My love for craft beer started sometime during college when I started venturing out from the norm AKA Milwaukees Best Light. Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company was becoming quite popular and was a recognizable brewery from WI. I remember the exact instance when my buddy Jeremy busted out a sixer of Leinie’s Northwoods (RIP). This momentous occasion, sitting in our terrible mouse infested kitchen, started me down the path of beer enlightenment. The other brew that I distinctly remember very early on is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. While I sadly can no longer enjoy the flavor of the Northwoods, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale definitely reminds me of a time, when things were simpler and choices were fewer.
After tasting these craft brews I knew I couldn’t go back. The exact sequence of when I started enjoying different varieties of beer is no longer sequenced clearly on a timeline in my brain. But I do want to take some time to mention a few beers that really turned me on to different styles of beer and give me that nostalgic feeling.
I will admit this variety has fallen a bit out of favor with me in recent years. I did mention Sierra Nevada, which is great in its own regard, but the Pale Ale that took me further down the craft beer road was definitely Great Lakes Burning River. This beer was a personal favorite of mine for quite some time. There were regularly sixers in the fridge and I try at least once a summer to revisit this still fantastic Pale Ale.
My Dad has been linked pretty closely to Miller Lite, but I have to give him credit on this one. He encouraged me to try out seasonal beers, which was a new concept at the time. We were getting into the early fall months and he mentioned his favorite was Sam Adams Oktoberfest. Because I looked up to him, I had to try this beer out. Wow. The maltiness was something new I had not experienced and it was so absolutely perfect on a fall day. This beer remains one of my most nostalgic brews and it is always the first Oktoberfest I pick up each year.
I had a really hard time with this one. I remember trying few different IPA’s and absolutely loved what these beers had to offer I just couldn’t pinpoint one exact brew. I tried to expand beyond the traditional variety and then it slammed into me, Bell’s Hopslam (authors’ note: I know, this is a double IPA). This definitely wasn’t the first IPA I ever tried, but it was definitely the one that made me fall in love. To this day, IPA varieties remain on of my favorites and I always look forward to the late winter Hopslam release.
This was another variety I had a really hard time with. I remember trying a few different types and this style it didn’t really take at first. I knew there was something to it, but the flavors where just too big at the time. I kept punishing myself with big bold stouts and this variety finally latched on. This one was a little hard to place so I am going to make a couple of mentions. First is New Glarus Road Slush (RIP). I think this brew might have been a little more mild, but I distinctly remember this being the first one I really enjoyed. After that point I was hooked, the next stout that reeled me in was Founder’s Breakfast Stout. Nothing like a punch of delicious coffee flavor that spills out of a big thick stout.
I could go on and on, but I think this provides a great roadmap to my current love for beer. If you have made it this far, take a couple minutes and let me know, which were your gateway beers?