[Not a writing blog, back to those tomorrow]
I have a history of loving Microbrews. I think it began before there WERE Microbrews. I always preferred a stronger or darker beer, compared to many of my friends, and though I drank my share of Coors Light (no real flavor at all) and Bud Light (as inoffensive as Bud gets) in college, it was STRICTLY a calorie decision. When I was not going for volume, taste always put me into Michelob Dark range.
Imagine my delight in 1987 when I first discovered the existence of a MICROBREWERY... in this case Hillsboro, Oregon—there were two, both McMenamins owned. I was with good friends... in fact it seems to me it might have even been the lost weekend that was the Dylan/Dead Concert... I'm almost sure of it... Very good friends.
I became a solid McMenamin's fan there and then, but at the time, they didn't have a venue in Eugene, where I went to college (probably a good thing—stuck to my weekends at Renny's and Wednesday nights at Dave's—both pubs that served Bud Light--we managed to have fun anyway, didn't we Vic?)
Then I graduated and moved to Portland—began working for an advertising agency, which contained mostly a mixed drink crowd. I did however, wend my way to Bridgeport... even dated a brewer briefly, though he was repressed...
So when I decided to break out of advertising in 1991 and was desperately sending resumes to ANYONE who might provide the path to freedom (and the hope of salvaging my soul), McMenamin's got an impulse resume. I was interviewed by one of the General Managers and told managers did the marketing, and all managers worked their way up.
I decided I wanted to go back to graduate school anyway, and maybe this was my route... She pretty much offered me whichever pub I wanted (must have impressed her *snort*--only suit she'd seen applying for a pub job) and I picked the one where I was a regular that happened to be one block from where I lived with my then fiancé.
And I became a beer expert. All employees have to learn about the beers... not a problem, I loved them. But I could then articulate what it WAS about my favorites I liked so much. Hammerhead, my favorite, is a heavy-bodied, red, English Style bitter. As a bitter, the heavy body is unusual—until New Year's Eve I hadn't found its match.
But the style of hops, the roast of the malt, the yeast—the beer purist rules... Those RULES are what I have identified as the reason I hate so many national brews—a real beer or ale ought to only have barley, yeast, hops and water. I can make exceptions for adding... spices, fruit, coffee, in the case of wheat beers, wheat... but you start adding cheap grain (rice and corn) or preservatives (Budweiser uses formaldehyde) and you lose me. I can no longer condone calling what is in that bottle a beer. I am absolutely adamant about drinking locally (or at least brewed with local intent so no preservatives are used--I confess to drinking Sierra Nevada Pale fairly often, and they aren't local to Michigan).
My preferences are still toward the dark and heavy, preferably hoppy (bitter) but that is personal. What I WILL say, is if you think you don't like beer, you haven't tried hard enough to find a micro that suits you. Beer headaches? That's from preservatives--unless you've had 4 or 5... Beers (including ales and lagers--I prefer the former, but there are some good lagers) range light to dark (this is determined by how the barley is roasted), bitter to sweet (some roasts of barley are 'sugary' giving sweetness, some are somewhat bitter, but most bitterness has to do with hop choice—some are mild, some are very bitter—they are all pretty—plant them!), and the creative combinations are endless.
So on Facebook I ran into a college friend last spring and saw some 'brewing' statuses, so we got to talking beer. He does homebrewing, but is also a big advocate of Eugene, Oregon's local brewery, Oakshire. When he mentioned Ill-Tempered Gnome, I was so tickled, that I think I pestered him... This fall he shipped me three (22 ounce) bottles of Eugene brews, which I rationed over my holidays.
So THANK YOU, JEFF! This next section of the beer review is dedicated to you!