Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I’ve been of two minds when it comes to any deeper involvement in “the beer community”. I created this blog in early 2006 as a purely solo effort to help drive me to a much more informed beer intake, with the side benefit of hopefully turning any readers I might have accumulated onto new discoveries. Certainly connecting with other like-minded scribes & lovers of beer was, and remains, a side benefit, yet one that I am happy to pursue, time permitting, given multiple other priorities in life. For me beer is a lifestyle, not a life. Hell, it’s not even a lifestyle. It’s a minor hobby, probably about 14th or 15th on my list of daily concerns. If beer consumption ever rose above its current level in my day-to-day thinking & action, I’d have to give a pretty hard think to just how serious I was about it – and to what it was that was actually driving me there. I’m not so naïve as to pretend that the pleasures derived from alcohol don’t very easily perpetuate themselves, often destructively, and I definitely take issue with attempts to minimize them - just as much as I do with those who over-exaggerate their dangers. In my 25 years of drinking, I’ve been both a binge drinker and a near-teetotaler, and neither was particularly fun nor becoming.

So I’m the guy straddling the middle, one who obsessively writes 4-6 times per week about how much he loves beer (and constantly seeks out the newest & latest), while typically shunning most big beer events like SF Beer Week, festivals, beer dinners etc – as well as private tastings, beer blogger meet-ups, beer social networks, “The Session”, and so on. It’s not that I don’t love going to those things nor interacting with a larger community – I absolutely do. I’d also welcome opportunities to have HBJ read by more than 85 people every day (which is still about 10x what I expected when I started this), and to learn from some of the folks who know a fantastic amount more than I do about beer. I’m just stubbornly on my own clock, and extremely resistant to taking this thing any further than the minor hobby that it is.

Hopefully you’ve noted in this blog that we don’t take ourselves particularly seriously, nor do we waste any opportunity to mock the “sport” of beer obsession, despite how ridiculously often we engage in it. At times on this blog I feel like I’ve kinda slighted those who are even more deeply invested, which is why it was a little jarring to all of a sudden be in a room the other night with a gaggle of professional beer writers, high-profile bloggers, and wicked-sharp homebrewers, drinking a batch of east coast ales “flown in” for the occasion.

See, Brian Yaeger, a good American & San Franciscan who also is an accomplished beer author, freelancer & blogger, invited me over to partake in Bryan Kolesar’s beer collection. Don’t you love how this works? Mr. Kolesar is the man behind THE BREW LOUNGE, a fine Philadelphia-based blog that’s done much to school me on east coast beers I’ll never drink. He’d just flown in from Philly (and boy were his arms tired, nyuk nyuk), and he brought a cornucopia of 750-ml. delights in a box. He was in a sharing mood, which we naturally applaud, and thus the invite that was extended to me & several far greater luminaries.

First, a huge thanks to both Brians/Bryans for the hospitality, as well as to Kimberly the cheesesteak commissar, who cooked & prepared the ritual pre-beer intake meal. Outstanding stuff. You can see here a picture of all the happy grinnin’ beer dorks after all bottles were drained; from L-R, myself; Chris Cohen, Steve, Jay Brooks, Brian Yaeger, Bryan Kolesar, and Damian. But who cares about those knuckleheads. Here’s what we drank – good notetaking be damned:

STONE 13th ANNIVERSARY ALE – Not even released yet – that’s how connected this crew was. An imperial red ale that I didn’t really cotton to that much – but “probably need to try again”. You know how that goes.
VICTORY BALTIC THUNDER – They call it a Baltic porter, but that generated much debate among the gathered cognoscenti. Pretty good stuff.
WEYERBACHER UNFILTERED DOUBLE SIMCOE – A delicious double IPA. I thought I’d had this before until Mr. Kolesar pointed out the “unfiltered” tag on the bottle. Schooled again!
DAMIAN’S BELGIAN STRONG DARK ALE (homebrew) – Outstanding, exceptionally drinkable homebrew. Second best beer of the night.
SLY FOX SAISON VOS – Wow. An almost-perfect saison, one of the best I’ve ever had. The Hedonist Beer Jive SF beer dorktacular beer of the night.
STOUDTS HEIFER-IN-WHEAT – An authentic German hefeweizen that was more bitter & complex than I’m used to. Very good.
SLY FOX BLACK RASPBERRY RESERVE – A limited-edition bomber of a Belgian-style fruit beer, also excellent. I need to get more involved with Sly Fox beers, it’s clear.

Jeez, was that really it? That’s what my BlackBerry notepad notes say, but I felt like another three or four were being passed around the room. I tried to be a “good listener” as names of brewers I’ll never meet were tossed around like they were family, and as folks shared all manner of beeriana & tales from the trenches. Fellow travelers - this time not on a message board nor a comments section, but in the honest-to-god flesh. I felt like maybe this sort of intense beer worship kinda hit a nerve, a pleasure center in the medial temporal lobe, and I might have to get off my friggin’ high horse and engage in it again sometime. Thanks again to the Brians/Bryans.


Bryan Kolesar said...

Thanks, Jay, for the nice review and comments. It was truly a fun night shared with a great bunch of passionate beer lovers.

It was great to finally meet you "offline" and share a few (or more?!) beers.

Already looking forward to the next time.

Next time you're in Philly, I'll be happy to return the hospitality.

Unknown said...

I second Bryan's sentiments. Next time you're way out in Glen Park (ha ha), we'll have to share a brew. Maybe one night in the next few weeks we can sample the offerings at GP Station. Or have you over to fire up the grill for a burger.

Brian Yaeger said...

Jay, meant to comment weeks ago but every now and then I let my battery die and forget what 30 windows I had open. Beer dorks come in all stripes, so like it or not, you're always welcome at the table.

Just had an impromptu house guest from Madison. That means I have a new stash of never-see-'em-again beers and may need to put something together though the shadowy figure who brought them is gone. And he got a kick out of seeing a Dark Horse beer here. Thanks for that.