3 May 2008

The Session #15: seeing the light

A bit late, but better than never.
Boak and Bailey wanted to know what turned people into beers lovers, what was their moment of epiphany. I know i should have posted yesterday, but, didn't have time, sorry... I hope you don't mind....

It's pretty hard to say exactly when I became a beer lover. I've always liked beer, all my life. I remember my parents giving me a sip of theirs when I was very little, the doctor had told them it was fine.

But beer in Argentina meant pretty much only one thing: Quilmes. They are the ones who made people in Argentina start drinking beer, and that was pretty much all I drunk until the early 90's.

That was when the floodgates opened and all this imported beers started to show up everywhere. Most of them I have forgotten, and some of them make me feel embarrassed when I remember that I thought they were very good, Budweiser and Carlsberg come to mind. Soon they vanished and it was all back to Quilmes and, now Heineken, that had started brewing in Argentina. That was just for a short time, soon appeared Brahma (a Brazilian brand, the other half on InBev), as rubbish as Quilmes and a bit later, Isenbeck.

Isenbeck was probably the first step. They came boasting about the German Purity Law thing, which was something short of a revelation to all of us. Now I might find the purity law as something that makes no sense, but there and then, in a country where the most popular beer (in 1996 Quilmes had 76% market share and was already declining by then) was brewed using who knows what, something that told you what they used, and convinced you that it was the way beer should be made, was an eye opener. Needless to say, the difference in quality could be, and still can be easily felt.

Also during the 90's I travelled quite a bit. Everywhere I went I would try to taste as many different beers as possible. What always amazed me of some of the countries I visited was the variety. You went to a supermarket or bottle shop and you would find tens of different beers, while in Argentina just a handful (microbrewers where something most of us hadn't heard of back then). All of this wasn't done with a critical eye. I would like or not like a beer and that was it.

Six years ago, I moved here to Prague. I'd had some contact with Czech beers before, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell, and I loved them from the first sip. I always found them different than the mass produced stuff I drank everywhere else. At first those were the ones I would mostly drink, simply because they were the ones most widely available. At some point, two things happened, I found a pub that stocked Svijany and I started with a client that was next door to Pivní Galerie. Those two events made me start exploring smaller Czech regional breweries and I soon realised that in many cases their beers were more interesting than the better known ones. Which in turn made me pay closer attention to the brewpub phenomenon.
I'll never forget that first pint of Svijanský Rytíř that I had at the namesake pub. If I really had to say what got me started, I would say that it was that moment, though I think it was more an "evolutionary" process thanks to my natural beer curiosity.

If you want to read more beer epiphanies, don't miss Boak & Bailey's excelent round-up of The Session.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting!Here's my story:

    It was the late 80s and I started to work in a beer shop which stocked beers from all the breweries in Norway. Back then all norwegian cities of importence and their own brewery. Most of the beers was those pilsner style brew, but some were of munich style. Back on the label of these beers I could read that almost all of the breweries were founded in the mid 19th century. I found that and the beer interesting. Some years later when I was studing history and had to write an major thesis. I tried to explain how and why a local businessman managed to start a brewery for 150 years ago.

    After this thesis I was falling in love in both beer and the beer craft. And from this moment I was not looking for beer, but beer quality. I found that in Prague, Belgium and Munich. Now I think the beer in Norway is crap. All most all those city breweries that I mentioned above are closed due to Carlsberg or Heineken. Often their name exist, but he beer are brewed at Ringnes-Carlsberg in Oslo. The beer scene Norway is now homogenic with those carlsberg-pilsner-style beers.

    I travelled to Prague for the first time in 1994. Back in 98 when my sister married an exile czech in Prague so his family could join. He introduced my to the golden tiger. I was in Heaven. I have never tasted such a beer in my life. Every year after this incident I have returned to Prague. Both the city and the beer are magical.

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  2. It's a nice story, with a bit of a sad ending. It's a realy pity that all those, or at least most of, those you loved in the 80's have disappeared.
    Thanks for sharing it!

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  3. Thanks for sharing Max (and Pingrid!)

    Traveling does seem to be a good stimulus for discovering a love of beer...

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