Like many of you, it all started with Pops offering me a sip of Bud on a warm summer day after he finished some yard work. Being all of nine years old, I surely felt grown up enough to kick back some booze with the elders. Well, the first sip was akin to a combination of piss and gasoline (not that the taste of Bud has improved much), but damnit I sure wasn’t going to show my Pops I was weak. There is no better feeling than the look of approval from your dad when you share in a beer, and I really enjoyed those moments of satisfaction having a few sips while Dad enjoyed his beer reward and quiet time from Mom after some yard work (Disclaimer: please note this was just a few sips at this early age, do not think my parents were raging alcoholics nor were they into partying with minors).
As the years went by, the occasional sip of beer became much more manageable, almost enjoyable. Next came the teenage years and my punk friends and I realized that by drinking an ungodly sum of alcohol, things became pretty downright hysterical. Hence, the party days of high school had begun. In those days, we could only afford cheap and tasteless beer, such as Olympia, Meister Brau (aka Meister Chow), the Silver Bullet Coors Light, Milwaukee’s Best (aka Milwaukee’s Beast), and if we had enough money we’d “step up” and get Rolling Rock or Bud Light. The advent of 30-packs and Beer Balls coincided perfectly with our need for mass consumption with little regard to taste, and we drank our bellies full and puked consistently with delight. After all, wasn’t the point of drinking to get totally wasted? Little did we know?
Fast forward a few years and now I’m in college. As a drinking “veteran”, I had the privilege of maintaining a high tolerance which enabled me to handle those insane 4 AM nights. Beer pong, funnels, keg stands, a-hole, quarters, and beer baseball became daily vocabulary. A good night was measured by: a) how much did you drink; and b) how little you could remember. Ever heard this before: “Dude, that party was awesome, I got so f’ed up and I woke up and had no idea where I was!” In those days, that was the gold standard for a good night. Bars were the new thing (vs. drinking in the woods or parent’s houses) and dollar draft beer specials were frequent. But suddenly my tastes were changing. As a wise university student following in the footsteps of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and Jim Morrison, I suddenly saw the light – that life is short and God Damnit there is a whole lot of other types of beer out there to be tried before the music’s over. Thus began my desire to try every variety of brew I could find. My roommates and I started a beer bottle collection that became campus-wide famous, and people would actually go out of their way to drop off different bottles to add to our wall – college money well spent!
Upon graduation, I landed my first job at Johnson & Johnson. It just so happens that I worked in a finance group that also had a sister company located in Belgium. And wouldn’t you know it, I was asked to go overseas to help close the books. Each night there I was treated like royalty, taken to pubs (please don’t twist my arm now) and provided an unlimited amount high quality Belgian beer. Belgium is not known for a whole lot, but the Belgians are darn proud of their beer and they could not be happier that I was enjoying their national treasure. So let’s get this straight, I’m 23, I love beer, I am really getting into enjoying good quality beer, my company decides to send me to Belgium of all places, and they are paying for all of it! Holy moly, talk about hitting the work lottery! Needless to say, this really opened me to the wonders of Belgian style beer, and the wide variety of high quality international beer.
In the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to travel for work to many of the motherlands of good beer (Germany, England, Amsterdam, and starting next week the Czech Republic to name a few), each with beer styles different but awesome especially when fresh on draft. I am now 36, and I’ve been able to experience a plethora of good beers over the years. I don’t pretend to be the world’s expert on craft brew, but I have been able to master my own palette and understand the various styles/types of beer available and what makes me happy (after all drinking is a very personal experience, and it’s all about figuring out what style of beer suits you). Personally I prefer dark, preferably ale or stout, with an occasional Belgian tripel thrown in. I am proud to promote the joy of experiencing quality beer with my friends new and old and I dabble into homebrew for kicks.
Just recently, I found out I’m going to be a father for the first time. I’ve never been more proud in my life. And as I reflect upon all that I’ve experienced, I can’t help but get excited for that special moment nine years from now when life comes full circle, where I can finish a tough day of yardwork, kick back with a beer and offer that first shared sip to my kid. This time however I can assure you it won’t be Budweiser!