I like beer- it’s a passion, an indulgence and the empty bottles make a nice collection. Ben Franklin (for those of you with the appropriate grade-school education to know of Ben Franklin) is often quoted as saying that “beer is proof that God loves us.“ I realize that some people may be reading this at a time of day when breakfast or brunch may be a more appropriate conversation and to those I apologize. However, it must be five o’clock somewhere so lets talk about the Volkswagen of refreshments as I tell you about my love for beer.
My personal history with beer is as follows: I started off with Old Milwaukee, then progressed through increasingly cheap beer until I reach Milwaukee’s Best somewhere in the late 80s. The best compromise between taste and cost was Miller Lite until I embraced Busch light as I embraced my wife, Lisa, who was then a Busch Light drinker. Busch Light was perfect for me at the time, I was more interested in volume than taste and the can fit well in my hand. My first date with Lisa was spent on her mother’s deck. Lisa’s mother, Jeanette, (you know her as Mother Walseth) asked me that first night if I’d like a can coozie to insulate the beer from my body heat and I told her I was offended that she thought a beer would go cold in my hand. Jeanette and I have been best friends since even as I’ve since graduated from volume to quality which is where lies the heart of this story.
I always thought people who were particular about their beer where snobs. I would never become part of that finicky bunch swishing beer around and smelling it prior to the first swallow. Then I thought about it, most of the better beers were just made with better ingredients. Its like cookies or brownies, aren’t the home made ones made with better ingredients better tasting? I then began my experience/experiment with better beer.
I’m a home town boy and that extends to my home state. I decided this was a good starting point in my effort to school my beer palette and got lucky; Schell’s Beer. Schell’s is brewed in New Ulm, Minnesota and I’ve yet to find a variety they bottle anywhere short of delicious. Some of the varieties are seasonal but they’re all made like you’d expect a Minnesotan to make them-labor intensive with particular attention paid to consistency. One of the guys I work with loves the Firebrick brew so much that one of his family members occasionally imports a few cases to Northwest Minnesota for him. During the last shipment, Kyle granted me a six pack which should have been enjoyed one a time but was greedily drank by myself in one sitting.
I’ve found the organic beers particularly good. I think many people see “organic” and they think of sandal-wearing hippies brewing beer constantly yet showering rarely. Organic is simply a better product, raised without chemical that gains it’s flavor from a variety of natural influences such as the soil, natural fertilizer (you know, manure), better quality water, etc. One of my favorites is Samuel Smith which is produced in the United kingdom. It’s expensive but some places sell single bottles so you can have a taste without breaking the bank which plays into that whole “quality versus quantity” idea.
So many of the beers I like are Pilsners. I questioned this attraction until I found “Okocim” beer. I did a little research and found this brewery got it’s start in 1845; just three years after Pilsner was created in nearby Bohemia (present day Czechoslovakia) . The roots of this beer answered many questions about my personal tastes as I am half Bohemian. The beer is brewed in a section of Poland that saw little of World War II and so the original brewery still stands and brews on a regular basis.
You may notice the absence of my impressions on the taste of beer. I am not an expert, I just know what I like. I don’t eat a cracker between beers to cleanse my palette or any of that high brow stuff. In the end, maybe it’s not the beer as much as the environment in which it‘s drank. I mean really, has any beer tasted better than a twelve pack of 3.2 from Carpenter’s Corner (a bar in service since 1936 just west of Thief River Falls, Mn) on a hot afternoon?