Where do I begin...
I Like Beer.
And I'm not just talking about drinking a few brands while watching bad TV. I've made a hobby out of beer. I brew my own beer, I keg my homebrew, I have a fridge with 6 tap handles for serving my homebrew, I have a Coke machine (currently not running) for dispensing "factory" beer, I enjoy visiting new pubs and where ever I am I seek out new beers. In the words of Michael Jackson (not the gloved one, the famous beer critic one), I am a beer hunter.It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
So how did I become a beer hunter?
While my time at the University of Tennessee trained me to consume beer, it didn't really teach me to appreciate beer. Yes, I left Knoxville knowing about Heineken, St. Pauli Girl, Becks and other mass-produced European beers, but I was just as happy drinking a Coors... And it was substantially cheaper. In fact my favorite beer for many years was Miller High Life. And even after I arrived in Texas, I was not yet the hunter. The fact that large sections of the DFW metroplex were/are dry did not help matters. I continued to drink from the offerings of the big three (Bud, Miller, Coors), with occasional forays into the mass-produced Eurobeers.
Then sometime in the '88-'89 time frame, I let some coworkers talk me into joining them for their Thursday Night outing at a place called Stan's Blue Note. I was pretty sure that I was going to regret the trip when I first walked in the place. The atmosphere was very much "Biker Bar" meets "Major Natural Disaster" - the place was a dive. Right down to Rubbermaid patio chairs, badly scarred tables, bras hanging over the bar, more neon per square foot than Vegas and an owner with a very strange sense of humor.
Stan's saving grace was that it probably possessed the greatest collection of odd beers in the city - beers I had never heard of. Since this was long before the birth of the brewpub/microbrewery craze in Texas, it was truly an accomplishment. Depending upon the time of year, Stan's could have up to two hundred different bottled beers available to try. But my undoing came a few weeks later...
So a few more Thursday evenings pass by at Stan's. And the "old timers" are harassing me to start "The List" so that I can try some new beers. Now the theory of "The List" is that if you drink one of every beer in the place you get a free t-shirt. The t-shirt is somewhat exclusive because you can only get this one by drinking all the beers. Steve B (the owner) refuses to sell them outright... Instead referring to them as the world's most expensive t-shirt. The only rules are that you have to drink them in alphabetical order and the bartenders keep your list behind the bar in a 3-ring binder. There is no time limit. Ordinarily, I'd have been smart enough not to do it, but beer and peer pressure have a way of over ruling better judgment. So I was handed a sheet of paper with 148 beers listed to which I signed my name. The first beer on the list was Aass Bock.
I would finish the list later that year, and go on to complete four more lists by 1995. The quickest I finished a bottle list was 8 months. The longest was almost 2 years, but Stan's was closed by fire for 3+ months during that time. When Steve expanded next door to build the Texas Taphouse (with 50+ beers on draft), I would finish four of the beer lists on that side of the bar. In fact, I think I still have lists going on both sides.
And that's how I became a beer hunter.
Not all the beers I've tried have come from bars... Besides being expensive, I'd not be a true hunter if I limited myself to hunting in pubs. And despite the strange laws pertaining to alcohol sales in the state, you can find some fine beverages at select package stores. My favorite is S&K Beverage in Plano, TX - on the Northwest corner of Spring Creek Parkway and I-75. They claim to keep 500 different flavors in stock. I can't verify that number, but I can easily see 300. Tell them Dog sent you.
You can also find respectable beer offerings at Mr G's, Goody Goody and some Red Coleman's locations. Cost Plus and Central Market also have a very nice selections, but their prices are a bit high and I worry about their turn over rates.
So... Do you think you've tried more beers than I have?
There might be a few people out there who have, but the odds that you are one of them is slim. Now I'm not saying that I've tasted everything... Not even Michael Jackson has done that. But I've got an Excel spreadsheet that says I've tried nearly 500. And I'm sure that there are beers I've enjoyed that never made it onto the sheet (not to mention the entries I'm still needing to make).
But how could you possibly remember 500 beers?
I didn't have to remember... I brought most of the bottles home. At one time, I probably had one of the better bottle and can collections around. But then I met Lynne and the bottles had to go (though I managed to keep some of the more unique specimens). In order to document what I'd done, I dutifully typed in the information from each label as I transferred my collection to the recycle bin. Once I started the record keeping, I also tried to write down some impressions of beers I was currently drinking. But sometimes the only way I knew I had tried a beer is because the name was on one of my Stan's lists. So keep these things in mind if you check out "My List":
The Dog House Beer
(will be open for viewing when I figure out how to organize the data into HTML)
Yes... I actually have a Coca Cola (tm) Machine. One of the old bottle dispensing types. Here's a picture of it. It holds about 84 beers in twelve different slots, and is set up so that no money is needed (probably a mistake on my part). It's a 1976 vintage that I've had since about 1991. The only downside to having a Coke machine is filling it...
Being a dedicated beer enthusiast, I maintain a fairly diverse supply of brews here at the Dog House. I dare say that I usually have a more varied selection of beer than many small bars and most chain restaurants. But you'll almost never find any of the big three (Bud, Coors or Miller), unless I'm throwing a party for friends with less picky taste in beer.
I used to post what beers were in the Coke Machine, but with such a high turnover and my constant attempt to try every new beer I could find, it was a futile exercise to keep up. Plus, I suspected some of my friends were using the information for picking good times to "drop by."
Now, I just buy what
I like. Occasionally, I'll try something new. But if you've
been to my beer archives, then you know that it's getting harder and harder
for me to find those new beers. For the most part, I keep a fairly
stable selection of brews on hand, which might include some of the following:
|Sierra Nevada Pale
Sierra Nevada Big Foot
Newcastle Brown Ale
St. Arnold's Amber
Samuel Adams Double Bock
Samuel Adams Lager
Red Hook ESB
Flying Dog Pale Ale
Blue Paddle Pilsner
Every few months or so, I'll get burned out on something and it will disappear. And like most "volume" consumers, what I buy can be very cost dependent. You can usually find at a couple of kinds of soda and possibly some hard cider too. It's a good toy to have (though a bit difficult to get repaired).