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What were your gateway beers?

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I'm not going to call craftbrew drinkers enlightened, or aleightened rather, but we're on our way.  It's a journey, not a destination.

So, what were the gateway beers that helped to get you to a higher plane of flavor?

For me, it was Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve that lifted me from my collegiate-era 40oz King Cobra dabblings (the Cobra being traditionally consumed with a loaf of french bread to provide that maltiness lacking in the beer).

Adding Samuel Adams Stock Ale into the mix helped me understand the appeal of bittered ales.  Took an unfortunate, but thankfully brief detour with Rolling Rock after college before coming around to the Trader Joe's line of Fat Weasel and Black Toad ales.

Learned a bit about oxidation from the many dusty brews stocked at TJ's at the time (circa 1995).  Fell in love with ales of oh-so-dark color via the sweet and rich Mackeson Triple XXX Stout.

Around the same time, I was lucky enough to taste Blind Pig IPA at Vinnie's Temecula brewery and at that point I knew there was no going back.  A true wortshed moment for me.

My conversion started a long time ago.  Back when Busch Lite was the main beer in the fridge my wife and I would "splurge" on Michelob Dark now and then.  Later, when I was service manage for a computer company who's office happened to be across the street from a "pick a 6 pack" place.  We kept a fund we called "beer fund" and used that money to buy all kinds of beer from all over the world every Friday afternoon.  After a few years of that the old Busch Lite just didn't cut it anymore.


circa 1991, it was the Full Moon Cafe in downtown Ann Arbor Michigan....they had a round the world club....I discovered all kinds of things.

Then, my wife to be got accepted to a Master's program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1993, so the Original Fat Tire from New Belgium, 90 Shilling from O'Dell's, and Red Banshee from H.C. Berger....but Coopersmith's Brewpub downtown made authentic English Ales....I became a born again malt head.

I grew up with Coors and Coors Light, son of an employee.  As I got older and in the military I expanded to the Killian's line (Red and Brown) and other dark beers, hitting the Old Chicago "'Round the World Beers" then the microbrew movement exploded and expanded my horizons further.  So I started to get more into the different flavors and implementing them into my brews.

Back in the 80's if we wanted to go upscale we got Canadian beer because it was generally accepted to be better, and they made beer to 5% alcohol while in the US we had that wimpy 3.5% beer (we really didn't understand that percent by weight vs volume thing).  I always had a penchant for darker beers so I always tried to pick up Michelob Dark, Guinness, and when visiting relatives in Pottsville, PA, Yuengling Black and Tan (or the Lord Chesterfield Ale if I wanted something hoppy but not dark).  The beer I noticed that was a real gateway for most of my friends was Sam Adams in the early 90s.

I can't say I ever really had a gateway brew, or one that opened a door to a whole new vista for me.  I love variety in food and drink and I've always liked beer, so I typically try out new styles when they come out and put the ones I like into my drink bullpen.


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