer. Following my introduction to their wares, the door was quickly flung open to what was, at the time, a brave new world. I was suddenly told I need to try beers by other similar breweries to ease me in, before moving onto bigger and bolder beers. One thing quickly became clear though; I had a thirst for hops.
Once I safely negotiated some initially-confusing acronyms, I began to know which hops I did and didn’t like with Citra stealing the headlines early on. I was well and truly sucked into the haze craze and all I craved was more juicy, tropical and cloudy goodness. My previous thoughts and conceptions on what beer is/was were blown out of the water; this is what beer is all about. But is it?
Whilst my enthusiasm and indeed my enjoyment of big hazy beers will never go away, I feel I’ve unnecessarily neglected other styles in favour of them. I’d allowed my pre-disposition to colour my judgement of staying away from some more traditional and classic styles, ignoring the history and heritage of beer. That was until I decided to educate myself not just by trying different styles, but also learning about them too. By joining the Virtual Beer School, hosted and created by fellow Guild member Natalya Watson, I have not only become familiar with more beer styles but I have begun to appreciate them too.
So whilst many craft drinkers may have started their journey on cask beer (via a sparkler, of course), a Czech Pilsner or German wheat beer, these are all styles that were completely unbeknownst to me. I now find myself going in reverse and travelling back in time almost, discovering styles that have been around for hundreds of years in some instances, but are completely new to me. Where I once dismissed lagers as fizzy yellow water, I’ll openly sip a pint now in order to try more across its various different guises and flavour profiles. Yes, lager can have flavour it turns out!
So too can a nice cask conditioned pale or IPA, albeit not to the same extent as those I have been lured in by, but their appreciation is of another kind. Accepting the beer for what it is, rather than what it isn’t, is part of the enjoyment I am now finding, minus the occasional bump in the road, but that can happen even with the hazy beers too. Yes, not every juice bomb is the best beer in the world or going to blow you away.
I still think I have a long way to go just yet, with the obvious hurdle being stouts that I’m yet to liken to, but I’ve found educating myself along the way is an equal part of the enjoyment as the beer itself. Now we can get back out again in some relative capacity, this newfound appreciation I’ve acquired will hopefully know no bounds. Except stouts. Did I mention I don’t like stouts?