Sunday, February 28, 2010

Origins of My Love of Beer

A quick timeline of the evening that led to the moment I want to write about. First, the wife and I had a nice dinner in the lower east side. We then swung by the Belgian Room, a Belgian beer bar we actually just sort of stumbled upon. I had a Brother Thelonnius, a pretty dope, malty Belgian ale. Afterwards we went to go get some cannolis. On the way to the cannoli place, I almost got my face punched in by a super drunk guy. I see some guy, who I think is some punk kid, throwing snowballs at bicycle delivery guys on 1st Ave. I, not so kindly, let him know this isn't really acceptable behavior, as it could, you know, actually kill someone. Turns out this punk kid is a pretty big, super drunk, and pretty old guy. He gets in my face. I'm trying to talk my way out of getting punched in the face while preventing this guy from actually killing someone. The wife is pulling me away. Eventually, I'm walking away, and this guy shouts at me "Hey! Are you gay?" which, all things considered, I think is a pretty funny/tame taunt. Turns out people had already called the cops, so my foray into life-saving heroism was, I guess, unnecessary. We then go get our cannolis, eat them, then it's off to Mugs Ale House, quite possibly my favorite bar on earth.

Ok, so now the real post begins. The wife and I get to Muggs ahead of the gang, and I order us some beers. I order a Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter, but get served a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout instead. I'm a little disappointed, but not really because I love Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout, and also I feel pretty proud of myself to have such a refined palate. And this got me thinking. Back in college, the wife, my dear friend Greg, and I joined the vaunted Russell's 100 Club. This involved drinking 100 different beers from around the world. The first beer I had for the 100 Club was a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. I hated it. I mean I really hated it. It's a 10.0% ABV beer, chocolatey but not in a sweet, milk chocolatey kind of way. Chocolately like taking a bite out of a brick of baker's chocolate. So suffice it to say, it's not a beer for novices, which I most certainly was at the time.

Despite the stumble out of the gate, I continued with the 100 Club, eventually completing it in what I'm pretty sure was record time. So back in present times, when I'm really, really, loving this Black Chocolate Stout, I'm trying to think back about that first Black Chocolate Stout, reminiscing about what that first tasted like and how it's unfortunate that I won't be able to get that newness of tasting a beer back. I think the only beer experience that's come close to that since I officially became a beer snob was when I had my first Flemish Sour Ale, I forget which one specifically, and it blew my mind that beer could taste like that (think super, super sour).

While the 100 Club may have developed my beer palate, it didn't initiate my love of beer. That happened in a room of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in the middle of January 2005. I was going to a speech and debate tournament there, and a professor of mine told me to check out La Fin Du Monde. Thinking it was a bar, I asked where it was. Turns out it's a beer brewed by Unibroue in Quebec. Unibroue might be my favorite brewery, and I'm sure you'll hear more about them later. But back to our scheduled story. Anyway, we found a sixpack of it in a Canadian grocery store and took it back to the hotel.

Up until this point in my life, I considered Rolling Rock to be the pinnacle of beer perfection. Well, that was about to change. I cracked open a bottle of La Fin Du Monde and took a swig from the bottle. My mind was blown. La Fin Du Monde is a bottle-conditioned Belgian ale, clocking in somewhere around 9% APV. It's pretty sweet and pretty fruity, not super heavy or malty like some of the Belgian ales I've talked about here. I had no idea beer could taste like that. What also blew my mind was that every sip tasted different. Now this resulted from the fact that I'm drinking straight from the bottle and bottle-conditioned ales most definitely need to be poured out into a glass, but still. It was the first time I realized that a beer could be complex. To be sure, I've had my fair share of awful macrobrew since then, but sitting on that hotel bed, my life was changed. La Fin Du Monde translates to "The End of the World," and, to be ridiculously cheesy, that most certainly was the end of my bad-beer-drinking world.

So there's that. That one beer got me super nostalgic about my beer-drinking infancy. At Mugs, I followed that Black Chocolate Stout up with a Six Point Double Sweet Action, which is Six Points' Sweet Action but double just about everything, including the alcohol, and then a Chelsea Hoppy Holidaze, a super hoppy and super malty holiday ale. After that we head to the Biergarten in Williamsburg, where I have a Hefeweizen of some sorts. At this point in time, I am super housed. You may notice that I've only had five beers at this point, stretched out over the course of four hours. However, each of these beers is at least 9% ABV, so it's essentially like drinking 10 normal beers or, to put it in a ridiculous-but-still-accurate way, twenty Bud Select 55s. So after the biergarten, we go to the Charleston where I order a beer but can't drink it. Blasphemy, I know, but I know my limits and I was definitely at them. The wife and I jump in a cab and head back to the apartment, and thus ends the night where I drank a lot of super awesome beers. Tonight, as tends to the be case after nights like that, will probably be beer free. But as always, we shall see.

Total Beers: 181
Where I Should Be: 158.904.


  1. Dude, you are pushing 30 up! Go for it.

  2. I was catching up on your blog and it reminded me that I had a mixed case of Unibroue in my fridge. Oh frabjous day!

  3. A mixed case of Unibroue?? In PA?? That's awesome. We always had to buy whole cases in PA of just one of the beers -- a mix sounds awesome!