Ask me almost anything about beer and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll know the answer. “What’s the difference between dry hopping and continuous hopping?” I know that. “Does chocolate malt really contain chocolate?” I know that too, and – no, it doesn’t. “What’s Fritz Maytag’s claim to brewing fame?” Yeah, I know that and it doesn’t have anything to do with inventing a combination Maytag dishwasher/brew kettle. “Who brews Pliny the Elder Ale and what styles of beer pair well with Thai food or Texas BBQ? Yes, I can tackle those as well. The list goes on and has gone on at beer tastings and other events for a while now. I’ve been a proud bearer of the beer geek tag for a good 8 years. I’ve hosted countless beer tastings, reviewed hundreds of beers, sampled hundreds more, brewed my own beer, given purchasing advice to a handful of owners, buyers and beer managers at local liquor stores and designed flights for some local craft beer bars but one question has evaded even a poor answer despite many attempts: “when did you become a beer geek (or beer nut as the question is usually posed)?” For far too long, the best and most honest answer I could come up with has been, “I don’t really know.” Absurd, how could I not even know enough to take a weak stab at such a basic and obvious question? Well, never one to be comfortable with not knowing the answer (especially to something so seemingly simple), I sat down with a contemplative pint or two of Great Divide Yeti Oak Aged Imperial Stout and determined to come up with something better than “I don’t really know.”
When it came to beer in the first place I was late to the tap handle, not having my first one until midway through my second semester of sophomore year at Syracuse University. A self-imposed goodie two shoes I can honestly say that I never had a drink at a high school party and I didn’t even thought about sneaking a little something from my parents bar. Throughout Freshman Year I never uncapped one of the Haffenreffer’s my future roommate, John Chawner, and his future wife, Cathy, were so quizzically partial to. When I did start to accompany my college buddies to the bars adjacent to campus I tended to stay away from beer completely – just hated the taste of it and couldn’t understand why anyone would drink it. Embarrassingly, I would usually be caught with a vodka Collins in those days but that’s another story.