My Beer Journey

Runners love beer.  It’s refreshing and cold and a lot of races hand it out for free. What’s not to like?

I had my first beer at a Civil War re-enactment when I was… well let’s just say I was underage.  That first beer was a Coors Light.  It was essentially fizzy water, when it was ice cold it was pretty much flavorless.  We all start here right? Something light (and usually cheap) like Coors, Beast, PBR etc.  Beer for a lot of people is an acquired taste like many things, coffee, wine, etc.  Start light and work your way up.  A couple years later (again at a re-enactment) I was introduced to a lovely Canadian lager LaBatt Blue which put me on my butt, literally, with a much stronger taste and much higher alcohol content.  I liked it though, for a long time in college this was my beer of choice.

Fast forward through several years of whatever was on sale, on special on draft, or whatever was in the keg and I end up in Greensboro NC.  Here I am introduced to a locally made red ale known as Red Oak.  I fell in love with this beer, and to this day it is one of my favorites, although sadly I can’t get it anymore.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my first taste of local craft brewing.  I went through a period, like many people I’m sure, thinking that some of the “special” brands like Shock Top and Blue Moon were “micro-brews”.. they aren’t.  They are made in the same factory as Budweiser. Microbrews are made in a place where you can walk in and see the fermenting tanks.  Red Oak was made at the Greensboro Ale House and it was only available on draft in a few places around town.  No cans.  No bottles.  They have since opened a new brewery and a cannery and you can get the beer at grocery stores in bottles.  I never got around to trying it before I moved away so I don’t know if it was as good.

A couple years later I end up in Winston Salem and get introduced to several more local beers.  It’s here I discover my first brewpub, Foothills Brewing.  They made their own beer on site! They had several year round brews including three IPAs, a Pilsner, a Porter and an American Pale Ale, plus all kinds of crazy seasonal and one off beers.   It was at this point I was starting to experiment and discover that I liked certain styles of beer, not just certain brands.  I don’t like overly hopped beers.  IPA (India Pale Ale) is usually out, and even some normal Pale Ales are too hoppy.  I like wheat beers a lot (both Belgian Style like Blue Moon, and German style Hefewiezens which are very similar), I like my Red Ales and I like brown ales like Newcastle, Nut Brown Ale etc.  I’m ok with Porters and Stouts but they aren’t my favorite.

Speaking of moving, then I moved to Beervana.  In case you didn’t know Portland, Oregon and most of the whole state of Oregon to be honest is the beer brewing capitol of the planet.  There’s several reasons for this.  First is access to fresh clean water.  A lot of the municipal water around here from from lakes and rivers that are fed by snowmelt.  Very pure and clean and they don’t put any chemicals in it, at all.  The tap water here is awesome.  Also, all of the beer ingredients grow here and grow well.  Hops flourish in this area and in fact a lot of the best hops are from this area.  Cascade, Mt Hood, Williamette etc.  The area south of Portland grows enough hops it’s probably second only to maybe Germany.

EVERYONE here makes beer.  And I mean everyone.  There are brewpubs and microbrews everywhere.  Why anyone would drink “name brand” beer (Bud, Coors, Miller etc) in this town is beyond me.  There’s a couple of fairly big local breweries around here that distribute nationwide, Rogue and Full Sail to name two that I could get back on the East Coast.  McMenamins makes their own beer (and wine and spirits) and not only is that all they carry at their locations, you can only get their beer at their locations.  Laurelwood is a local brewpub with two restaurant locations and their beer is also available at grocery stores.  There’s too many to name but there are so many, I’ve rarely had the same beer twice since I’ve been here.  Every time I go to the store I want to try something new.

Now, since hops grow so well here, Northwest beers tend to be VERY hoppy.  The NWPA (Northwest Pale Ale) tends to be hoppier than most IPAs elsewhere, and the IPAs here will blow the top of your head off.  This proves to be troublesome for me, since I don’t like overhopped beers, but there is still plenty here I can drink.  Widmer makes a great Hefeweisen.  Rogue makes an amazing Hazelnut Brown Ale that I just tried the other day. Laurelwood makes a good Red Ale.  I have plenty of choices.

But now I have one other choice.. My beer journey has now come full circle.  Very soon, within the next couple weeks, I’ll be making my own beer.  Lisa’s sister got us a homebrew kit for Christmas last year and the only reason I haven’t started yet is it’s been too cold for the fermentation to take place, but it’s finally getting warm enough.  Now if I can’t find something I like I can just make it.  I can take something similar to something I like and tweak it to be even better.  I can experiment with different flavors and combos of ingredients and just make stuff up as I go along.  It’s a small kit, only 2 gallons, so if I make something that’s terrible and undrinkable it’s not a huge waste.

Stay tuned as I’m about to seriously get my food science geek on.  There will be updates!

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1 Comment

  1. have fun making beer! I have a few friends who are really into their homebrewing.


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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.