There are some taste memories you can never escape…like, Busch Light by a bonfire. I assume you share a similar memory. In my early party days, I’d work on one beer the whole night, incapable of finishing it. Not because it was shitty beer, but because it was beer.
You’re probably saying, “Nope, it’s because you were drinking shitty beer. Maybe if you’d tried good beer you’d change your mind.” It’s like when I tell people I don’t like olives and they’re all, “But have you tried good olives?” Ugh, shut up, you pretentious assface. I always tried beer (like I always try olives) to see if my tastes changed. No luck.
I became a pretentious assface in Berlin. I was closing out my solo 30th birthday trip in Germany’s capital, and had a rough day. Loneliness set it. As much as I love traveling alone, I reach a point where crave simple companionship. I went on a four-hour bike tour in the rain. I tumbled off my bike in a busy intersection and sustained road rash. I got food poisoning in a sushi restaurant. The punches kept coming.
Just as I was about to fall victim to my bad day, I struck up a conversation with two Swedish guys at my hostel. Companions! Our crew expanded to include an Argentinian girl and a short musician from Baltimore we called Mike, though it wasn’t actually his name. We found ourselves at a beer garden, and for simplicity, ordered a round of beer
I don’t know if it was the July air, the way the stein felt in my hand, or the actual beer, but I finally understood what the fuss was about. I liked beer! I liked it so much, I ordered it again later that night at a discotheque and danced alongside men who moved their bodies with a strict, tight seriousness to the Love Boat theme song.
My 30s have since been a tip-toe into beer drinking, and within the past couple years I’ve had fun discovering outstanding beer. Let’s be clear – I’m not that person having emphatic conversations with strangers about triple-dried hops, I simply like to taste beer. Lucky for me, my neighborhood was very accommodating as I devoted October to immersing myself in the beer world.
Flying Horse Taproom is blocks from our house which makes it a dangerously convenient walk for beer and cheese curds. They have about 20 beers on tap, with new and interesting beers constantly added to the rotation. The bartenders are ultra friendly and knowledgeable. I’ve tasted so many types of beers there simply because the bartenders get excited to share samples of eclectic beers that make their way to the taproom (like a coconut porter and an orange creamsicle ale). Which is good because I really only need a couple sips of these beers. I’m still developing a taste for things outside my preferred “light and wheaty” genre.
BKS Artisan Ales is another gem in Brookside (hence the BKS shorthand). It’s run by a super cool couple who craft interesting beers in their small brewery/tasting room. I stopped by and did my patented “excitedly new” routine – the over-the-top enthusiasm I feign when it’s my first time somewhere, I’m alone, I don’t know what I’m doing and don’t want to look stupid. (“It’s my first time here and I’m so excited!”) I got a high five from the owner and proceeded to sample a flight of every beer on tap, plus a honey wine. While the beers were outside my usual genre, I was so impressed. Not only by the beer, but by the steady queue of people ordering IPAs and chillin on the patio. It was like hanging out at your cool neighbor’s house.
Speaking of cool…my pretty friend Gina has a similar love of October and suggested we celebrate the season with something pumpkiny at Bier Station. I love Bier Station for a few reasons, 1) the Munich-train-station vibe, and 2) because in addition to the unique beers on tap, you can grab a bottle of beer from the coolers along the wall. And there are SO MANY KINDS! Local, imported, seasonal…it’s overwhelming when your burgeoning hobby has become trying new beer.
To celebrate fall, we drank Saugatuck Imperial Pumpkin Chai and discussed our standard topics – self-care, leadership and Hallmark Christmas movies. While I treasure my time spent alone or being “excitedly new,” there is something incomparable to the warm comfiness of being with someone who gets you. Just like that day in Berlin, I was reminded that the simple combination of beer and companionship has the power to make your life so much better.