A Beer Lover’s Coming of Age Tale

December 12,2009 by 9 Comments
Seeking Beer Enlightenment

Seeking beer enlightenment.

It’s rare that I’ll dedicate a whole post to a personal story, but this is one that must be told.  It’s a story ripe with ignorance, deceit, friendship, and revelation.  It’s about how I discovered good beer.

Every fan of good beer has their story of discovery, and most of them start with adventures in crappy-beer-land.  I was no different.

The Dark Years

The first time I actually sat down and drank a whole beer I was 14 and it was Natural Ice.  Yup, I really scraped the bottom of the barrel. But let’s be honest, the BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors) beers that most people start with aren’t much better.

Imagine how our perceptions of beer were molded by drinking this drool.  My thinking was “So this is beer.  It’s pretty gross, but other people like it, so I will too.”

High school was when the real fun began for our crew.  Natty Light was the norm, 40’s when we were broke, and Coors Light if we could scrounge up the extra dough – that was really a treat.

Good flavor in those days meant no flavor.  When your only goal of drinking was to get drunk, the taste was a roadblock that kept you from destination (especially since it tasted horrible).  There’s alot of pride involved when you drink beer in high school.  Remember how popular the guy was who could down a beer bong in 1.9 seconds?  When you’re trying to be the best home run hitter, you bring your best bat.  So the lighter and watered down beers won out.

Good tasting beer was a concept that never entered my mind.  Not until a few years later.

A Glimmer of Hope

Oh I occasionally bumped into those “dark beers” back in the good ole’ days, but it was more of a nuisance than a gastronomical breakthrough.

You see in those hunter-gatherer times of beer drinking, having to drink dark beer was like driving Mom’s minivan to school – you did it because you had to, not because you enjoyed it.

One event really stands out.  In high school we would sneak into the frat parties at the local college.  The parties were always really lame (people who know where I grew up will guess the school) so we’d raid the fridge and take the beer back to our party which actually featured women.  I remember opening the fridge, spotting only Guinness, and cursing the bastards for their poor selection.

So young, so ignorant.

Finally, my savior came.  A college buddy gave me a taste of McEwan’s Scotch Ale, and I was blown away.  “What is this?” I felt like cupid shot me in the ass with a beer bottle. “I started buying $10 six-packs” he answered.  “It’s beer that actually tastes good.”

That’s how he referred to them. Not craft beer, microbrews, or specialty beers.  “$10 six-packs.”

A few years earlier I would have laughed over paying so much for beer.  Call it maturity of the taste buds, but I was at the store in 15 minutes with $10 in my hand.

Push it to the Limit

Discovering $10 six-packs wasn’t my last beer epiphany. Hardly.  I’m constantly blown away by the works of art that brewers come up with.  But there is an event that rivals my craft beer experience – the day I learned how to homebrew.

When I first heard someone talk about making their own beer, I was pumped.  “You’re saying I can actually make beer, and even better, it will taste good!?”  It sounded too good to be true.

It wasn’t, but there was one problem – I didn’t know how the hell to do it.

I’m a proficient Googler so I quickly stumbled upon Palmer’s book, Charlie’s books, and other online resources.  With a pile of college textbooks on my desk, reading was the last thing I wanted to do (Palmer’s book read waaay too much like one of my ISAT texts). I just wanted to make beer.  Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?

After buying a kit and struggling through my first batches, I realized my beer desperately needed help. I met an experienced homebrewer named Mike who became my Yoda – teaching me the process and correcting all my stupid mistakes. My beer then became good, very good.

I quickly moved up to all-grain brewing, the way the pros do it.  Since then I’ve brewed dozens of delicious batches, shared my creations with countless friends & strangers, and found a favorite hobby.

A Beer Lover’s Lifestyle

Craft beer and homebrewing have been a fun part of my life since I was 21.  I emphasize fun.  That is, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.  Family, friends, and health always come first. But beer right after.

Now I share my passion for beer though this blog and wherever else I pop up on the internet or off.  Beer is after all, a social drink.  So I ask you, what’s your story?

About Billy Broas

He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

9 responses to “A Beer Lover’s Coming of Age Tale”

  1. Daniel Clayton says:

    mom’s minivan AKA The B Squad!!

  2. Levi Stilwell says:

    Oh good stuff man, I about died laughing at the “I felt like cupid shot me in the ass with a beer bottle” comment.

  3. Brian Miller says:

    I love it. I actually started writing a blog post today that details my foray into $10 six packs and the like. (My blog is in its infancy – yours is bookmarked and I’ll be back many times for sure.) I remember in cheap beer days comparing various nuances of beers which today I can’t tell the difference. (i.e. “Busch Light tastes just like Bud Light but it’s way cheaper!”)
    .-= Brian Miller´s last blog ..Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale =-.

  4. todd says:

    “I felt like cupid shot me in the ass with a beer bottle.”

    I am going to like this blog, thanks for the laugh

  5. todd says:

    I had Irish buddys in high school and was thus was raised on Tooth’s Sheaf Stout and Guinness. I am just lucky that way.

  6. Billy Broas says:

    @Levi and Todd. Yea I don’t know where that comment came from, but I think it gets the point across really well lol.

    @Brian You nailed it with “Busch Light tastes just like Bud Light but it’s way cheaper!”
    We always looked forward to the annual event when the supermarket would drop the price of Natty to $8 per case.

  7. Karen Watts says:

    your hilarious. would love to taste some of your creations:)

  8. Forrest says:

    Great story. This story did leave out the gas station in Harrisonburg that helped change our lives. Without this unique and oddly placed selection of “$10 six packs” our journey to discovery great tasting beer may have been thwarted! Is thwarted a word? sounds good.

  9. Billy,

    Loved reading this! I can’t think of any beer fanatic that first started out with great craft brews. It was always that fizzy tasteless yellow crap that some how managed to turn…or in some cases turn off….people on to beer. Then something always happened to turn them on to great beer. Almost no one can come back from it after the first experience.

    I have this part up on my blog in the about me section, and I can’t say it much better the second time around, so I hope you don’t mind I just copy and pasted it! :)

    My story:

    My first tastes of beer came at an early age, but before the taste there was first the sight, smell and fizzle of it. And boy was it good. Wait, before I go any further I must first explain that I come from a Russian family that had moved to the states in the late 80’s. This is an important piece of information, as it goes a way to explain why my first taste of the stuff came at about age 10 or so. Sorry parents…

    It was around that age that I took my first sip while the family and friends were gathered around the table. And thus…the love affair began. There was just something about it, and it wasn’t just the taste. From that point on I was hooked on the taste, smell and the way it looks in just the right lighting and in just the right glass. Obsession? Ya what the hell probably.

    It wasn’t until I was about 15 however that I was truly opened up to brews from around the world by a cousin of mine from New York. I was staying with my family in upstate NY and he had laid out an assortment of brews from all over the world. Literally…from all over the world. I think the true obsession started from about that time and has only grown in intensity every since. Now that I’m 23 and have the whole beer world open to me (legally speaking), I’m more like a sugar addicted kid in a candy store than anything else. Mind you, I don’t chase it for the alcohol, that’s simply a nice after effect of the pursuit.


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