Thursday, July 21, 2011

Craft Beer and the American Dream

At the risk of sounding a little too deep for a beer blog... I felt like something of this nature needs to be said. Last weekend I spent a FANTASTIC time with some of my closest friends down in the Baltimore/DC area. This all started a few months ago when a few of us were discussing a trip to visit Camden Yards (where the Orioles play) and hit a few breweries along the way. Long story short, we locked up an itinerary and decided that along with the baseball game, we would do some sightseeing in DC and visit both the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware and the Heavy Seas Brewery in Baltimore (formerly Clipper City). Both on my craft beer bucket list.

I love learning about craft beer. Yes, there's the obvious benefits. I mean, come on, It's Beer! You start spending your money (in some cases more than you'd like to!) but nevertheless spending your money on GOOD beer. None of this 'Great taste, Less filling' or 'This is beer' marketing schemes. Speaking of, a few days ago, Beer411 Katie tweeted that Molsen Coors is putting out a line of "Female Beers." [CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY]

Really, really...?

Ok, back to my original thought: Why I love craft beers. There are IPAs, Ales, Porters, Stouts... Bourbon Barrel, Oak Aged, Cask... And each brewer takes their own approach to their product. There's no right or wrong way to make beer.. And even with all of the combinations and collaborations that exist, there are still a limitless amount of new styles yet to be discovered. If you have an idea, you have a new beer. It never ends!! And I love that.

And when you look pass the beer, you start learning about WHERE it's brewed and WHO is the brew-mastermind behind it. And this, THIS I feel is the underlying reasoning why I love not only the idea, but the MOVEMENT of craft beers. Beyond the taste, beyond the quality... is the dream. Most of us have heard a classic tale or two along the lines of our ancestors coming over to seek out a NEW life in America. No certainty, no guarantee, just a chance... A chance to make a difference for their family. Along with some perseverance, hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck, they made their dreams happen.

So now, ask yourself... Look at the similarities. A person has a dream about brewing beer the way THEY want to brew beer. No financial backing, no promises... just a hope and a dream. Take Dogfish for example... we got there on last Thursday (thanks to Big Mama and Kristin for getting our group on the tour!!). Our tour guide Kristin told us about how Brewmaster, Sam Calagione and two other friends worked 14 hour shifts just to get their idea off the ground. They would rotate on and off so if someone wasn't brewing, they were sleeping. Day and Night. And now, Dogfish Head beer is one of the LEADING microbrewers in the US. Then a few days later, I met Hugh Sisson, mastermind and beerly dedicated to the Heavy Seas line (formally known as Clipper City). While I can describe as best I can, you have to see this guy in action to see his passion. Trust me, He Loves Beer. He gives countless tours to group after group... Booooring, right? Not when you are doing something that you LOVE. You would have thought that he was giving his FIRST tour for us. Lively, spirited... It was awesome! Hearing him describe how to simply pour a beer or listening to him describe what goes into making their flagship beer Loose Cannon (Hop Cubed), was a treat. When you see what these people are putting into their beers, you WANT to support the cause.

We drank some exception beers during this trip. The Dogfish brewery tour ended with a tasting of the Shelter Pale Ale, 60 min, 90 min and 120 min... all on draft. (Note: the tap handle for the 120 min was a Pimp cane. Basically because at 18-20% ABV, this beer makes you its... @#$%@#%.) At Heavy Seas we had the Thank You, Thank You Very Much Anniversary Ale (Imperial IPA), Marzen, Loose Cannon and Hang Ten (Weizen Doppelbock) on draft. Hugh was nice enough to hang out with us after the tour and thanked us for making the trip! How cool is that!?

So the next time you're picking up some beer, think twice about WHAT you're buying. Stay away from the big dogs, because there are so many BETTER options our there. And isn't it a good feeling that not only are you going to spend your money smarter, but by simply by purchasing a microbrew, you are also supporting the American Dream.


...(sorry Budweiser), but THAT is beer.

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