You have to understand: Since my first taste of beer sometime early in college (also in Charleston), I've tried to like beer. I swear I have. My sister and I visited the tasting room at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins a few years ago, and each of the eight beers I tasted were so disgusting to me, so foul and repugnant that each one drew a tear from my eye. True story. We left the brewery very quickly. But living in the "Napa Valley of Beer" — that is the Colorado Front Range in general and Fort Collins in particular — the depth of beer culture here has always been difficult to ignore. Our governor became a successful businessman after starting the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver's LoDo district, and the local newspaper even has a beer beat — a reporter devoted almost entirely to the culture and business of beer (and bicycles, too — a symbol of New Belgium). Clearly, Colorado takes its suds seriously.
But some people are wine people or vodka people or tequila people, and I've always been one of those guys, looking down my pretentious nose as I pour my glass of $15 zin at those who have an almost religious devotion their local craft brewery. My membership in the brotherhood of the wine connoisseurs of the world was always an excuse to keep an arm's length from Colorado's beer culture, but as millions imbibed liquid bread at the establishments that put Fort Collins on the map as much or more so than Colorado State University, I tried hard nonetheless to love beer. Maybe I'd spent years sampling crappy beer (Bud Light Lime is brewed in Fort Collins, too, after all), but whatever it was, it didn't work.
That is, until two months ago when I visited a restaurant in Charleston, and the only affordable drink on the happy hour menu was New Belgium's Trippel. The waitress poured, I drank, and holy shit, it was delicious. Really, really good.
I think learning to like new things is a mindset. If you're convinced something is going to be unpleasant, there's a good chance it will be. But if you completely open yourself to it, resign yourself to enjoying something that you've previously despised or considered repugnant, maybe it'll be easy to learn to like it. Maybe you can't apply that to everything, but for me, it certainly applies to beer.
So, I've found some incredibly great beers out there over the last two months, mostly from Colorado. Regardless of my new appreciation of beer, one thing is clear: Just like wine (Franzia in a box, anyone?), there's plenty of bad beer out there. Corona Light? Awful. Bud Light Lime? Detestable.
But I've found a few that I really love, in order of preference (so far): New Belgium's 1554 (an "enlightened black ale"), Left Hand Brewery's Milk Stout, Great Divide Brewery's Hibernation Ale, New Belgium's Trippel, Deschute's Brewery's Black Butte Porter and Obsidian Stout and Fort Collins Brewery's Chocolate Stout.
What I love about the beer culture here is the sense of exploration that it engenders. People in Colorado aren't satisfied with just a six pack of Golden-brewed Coors; they want to sample the gazillions of microbrews and craft brews that are in such great abundance here. We dropped into the Boulder Liquor Mart the other night and were greeted by an entire isle of single bottles of craft brews from all over Colorado. It would take years to sample all of those if you drink one each night.
Which is to say, I have a lot of exploring to do.
Tonight, I'll keep the adventures in craft beer local: New Belgium's Abbey Belgian Style Ale. Half way through the bottle, it's not my favorite, but it's pretty damn good regardless.
That's better than I can say for the last glass of $20 wine I had.