Beer and Pavement

More On Beer

Posted in Beer, Life by SM on April 13, 2011

A little over three years ago, I took my first real steps from beer consumer to beer geek[1].

The holidays were upon us and I was looking for some nice beers to take back east. What I found were boxes encasing 750 mL bottles of barrel-aged beers from St Louis’ Schlafly[2]. There was the Bourbon Barrel Stout and Schlafly Reserve Barley Wine. These beers made the long journeys to Ohio and Michigan that winter and I’m glad they did. Each beer was probably the most intense experience I had had with beer to that date[3]. I was hooked on the biggest beers one could buy. Suddenly, a $10 bomber was not so scary[4].

While on that trip, a beer nerd who was trying to convert me put in an order for some beer. While gathering his loot, I found some nice things for myself. Two six-packs of Stone Ruination at about $15 apiece returned home with me that winter. I had never spent that much on such a relatively small amount of beer. I was in, but I didn’t know what to do once I left Michigan and returned to Missouri.

Columbia, Missouri is no hotbed for beer, especially three years ago. The beer nerd often suggested I go to St Louis for beer and buy from a gas station in town with a huge Belgian selection[5]. This idea of going out of my way just for beer seemed a bit much, but I was certainly intrigued. If Detroit could have such a nice selection why couldn’t we? What did a big beer community look like?

One place that showed me what beer culture could be like at its best was Seattle[6].

That was about the time my wife and I traveled to Seattle for a little R and R. Over the course of a week, I tried probably every west coast IPA and DIPA I could get my hands on[7]. In fact, our hosts had a sixer of Ruination[7] waiting for me in their fridge. At some point, a visit to Elysian Brewery was fit into the itinerary[8]. There was one particular day when, after a chocolate factory tour, we headed across the street for a drink at Brouwer’s Cafe. The list there was gigantic and I felt overwhelmed[9]. We eventually left, bellies full of craft beer goodness. As my wife did some shopping, our guide took me to a bar around the corner, whatever IPA I had there was just as ridiculously good as beers quaffed earlier in the trip. Eventually, we made our way to another part of town where Bottleworks held shop. I purchased beer for the rest of our stay as well as some to take home. That night, after beers and some Thai food, I hit yet another destination where the IPA’s were as hoppy as you’d hope. That Seattle trip solidified my commitment to traveling and transporting beer in order to try the best.

Upon returning, a new group was forming in Columbia. Eventually, we would become the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. We would meet at least once a month to share beers from all over as well as those brewed on our own. This is where the beer geekery really took off as my palate was regularly exposed to beers by the likes of Russian River, Ninkasi, Dogfish Head, Three Floyds, etc., etc. This one-time interest quickly grew into an obsession.

Almost three years of hanging with these beer nerds has taught me a lot about beer and given me a newfound passion. I now have a closet full of beer which serves as my “beer cellar.” In that cellar are beers I’ve had for several years as well as beers not currently sold in Missouri. There are brews of my own making. The homebrews have done quite well among my beer geek friends and I enjoy them as well. I am currently an officer with said beer club. My weekends are now filled with one new beery experience after another. There really is nothing quite like craft beer and the community surrounding it[10].

To this point, craft beer has been the only thing for which I can obsess over as much as indie rock[11]. The new styles and breweries popping up every day make the hobby rather exciting. What will be interesting is to see where this all takes me next. That said, maybe I should get back to some reviews and show you my love for craft beer instead of telling you about it.

1I use terms like “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably here. I mean no disrespect and claim the terms for myself on many occasions. It should also be noted that I don’t hesitate to use these terms when discussing indie rock fans. It’s a connection between the two worlds that may have to make it into my manifesto or list of beliefs at some point.
2Before Pizza puts it in the comments, Schlafly has nothing to do with crazy wingnut Phyllis Schlafly. They make beer; she makes problems for poor people and women.
3Yes, even moreso than the Ruination experience a few years earlier. Ruination was expected. I had no idea that stouts could be so full of molasses, vanilla, and bourbon. And the barley wine…I didn’t have any idea what a barley wine was. Again with the vanilla, but this had a thick, syrupy body and the sweetness to match. These are two of better beers in their style produced anywhere. While I have a certain fondness for Ruination and its ilk, the west coast IPA/DIPA has been a bit overdone and sometimes we need something else.
4Getting over the cost of craft beer is the biggest step for most consumers. We’ve been conditioned to think that beer should be cheap. However, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is especially true for beer. A $10 bottle is basically $5 per beer, but that beer is higher in alcohol and significantly more intense flavor-wise. The cost is worth it.
5Yes, the best Belgian beer selection is in a gas station. I don’t go there as often as I used to as I have either tasted most of the beers they stock or new options have since opened.
6It’s interesting to me that Seattle used to be my mecca for indie rock. Then, it was Portland. The same thing could be said for beer as Portland has earned the right to be called “Beervana.”
7If you’ve noticed, Ruination comes up over and over again. It has become a significant beer in my beer geekdom. I will be one of the first to welcome their arrival in Missouri in a little over a week. I’m thinking of asking Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch to sign a bottle of Ruination. I don’t know that the quality of the beer is as good as it once was since the brewery’s big expansion, but it’s a significant beer for me.
8Elysian was actually the first brewery where I feasted on northwest beers about 14 years ago. It’s a long story, but after a day of traveling with my tail between my legs, hot, sweaty, and dirty, Elysian was the oasis in the desert of my shitty life.
9I tried to order a Dogfish Head 120 IPA. Supposedly, the bartender said they were out. I suspect that he could sense I was a noob and simply pointed me toward something that wouldn’t knock me out for the day.
10Once again, this is a place where craft beer and indie rock meet. Community is incredibly important for both. It’s part of what has drawn me to my two obsessions. Nothing is better than enjoying craft beer or good indie rock than enjoying and/or talking about with friends.
11It should go without saying that I place my family above my hobbies, but I’ll say it anyway. These are just the things outside of the people I love that make each day worth experiencing.

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on April 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I was a little spoiled in a part of Colorado where every town over 600 people had its own brewery–beer making and beer drinking felt like a community/cultural event, not just a commodity. When I came back to St. Louis last year for a quick visit, I swung by a Friar Tuck’s: they had a decent beer selection, but it seemed like their purchasing agent read, I don’t know, Beer Advocate or something and only picked beers with ratings over 85 or whatever. It felt like a bigger World Market, basically. Friar Tuck’s notwithstanding, it sounds like the beer culture in MO (at least your town) is changing for the better: treating beer as something communal and not just a commodity.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      I think it’s better all around. StL and KC feature pretty prominent beer blogs that keep things moving. This has helped to bring more interesting breweries to Missouri. In fact, Missouri will increase the number of breweries who distribute here more than any other state. Some states are even losing breweries while we gain more. Next week is Stone week here. I’m pretty excited for it and the releases to come.

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