How I became a beer geek

Excuse me while I take a moment trying to think back to the time when I consumed overproduced, over-commercialised, under-flavoured lagers and actually tried to convince myself that I enjoyed them. I’d rather not, but it’s such a contradiction to how I enjoy my beer now that I feel it’s sometimes required. Like, look how far beer and I have come.

 

I’m not even joking. My beer journey has been long and at times, filled with grief and loss, but on the other hand, it ended up in a business model, lifelong friends and a husband.

 

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hendo

 

Let’s go back to the beginning.

 

My earliest memory of real ale is from when I was far too young to drink it. My father, a keen ale enthusiast and a wine connoisseur, had been into his British beers, Belgian beauties and German goodies since long before I was born and God forbid he’d ever drank any of these tipples from a glass that was not specifically made for them. He was a beer snob before it was cool. And every Christmas I entered, overwhelmed at the variety, this specialist store in my home town who sold beer paraphilia from glasses to bottles to clothing, to purchase a new glass for dad so he could enjoy his beer in the way it was supposed to.

 

I will always remember the smell of this store, full of the heavy aroma of malts, and the smoky scented wooden whittled string they used to wrap my dad’s Christmas present into the dark green paper. To this day the smell of smoke makes me think of Christmas, but mostly of my dad.

 

Erkki Mustonen

 

Fast-forwarding a few years, to when I was at the tender age of eighteen, and in the pub for the first time with my dad. He wanted to buy his recently of-age daughter a pint, and I remember how bitterly disappointed he was when I even suggested having some of the most commercial lager I could see on tap. It was then my journey started.

 

Being a daddy’s girl, I enjoyed my dad giving me a thorough education in the world of ales, wines and whiskeys, though it would take me almost 15 years to actually learn to appreciate the latter. Dad didn’t just have good taste, mind you, knowing his stuff was part of his profession. He had worked in this specialist bottle store before I was a twinkle in his eye and he knew his tipple inside out and could recommend anyone anything. He was an ironclad professional who loved and was proud of his work.

 

I remember this one time I had my heart broken by a boy who’s name I can’t even remember anymore, and dad, not really knowing how to make me feel better told me he had some beer that was “going off” and that we should drink it together. These turned out to be his prized possession beers which he had been aging (on purpose) but he wanted to share them with me rather than see me sad. I remember that night being one of the first when dad and I had a proper, adult conversation about boys, getting older, all that stuff that I probably was too young to talk about with him before. And since then we always had these amazing heart-to-heart’s over a beer.

 

And then the world as I knew it ended – dad died suddenly and left this enormous hollow space in my life. And with him, went my taste for ales. After all, it had been something we had enjoyed together, something that had been our thing. How could I enjoy it now that he was gone?

 

Years went by and my enjoyment for all things ale and wonderful wine slowly disappeared. I suppose becoming a “mature student” (I was over 21, not “mature” per se) had something to do with it as well; quantity over quality was the order of the day. It was around this time my brother found his way back to the wonderful world of ales and started documenting all the different tipples he tried, and as it just so happened the craft beer revolution arrived to the UK. Coincidence? Perhaps, but more was to come.

My favourite local Italian restaurant I used to visit on a weekly basis was suddenly taken over by a bunch of new kids on the block from the craft beer community and whilst begrudgingly, I visited to see what it was all about. I tried their beer. I tried their food. I befriended this handsome bar manager who I nowadays share a surname with. Needless to say, I never really left the said establishment, not to this day. I assimilated the beer folk with surprising ease. And in a weird way, it felt like I never had left.

 

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I will admit I rode the waves of the craft beer revolution for the first years of my return to the scene. My husband used to laugh about it and call me a “new age beer drinker”. The traditional beers I enjoyed with my dad did not interest me and if it wasn’t hopped to hell and back I probably wouldn’t bother trying it. I was a firm fan of BrewDog, a brewery which broke every single rule that used to govern beer makers of old and had, I thought at the time, a superbly punk attitude. Maybe I wanted to find a way to have ale in my life without it being too linked to my time with my dad.

 

Or maybe I was just a punk myself.

 

After a few years I found myself being more drawn back to the traditional British beers, Belgian beauties and German goodies I used to enjoy with my dad, and I found myself enjoying them on a brand new level, with a new community. Beer had become something to enjoy, to savour, a talking-point as much as just any old tipple again. It was almost like a full circle.

 

I’ve become beer-conscious. I’ve started paying far more attention to where my beer comes from, where the ingredients come from, who makes it, you name it. By no means have I abandoned the crafty creations I used to swear by but my beer doesn’t need to be outrageous anymore to be on top form with my palate. I spend hours a day reading about beer, writing about beer, talking about beer, tweeting about beer… and it’s all a labour of love. It’s become a lifestyle.

 

 

In the last five or so years I have immersed myself into the real ale and craft beer community in my immediate locality and further on as well. I have met some amazing (and some not so amazing, truth be told) people and made lifelong friends. I met my husband. I started a hyper local beer blog and still write that today. I started to write for other publications as well, talking about beer pairings, specialist beers and what it’s like to be a woman in the world of real ale. I started to host my own beer tasting and pairing events. I started a local group for women to get into the wonderful world of beer, to be educated as well as entertained. It feels like in the last few years I’ve been working back time I lost after I lost my dad, and perhaps that’s true.

 

It did used to be our thing.

 

And now, it’s a thing I love deeply and share with my best friends, my husband and anyone who will listen to me endlessly babble about it.

Are you a beer geek? Tell me about your story in the comments!

 

  • Monish Shrivastava

    Haha, thats a nice story! 😀

  • This was such a cute story! & I love that you and your man have this in common and can talk about it! Personally, I like a lighter beer – my boyfriend likes the heavier IPAs. Because of my stomach issues though, I can only drink one or two before I have to stop!!

  • I enjoy more beer now than before, I like it during the hot days or when I really thirsty (instead of sodas that super bad for the health) but I would say that I am more a wine person. 😉
    xo, Margot
    http://thepastelproject.com/

  • Great post! I’m not a beer person cuz’ of the bitter lingering taste. I only drank the beer Shandy while my dad likes Carlsburg & Heineken beer.

    • I could go on for ever about styles of beer that aren’t at all bitter but I won’t bore you thasks for reading hun xxx

  • Great beer journey! I don’t really drink beer any more, but you’ve made me want to now. Great post.

    • You should give beer another go. But obviously, I, biased

  • This is really interesting story and thanks for sharing your interests, even if i hate beer xoxo

    http://www.theninebyivana.blogspot.com

    • Awwww, sad about hating beer but happy you liked the post xxx

  • I truly enjoyed reading this! I never really had a taste for beer, but perhaps, I’m just drinking the shitty stuff. LOL. My dad recently got into it, and I found myself enjoying ciders quite a bit. Great timing on the post as well considering it’s October! = Oktoberfest! You’re a fantastic writer (you know how to tell a story), by the way, and I hope you keep writing about your life and your passions.

    Jocelyn Figueroa // minimalistinmanhattan.com

    • That is such a lovely thing to say hun, thanks so much.
      I always say “there’s no bad beer, just beer not to my taste”, so keep trying babe! There’s a brew right for you xxx

  • I’m not a huge beer fanatic. But it was an interesting post. My cousin and mom’s boyfriend home brew beers sometimes.

    • I’d love to homebrew but I’m just too busy right now! Going to look into it soon though xxx

  • Such a great post! I love to try different beers when I go on holiday but I am more of a cider drinker.

    • I never got into cider but it’s probably because I’m not too hot on sweet things. Some scrumpy ciders are amazing though ☺ xxx

  • Great post, I dont really drink beer but its always awesome to see someone elses love for it

  • cool! you guys sound like you enjoy beer! 🙂

  • I love that you are able to share your passion with your husband and friends! Awesome post!

  • How interesting! I love to see how people got into their hobbies! I’m more of a wine gal myself (years of waitressing will do that to ya) but I enjoy a good local brew now and then! Great post!

  • I´m not a huge fan of beer, but your article was amazing! I like the way how you wrote it, it was interesting reading , haha 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ally,
    http://www.inspo-book.blogspot.com

  • Loved this post. I don’t drink beer, lagers or ciders I’m more of a rum and whiskey gal but enjoyed reading about others preferences 🙂

  • Hahaha I love this beer journey post! I was never a beer drinker until I met my boyfriend and all he DRINKS is beers, normally ales/lagers/triples. Totally makes me want to go to a beer tasting now.

    michenn

  • I’m not a huge beer drinker but you can definitely tell the difference between the 3 types you mention! I like the old fashioned ales best if I had to choose!

  • So interesting to read! I’m a bit of a beer geek, since I come from beer country (Belgium). Although lately I’ve been a bit less into it since my stomach can’t handle it that well anymore unfortunately.