Beer and Pavement

On Beer

Posted in Beer by SM on April 8, 2011

I never really knew that I could love beer as much as I do today until one night at an Archers of Loaf show, many years ago. My friend Russ was drinking the shit out of some Columbus Pale Ale[1]. I joined him in the libations and was glad I did. The beer was so full of flavor and the bitterness was undeniable…but somehow this beer was très quaffable. How could anything that intensified the taste of beer, even drawing out the bitterness, be as good as this beer was?

Back in those days, the local brew was not that easy to come by[2], but I made it a point to order a Columbus Pale Ale whenever I could. Then there was the (once defunct, now back) Hoster Brewing Company[3], Barley’s, and Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company. All of these breweries made some tasty beers, but I didn’t know what was good and what wasn’t. I knew that they were better than the typical industrial, rice-adjunct lagers served in every bar. However, these beers weren’t as easy to obtain.

So, I drank other beers. There was Pete’s Wicked Ale and Sam Adams. Imports made their way into my belly. I mostly drank Guinness[4] and the occasional Bass. However, I learned to stay away from any German beer in a green bottle. Even back then, Heineken never tasted right[5]. I started frequenting this bar/bagel joint called Bernie’s. It was a hole in the basement, but some great rock shows happened there. Bernie’s was also a place that boasted a huge beer list[6]. On the side they called “the Distillery[7],” one could find a many pewter mugs hanging from the ceiling. Regulars who tried every beer on the list received their own mug with their name engraved. I made it halfway through the list before always settling on Sam Adams Boston Lager or Guinness[8].

Eventually, I ventured out west for a summer, to Seattle. There, I discovered that same intense feeling I got from that first Columbus Pale Ale. The bitterness and citrus of the hops burst into my mouth with each new northwestern beer I tried. There was a lot of Redhook (pre-corporate takeover), some Elysian, and some breweries I can’t remember. Of course, there were still the nights of Corona I’d rather forget, but craft beer was taking a hold of me. I just didn’t quite realize it.

After several years of floundering with imports, “microbrews[9],” and the occasional seasonal release, I sort of reached my summit in beer drinking or so I thought. I was comfortable ordering anything that wasn’t made of rice and sold via ads during the Super Bowl. I wasn’t a connoisseur, but I wasn’t a bro either.

Then, one night, it happened.

I hoofed it up to the corner beer and wine shop at the end of my street while I waited for a sandwich to be delivered. I wanted a beer, maybe two. I didn’t really want to buy a whole six-pack. So, I perused the the stacks and coolers for something interesting. All the sixers that looked good were more than I was used to spending. Then, I walked around the corner and saw a cooler full of these big beer bottles with the most sinister images of gargoyles daring me to pull them from the cooler. One bottle caught my eye in particular. It said “Stone Ruination IPA” around a gargoyle ready to charge. The green and gold paint on the bottle told me that this was no ordinary beer. The narrative scrawled on the back confirmed this assumption. This beer challenged me to drink it and taste anything else for the rest of the night. I took two home right away[10].

Stone Ruination is the beer that “ruined” me. All that citrus and bitterness. This was nothing like the pale ales and IPA’s I had had previously[11]. It certainly wasn’t anything like the imports that once satisfied me. I grew to be obsessed with the beer. As soon as I discovered the pizza place down the street kept Stone on tap, I always made a point to go there for dinner or to see a show no matter who was playing. My bachelor party started at that very pizza joint and was lubricated with a pitcher of Stone IPA[12].

Then, we moved nine hours away to Missouri. I had no idea there would be no Stone, no Columbus Pale, and certainly none of my previous haunts[13] to supply me with the beer I was learning to love. However, I discovered some new beers and learned to appreciate those I had taken for granted back in Ohio.

It started with Boulevard and Schlafly, the “local” Missouri beers. Then, there was Flat Branch, the Columbia brewery[14]. I rediscovered Bell’s and learned to appreciate Two-Hearted Ale[15], a beer that was too much for me pre-Ruination. There was no Stone, but I was making due.

That was probably three years ago. I never really thought things could change, but they did. That was just the beginning for where I am today with my beer geekery. To learn that part of the story, you’ll have to come back Monday.

To be continued…

1If you haven’t been reading this blog for long, I’m from Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Pale Ale was the beer we drank at nearly every bar in town. It was a heavier, more bitter pale than one would normally find. However, that flavor-forward character has waned in recent years. This is either due to my evolving palate or a change in the recipe.
2None of the locals bottled and not every bar served the local brews in the beginning. By the time I left central Ohio, nearly every bar in town served Columbus Pale Ale.
3Hoster had a nice restaurant/brew pub in the Brewery District, but it eventually closed. In recent years, another company bought the rights to the name and recipes and Hoster lives on.
4This was my session beer through most of my senior year of college. At the time, this was impressive. However, now that I know Guinness has an ABV just over 4%, it’s not such a big deal and explains why I could drink so much without getting drunk.
5What’s funny is that some people still prefer Heineken, despite the fact that those green bottles are perpetually skunked in this country.
6I believe the list was somewhere in the 70’s or 80’s. It was boosted by a ton of weird imports they rarely had in the case anyway. I grew tired of drinking skunked imports for extra cash and eventually turned to a few favorites.
7It wasn’t actually a distillery, but it did serve a lot of drinks for such a tiny bar.
8I’ve explained my healthy intake of Guinness, but I drank a lot of Sam Adams as well. To me, it was heavier than the Guinness and quite tasty in those days. Then, things blew up for Sam Adams. While I still respect all that they’ve done and do for the craft beer community, the beer just doesn’t taste the same.
9The old term for “craft beer” was “microbrew.” This contrasted with the corporate brewers being called “macrobrewers.” This false dichotomy suggested that what microbrewers did and macrobrewers did was the same aside from the scale. However, it is clear today that craft brewers produce beer that is completely different from anything churned out by their corporate counterparts.
10I think in an earlier blog post, I reported that I purchased one of these bottles along with a sixer of something else. Upon further review (meaning that I thought about it for a moment), I remembered taking two bottles home. I planned to drink one, but I drank them both instead.
11It was a long time before I discerned the difference between pale ales and India pale ales, but it’s rather clear today. Honestly, aside from a few American pale ales, I don’t really care for the basic pale. Give me an IPA every time.
12Yes, it was not Ruination, rather Ruination’s little brother. Still, that IPA on tap is potent hopbomb.
13Some of these “haunts” include two beer shops that I had no idea were as stocked as they were. I recently revisited two beer stores within a five minute of my old house and found pretty much every beer on my theoretical wish list. Sadly, I don’t make enough money to fill that list, so I made due with what I could gather.
14At the time, there was another brewery that didn’t last long. The owner also happened to be a bee keeper. So, there was honey in every beer and not in a good way.
15This beer used to just seem so heavy and filling to me. Now, it’s a go-to beer.

18 Responses

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  1. Steve said, on April 8, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Great post – really enjoyed reading your early beer history!

    I enjoy a Guinness from time to time (can’t fault it’s session capabilities, and it was my go-to drink for many years), but it is very much a product of a multi-national, and I think is increasingly viewed as such here in the UK. For every annoying person who returns from Dublin claiming the Guinness is special there (when it is in fact the same, it is just proof that they don’t drink beer much), there is someone looking for more interesting stouts than Diageo’s Finest. Is it seen in a better light in the States?

    I used to really love Sam Adams when I could find it. There was a pub near me that about 8-10 years ago that sold it at bargain prices (bottles, at least). I bought a couple recently from a supermarket and still enjoyed it. I can’t say a noticed a massive difference in taste, but I guess my tastebuds need a little more educating!

    I’ve seen a fair few of these beers about, so will have to invest at some point, perhaps when I’ve emptied my last batch of beers. I’ve got a 90 minute IPA to check out and a Gonzo Imperial Porter, from my more craft-y purchases. Any tips on temperature to enjoy them?

    Also, I had a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout the other night. It was foul.

    Sorry for clogging the place up with my beery thoughts…

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

      Your beery thoughts? What do you think this post was about? I kid.

      Guinness is generally looked down upon here by beer geeks. I will drink one now and again when I want to feel nostalgic, but that’s about it. There are a lot of people here who prefer the draught version or say that it’s better in the UK (not just Dublin). That’s generally because it’s fresh and served at a warmer temperature that we get it here. What’s Diageo’s Finest?

      Sam Adams will do something from time to time that’s pretty good, but I tend to stay away. Usually, their best offerings are the ones they produce by winners of their annual homebrew competition.

      90 Minute? Drink that right away and thank me later. The Gonzo is good too. It’s like no other porter you’ve ever had. I tend to like me beers a little warmer than most. A good practice is to chill it in the fridge for a few hours and take it out 15-20 minutes before you open. Of course, you’re not used to the high ABV. Slowly sipping those beers right after taking them out of the fridge might work for you as well. Beer Advocate suggests 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. I suggest drinking them at whatever temp you prefer, but take it slow and easy.

      While I can’t say that the Brooklyn Chocolate Stout has been my favorite, I wouldn’t describe it as “foul.” What about it turned you off?

  2. Steve said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for the beer advice – duly noted.

    I guess I was being flippant in calling Guinness “Diageo’s Finest”…

    Re: Brooklyn Chocolate Stout. I thought I’d been served it too cold, but warmed it up and it was no better. I couldn’t really detect any complexity of flavour, it just tasted…burnt, I guess. There are some beers where I get that the ABV enhances the flavour, but all I got with this was a boozy taste up front and little else besides. I was pretty disappointed because I do love a stout, generally, and am pretty open to new beers.

    Still, I’d had a couple of good Meantime beers before, so all was not lost, but the Brooklyn did leave a dent in my wallet!

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:36 am

      Gotcha. I think you’re spot on with your assessment of the Brooklyn stout. It’s not chocolaty enough IMHO. Burnt and boozy is a good way to describe it. Meantime does a nice job with dark beers.

      Speaking of Brooklyn, their brewmaster Garrett Oliver wrote a phenomenal book about food and beer called “The Brewmaster’s Table.” It’s certainly worth a look. I place Oliver on the same level as Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione when it comes to pairing unique beers with food. Not all Brooklyn beers are bad, but not many are remarkable either.

      • Steve said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

        Glad it wasn’t just a case of my palate letting me down! It definitely needed more chocolate. The Meantime chocolate stout has it in spades, although that does make it a little sickly after a while – but is great as a one-off beer. There is no pleasing me with chocolate stouts.

        I’ll keep an eye out for the book – thanks for the recommendation.

        The Brooklyn beers I’ve had before I’ve really enjoyed, so I guess that’s why I felt so let down!

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

        Plus, a big, chocolate stout in a 750 mL bottle is meant to be shared with friends. That said, I once ordered a 22 oz. Southern Tier Choklat (think: boozy chocolate syrup), intending to share it with people. No one wanted any, so I finished it by myself.

  3. Pizza Cottontail said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I remember the honey beer place. It opened the last week students were in class in May, but it closed by the time they returned in August, if I remember. The food was okay, but there’s only so much mead you can drink in one sitting.

    I almost got into stouts, but I split a sixer with one of my roommates (a Texan who lived and died by Shiner Bock) who took one sip and said, “This tastes like soy sauce!” It stuck with me, and I haven’t been able to sip a stout without tasting soy sauce since. Also, since I do the vegetarian thing, Guinness is off-limits. They use some kind of fish ingredient or something…

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

      Shiner Bock is a good beer. Interesting that you tasted soy sauce. That typically indicates a problem with the beer, but I’ve also heard that descriptor used for pleasurable beer drinking experiences. The stuff used in Guinness is for clarity and is filtered out with the sediment. So, it’s not in the beer when you drink it, for the most part.

      • Pizza Cottontail said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

        I liked Shiner.

        We bought the stout (an import) at MegaMarket, which closed before you got to town, I think, but they had a big beer selection and were lax with asking for identification. I think it had been sitting on the shelf for a while.

  4. seejae said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:53 am

    BTW Zac, Columbus is soon to get its 5th microbrewery. Our friend Colin (Bodega) is set to open “Born” within the year.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 10:56 am

      5th? Does Hoster count? I assume it does. The Elevator must be on that list, correct?

      • seejae said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

        CBC, Hoster, Elevator, Barley’s, and coming soon Born. Hoster is maintaining a kegging operation for Goldtop (actually pretty much behind my house). Born is to be located very near the St. James on 4th. Knowing Colin, they will likely focus on belgians. Not really my cup of tea, but the masses disagree.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:08 am

        Belgians?!? Will there be any wild fermentation involved? I hope so. May gave to make trip to Cbus soon.

      • seejae said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:26 am

        Not sure about the fermentation. I am guessing Belgians because (A) He is a fan (B) He is a businessman, and focusing his efforts on Belgians would separate him from the Ale heavy offerings from Barleys, Elevator, and CBC. He mentioned doing something similiar to Piece in Chicago (if you ever got a chance to hit that place up?).

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:36 am

        I did not make it to Piece the last time I was in Chicago. Maybe next time. BTW, Belgians brew mostly ale, the difference is that they add sugars, spices, fruits, etc. They love them some adjuncts.

        I was wondering if this new place will do something like Jolly Pumpkin in Michigan.

      • seejae said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

        I like a good Belgian Ale from time to time. I guess I am far more in love with hops than I am with malts. The last batch I helped brew was actually a Belgian Candy Ale. It was good, but it didn’t put that lusty look in my eye that I get from a nice hopped up IPA, ya know?

      • builderofcoalitions said, on April 8, 2011 at 11:47 am

        I lived with you for two years. Of course I know that lusty look in your eye. There are some good hoppy Belgians out there. I actually like a Belgian take on an American style. Also, Stone and New Belgium have been doing some American-syle beers with Belgian yeast as of late.

  5. Barley Whine said, on July 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Wait, Hosters is back…? I think that was my first beer sampler ever back in the day. Food was better than the beer, but I have a lot of good college memories that started down there in the brewery district. One thing recall from Columbus Brewing: They were always pushing the Apricot Ale along with the Pale Ale, despite its limited appeal.

    Looks like you moved at the right time. The past few years have been good ones (finally) for craft beer distribution in Missouri it seems. Good post.

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