This is a tough installment of The Session for me since I really don't know many people in the brewing industry personally and I didn't really have a "beer guru" who introduced me to the wonders of craft/artisanal beer. Also, I have covered some of this ground before during The Session (#5 - Atmosphere) as I consider people to be the ultimate atmosphere when it comes to drinking.
So in the absence of a true beer person, I'll rehash a bit about my "beer partner" in my explorations, my good friend Dave.
The world of beer began to open up a bit in college from the day we discovered we could get a beer called Genessee 12 Horse Ale for the same price they were selling Busch Lite and the ilk at our favorite music bar. 12 Horse was not a great beer by objective standards but it turned the light on for us. It was quite different from the American industrial lagers we knew as "beer". And it was actually tasty!
Once we were able to buy beer legitimately (after the age of 21, 1991/1992), it was Sam Adams Boston Lager that opened our eyes even further and we began to delve more deeply into the American microbreweries as well as downing pint after pint of Guinness on the weekends. (Now that I think about it, Dave introduced me to Guinness and, in turn, to all stouts)
From there I remember discovering great beers and Dave was always in the vicinity. There was the party in DC when we walked down to the corner market and discovered Old Rasputin. My girlfriend split to study in Europe and that evening was my first taste of La Fin Du Monde.
After that there was a split as far as our beer journey. I joined the Navy and had already began to turn to the malt side. Belgian ales and big malty German lagers began to be my beers of choice. From 1995-99 I was either overseas or in the beer desert of northern Florida. Good beer began to be synonymous with imports and the big malt flavors many of them imparted became my preference. Ports of call in Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain and a backpacking trip through Germany solidified this thinking.
Meanwhile, Dave remained in the Washington D.C. area during the boom (and bust) of the initial American craft beer movement. Dave was cutting his teeth on lots of American craft beers and the hops were prominent in these brews.
So when I got out of the Navy, our tastes were quite different. Dave was quite the hophead while my tastes craved the malt and yeasty esters. I considered the big IPA's overdone and heavy-handed. He considered many of the beers I championed quite boring.
I moved to Maine and he joined me a couple years later. At that point, he was able to show me the appeal of some of these hoppy beers (Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale, Troeg's Hopback Amber and finally Stone Ruination got me over the hump) while I was able to introduce the Belgian styles and the new-found microbreweries in Maine, which were, by and large, quite dedicated to making English style ales.
I've been gone from Maine for four years now but he still ships me the occasional package of Cadillac Mountain Stout and I send him Sweetwater IPA. Even from a distance the education continues.
So what's the moral to this story? I guess if you're not going to have mentor as you begin your journey into beer, at least get yourself a good foil and/or a good friend. You learn more that way.
More entries in this month's installment of The Session can be found over here at Stonch's Beer Blog.