I have never really heard of a beer geek or connoisseur who hopped right into drinking craft beer with their first beer ever. Or at least, they didn’t do it on purpose. Even those of us who appreciate a well crafted beer started out thinking of alcohol in a pretty similar way. I, of course, can’t really talk about a lot of other people’s experiences, but I do know how my experience began. My first beer ever was enjoyed at a new years eve party for Eyeball Records with a couple of friends and a bunch of pretentious hipster types. I ended up there because I wanted something fun to do that night, but I pretty much ended up feeling like I didn’t belong. One of the guys I came with brought me over a can of beer, which I promptly popped open and drank because I was looking for someway to fit in with a crowd I felt I didn’t belong with. That first can wasn’t an immediate jump into the world of craft beer, but it was a catalyst for kick starting my interests in beer. That can led me to an interest in trying a lot of new different types of beer. Of course I drank my fair amount of Rolling Rock, Coors, and MGD along the way, but I eventually found these things called hops that really started to take me in a brand new direction.
Each beer I drank formed a new little beer memory. I can remember my first IPA, my first porter, and my first barleywine. Some of these I have gone back to simply to see if it is the same, and some of these I love to go back to because I will always love them, but I will always remember the first time I tried each one of these beers. They made an impression on me, and I’ll remember them for what they tasted like the first time, even though they may never taste that same way again. Here are a few of those beers!
Yuengling: I think it’s crazy that this is the second time I’ve posted about America’s oldest brewery over the last two weeks. I have to throw them up here because it is the can of beer I referred to in the little story from above. It’s funny what you can remember from different things in your life. I’m told that My Chemical Romance was at that Eyeball Records new years eve party, but I can only remember seeing that geeky bass player. Instead, I do remember my friend telling me to try this can of beer. He told me it was the oldest brewery in America. I figured it had to be good. I really can’t go into the taste profile, mouthfeel, or color that won me over, but it was the entire experience that hooked me into this interesting beverage I had never had before. Unlike where I grew up, Yuengling doesn’t rule the world down here in Washington DC, so I love to go back to it now and then when it is available. Trust me I do pass it up a ton still too, but it’s like visiting an old pal.
IPAs: Did anyone actually drink an IPA the first time and think it was the greatest thing they
have ever tasted? I had multiple experiences with IPAs that are vivid memories. Most of them tended to really not be great experiences. The very first IPA I can remember having was a Sierra Nevada Celebration ale. My girlfriend (now wife) and I were out for dinner while in college. I was interested in trying new things, so I went for this one, and I felt like I had to choke down all the hops. Looking back at it, there are 65 IBUs in there, so I guess it was kind of strong for my first IPA. The next one I remember having was after college. We were out in Georgetown, and I tried another beer I had never seen before. I’m fairly certain it was Redhook Long Hammer. I had a similar experience where it took me a real long time to get it down. Eventually I managed to find a love for IPAs, and I decided I wanted to test the boundaries of hops; therefore, I had to test out the Dogfish Head 120. I was completely blown away by the flavors I experienced coming out of that bottle. I had never experienced anything like that before. Going back years later, I realized it wasn’t the craziest IPA I have ever had anymore, but I think that ultimately took me to a place I had never been to before with beer.
Porter: Darker beers were something I wasn’t really all that interested in right away. I remember drinking a lot of Lagers, Ales, and Hefes, but I don’t remember going dark all that quickly. When I was first starting to think about craft beer, I went to the store up the street and found a beer called Old Engine Oil from Harviestoun Brewery. Looking back at that experience, I realize I had never really had a beer containing big coffee, roasts, and malts. This beer blew me away the first time I had it. It was definitely the first step in learning to love dark beers. I know I had enjoyed a Guinness at this point in my drinking experience, but that didn’t even come close to the flavors I experienced in Old Engine Oil.
There are a few other beers I could talk about experiencing for the first time. I remember drinking my first real Hefe and Barleywine, but I don’t want to ramble on and on. I’m sure I’m not the only one who vividly remembers tasting some of these beer style for the first time. Some of these I love to go back to because they take me right back to that first time, while other have been a slight disappointment going back to. It’s weird when you realize it doesn’t pack the same punch it did the first time. Regardless, it’s these experiences that shaped my love of beer today, and I’ll definitely keep some of these beers close to my heart.