Yesterday was a mental health day for me and Nita. We decided to take a trip down to Newport, Kentucky’s Hofbrauhaus. It’s a franchise of the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich. So the only beers available were either the standard brews based on the original’s recipe or the imported seasonal brew. I helped myself to a couple of steins. The Maibock brew is a hoppy, very hearty lager which I like very much.
The waiter and I talked about beers we’d had over the years. A couple years ago, two German exchange students insisted that Warsteiner, usually my German beer of choice, was piss water. They preferred this hard-to-get (in North America) beer called Bitburger. My first warning was that it came in cans. Speaking of piss water…
A friend of mine from high school heard my rather low opinion of it and said it was probably watered down for the American market. I checked the can. Nope. Germans drink this crap, too. My friend subscribes to the myth that America is incapable of making good beer and Germany can’t make bad beer. Does not explain Budweiser’s popularity in Germany.
The reason, I think, the German kids liked Bitburger reflects my own history with beer. I am one of the last people to legally drink beer at the age of 19 in Ohio. Two months after my 19th birthday, the state upped the age to twenty-one. I used to hang out weekends at my friend Rob’s house. Why? His family had a bitchin’ stereo and cable. Plus Rob’s dad had a mission for us. “I want that Old Milwaukee gone by the time we get back from Marblehead.”
Thus began my beer drinking career with Old Mud as we called it. That first weekend, we ran out of Old Mud to get rid of. So we ran out to the Stop N Go and got more beer to get rid of. Old Milwaukee was watery and tasteless, but it had two advantages: It was cheap and got us nicely drunk. But soon, our palates evolved. We didn’t want yellow carbonated water laced with alcohol anymore. We wanted something that closely resembled beer. But we were broke. So we switched to Pabst Blue Ribbon. Oh, yes. This was more like it. It almost tasted like regular beer.
The years passed. Pay checks inflated, and I developed a taste for actual beer. I switched to Budweiser. It’s still my fallback beer in a state that insists Coors Lite is a premium lager. (In that case, why the hell don’t they just import Bitburger?) Soon, however, I switched to Michelob. After all, Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton hawked it, so it was good. Right?
Well, it was better than Bud. Soon, though, Coors bought the rights to an old Irish beer called Killians. Killians is more of a lager than Budweiser, heavier, with a floury taste I’ve come to like in beers. When I moved to Cincinnati, it became my beer of choice. And then I discovered microbrewed beer. And Samuel Adams. And imported beer. Haps Irish Pub had Guiness and Murphy’s on tap. Eventually, British lager Bass Ale became my favored beer.
Now I’ll try anything once. Locally, they’ve brewed Christian Morlein here since the 1800′s without changing the recipe much. We also have the smaller Mt. Carmel Brewery and, from Cleveland, Great Lakes, which has an interesting line-up of beers. During trips to New York, I was exposed to Yuengling and Brooklyn Lager. Both are now available locally, which makes Daddy happy. What confused me about Yuengling was its distribution. Obviously, you can get it in Philadelphia, where Yuengling is based, and all over Baltimore, but in New York, I could get it in Brooklyn but not in Manhattan. And it wasn’t available in Ohio, but I bought some on our honeymoon in Gatlinburg.
Yuengling’s arrival came with the same hype as Coors’ arrival in the midwest in the 1980′s. The difference is that Coors was a huge disappointment. Yuengling I’d already had, so I was able to extol its virtues to uninitiated coworkers. It’s the one beer Nita will sometimes drink.
My best beer drinking weekend was in 2006 at the Madison, WI Bouchercon. There was this really great lager up there called Capitol Ale, which I had with every meal and quite often in the bar. But Madison has another local brew, this light-weight, somewhat sweet beer called Spotted Cow that they sell for a dollar. They had buckets of it at the Shamus Banquet, and let’s just say I spent the better part of ten bucks on beer for myself. It’s a beer made for college students (despite the drinking age being 21) on college budgets, yet you can’t help drinking more than one.
Hofbrauhaus, however, was my first truly German beer. I’ve had Warsteiner for years now, which is a really good lager, very hoppy and smooth. But Hofbrauhaus was amazing, probably because it’s made in limited quantities. They brew the regular brands on site, but Maibock and Oktoberfest are imported. It’s probably the best beer I’ve had so far.
So do I drink the American beers anymore? Oh, I still drink Samuel Adams and Killians from time to time. At a ball game, I’ll get a Budweiser instead of settling for anything called “lite” beer. But the so-called “workingman’s” beers: Burger, Stroh’s, Miller High Life? I guess Pabst falls into that category. Never touch them. I need a little weight to my beer. And I need a lot of flavor.
They tell you when you’re young that beer is an acquired taste, but it’s a great acquistion. Drink responsibly.