Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Beer Mount Rushmore

You’re in your house at 7PM on Thursday night, ready to unwind after a long day of work.  Normally, you’d turn the TV on and get ready to watch the local team play, but on this night your only goal is a night of relaxing in your recliner, legs kicked up, and a beer in your right hand to keep you company while you bask in your silence.  Once settled into the chair your hand brings a pint towards your mouth where you contentedly take your first swig of the night and let out the clich├ęd “ahhhhh”.

We've all had that night, and we've all shared that beer even if the particulars are varying from story to story.  And most likely when we've had encounters with a beer as satisfying as the one described we feel the urge to thank someone for that beer.  Perhaps you want to thank the individual who brewed the beer you’re drinking. Maybe you want to thank the individual responsible for coming up with a style of beer altogether.

It’s these thoughts I kept in mind when I was asked to come up with my list for a personal Beer Mount Rushmore.  Where do I get the most satisfaction out of beer? And whose face should I turn to stone for creating such excellence?

Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Brewing Company

I selected Jim Koch with quite a bit of hesitation. It’s not that I think he’s lacking credentials; I simply didn't want to go the obvious route. Well, that and I didn't want to perpetuate the idea that beer fans my age only see the beer world within the vacuum of the past 30 years. But when it comes to Mount Rushmore the faces displayed on the mountain should be obvious and there are none more obvious than Jim Koch. For without him, there is a 99% chance my interest in beer wouldn't be what it is and this post wouldn't even exist. Small breweries, beer with more flavor, and the variety we’re surrounded by might not be possible without his influence on beer these past few decades. For that, I’m turning his face into a big rock.

Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria responsible for German Beer Purity Law

The name Albert IV may not be as familiar as Jim Koch within the modern beer world, but I’m sure you've heard of the phrase Reinheitsgebot a time or two. Also known as the German Beer Purity Law, Albert IV helped make this law a thing way back in 1487. For those unfamiliar with this law, the Reinhetsgebot states that beer can only be made with water, barely, hops, and yeast.  Now I’m sure there are detractors of the Beer Purity Law, claiming that it reduces brewer’s creativity, and while that may be true, it’s the sense of history associated with the beer I’m drinking that makes me appreciate Albert IV and the Reinheitsgebot he created. There’s something satisfying in tasting a beer and knowing that what I’m experiencing is vaguely familiar to something people were drinking hundreds of years ago. Most impressively, today, over 500 hundred years later many German brewers still adhere to the law. That’s impact, and that earns Albert IV a mountain face.

Josef Groll, creator of Pilsner beer.

The last face to be etched in the Baltimore Bistros and Beer Mountain is none other than Josef Groll. One word.  One beer. Pilsner.  And Josef Groll was responsible for it’s creation in 1842 when he brewed the first batch of Urquell at B├╝rgerliches Brauhaus in Pilsen, Bohemia. People loved it and we haven’t stopped drinking Pilsner the world over ever since.  When I think beer, I think Pilsner, and when I think Pilsner I think Josef Groll.  For that, his head shall reign in rock.

So there you have it. These are the names that come to mind when I think of those that have had the biggest impact on how I interact with beer today. Yes, there are only 3 names and Mount Rushmore has four faces, but I didn't want to force a fourth and come to regret it later. Etching faces in mountain sides is tough work so you better mean it. Whose face makes your Beer Mount Rushmore?

This post is part of multiple essays from Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers discussing those they believe should be remembered for all time thanks to the influence they've made on the beer drinking world. 

Make sure to check out these posts, too:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Samos: Home to My Favorite Sandwich in Baltimore

Long before this blog was in existence you could find me perusing the internet looking for ideas of places to visit, hoping I could find a bite of food that might be considered a step above the usual. And on one such occasion I was fortunate enough to have discovered a restaurant that has become one of my all time favorites. This restaurant is small, a little off the beaten path, and home to my favorite sandwich (is a wrap a sandwich?) in all of Baltimore. I’m talking about Samos of Greektown.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
-Benjamin Franklin 

With all due respect to Mr. Franklin, I’m going to need to modify this famous quote to represent one of my own universal truths. In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and Baltimore’s favorite food blogger ordering Hummus and Pita with a Grilled Chicken Pita Wrap at Samos.

One of my pet peeve’s in life is the type of person who only ever orders the same exact thing at restaurants, visit after visit. How boring, right? But if you try to get in the way of my Hummus and Grilled Chicken Wrap while at Samos, we’re going to have a serious problem. It’s just that good. And when you come across something as delicious as this wrap, you just leave well enough alone and savor one of the best parts about living in our city.

What makes the wrap great is the simplicity of the ingredients involved. There’s pita, grilled chicken, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. You can’t get much more straight forward than that, but every ingredient is cooked and served perfectly. The pita is served hot which helps keep biting through easy since it’s so tender. Inside the pita is OVERFLOWING with tender chunks of chicken, onion and tomato, and the best tzatziki sauce I’ve ever come across. The sauce is so thick and tangy, full of fresh cucumbers and herbs, and served cool. The drastic temperature difference between the hot pita and chicken versus the cool tzatziki is a fun contrast to experience. Most importantly, the wrap boasts one of the most important traits every truly inspired sandwich must have…it’s a dripping, sloppy, mess.

If you've never been to Samos or perhaps permitted a little too much time slide by between visits, be sure to hunt down a parking spot in Greektown, hop in line, and order a wrap. You've no longer got an excuse for letting such an awesome spot go without your business any longer.

Samos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bald, Beerded, and Burrito'd Tour: First Stop La Tolteca

When you've maintained a food and beer blog a few years you reach a point where you need a little excitement to keep you going. I've been thinking long and hard about what I could do at Baltimore Bistros and Beer to keep the ball rolling, and with the help of fellow blogger I think I've finally got something we can all get excited about. In an effort to keep beer fun, Jake (Hipster Brewfus) and I will be taking you on the Bald, Beerded, and Burrito’d Tour.

The premise is simple. Find a restaurant that serves burritos, take a drive, eat the burrito, pull the cheese out of our beard, chug a beer, and then do our best to let you know how we feel about the overall beer and burrito experience so that your future Mexican endeavors are happy ones.  What are the rules for the tour? There are no rules. Really, our sole goal for the series is to have fun with friends over a burrito and beer.  Keep in mind that the tour will take place in alternating posts, hopping between this blog and Hipster Brewfus. Be sure to keep an eye out at both sites for all your burrito needs.

Our first stop landed us in Bel Air, MD at La Tolteca. After a morning spent tasting beers across the MD/PA border at South County Brewery our stomachs were in serious need of filling.  Fortunately, the burrito selection was pretty vast at La Tolteca. So much so that all 3 of us in attendance (my beard free wife attended) were able to order something different.

I surprised myself and ordered the Gordo Burrito.  It’s not surprising that I wanted the biggest burrito on the menu, but it is a bit shocking that I made my selection knowing chicken was the main protein. Chicken cut up in those small bits tends to be dry and boring, but what convinced me that this was the burrito I wanted to spend the next 25 minutes with was the fact that it’s completely covered in queso dip. In addition to chicken the burrito was also filled with chorizo, fried beans, rice, and pico.

I loved that fat little burrito and ate every bit of the Gordo with gusto. Maybe it was the fact that this was my first taste of meat in 30 days but more than likely I came away satisfied because it was a burrito filled to the brim with meat and smothered in cheese. Food drowned beneath cheese? I’d probably eat a cardboard burrito if you threw enough cheese on it.  The chicken gets a little lost with everything else going on, but when you evaluate the burrito based on the sum of all the parts you've got a winner with the Gordo. It’s big, meaty, a little smoky thanks to the chorizo, and between the smooth beans and queso you don’t have to worry about dry chicken at all. And La Tolteca doesn't call it the Gordo Burrito for nothing. It was so big and filling that I skipped dinner that night….and breakfast the next day. Gordo, indeed.

Jake went a different route and ordered the Burro Grande, but instead of me telling you what he thought, let’s hear from the man himself.

Jake here! Many moons ago when Doug proposed the idea for the Bald, Beerded, and Burrito’d Tour, I knew I couldn't say no. Some of you may know who I am and realize "Oh, It's that Hipster Brewfus guy who says a lot of dumb stuff, and also talks about burritos more than is probably normal (or healthy)." Well, you're right, it is I. I love burritos; From an aesthetic view, from a carnivorous view, from an engineering view. They are perfect. So for the foreseeable future, at least once a month Douglas and I are going to bring you the latest in our "local" burrito findings. And by "local" we mean, as reasonably far as our wives will let us drive for a burrito on a weekend. And you know what? Sometimes our wives will even be joining us. Both for the indulging of burritos, and the writing.

Now, I'm no stranger to La Tolteca. My wife and I frequent the one in Salisbury each time we make the drive out to the Eastern Shore, so I was pretty excited. On this day, I ordered the Burro Grande (or the Big Donkey) and I was beyond excited. What arrived at my table was a gigantic plate, with a burrito hidden under a mess of iceberg lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole. Oh, and one crappy little tomato. I could have done without the massive amounts of lettuce, but with a burrito full of marinated steak, and grilled vegetables (onions, bell peppers, and tomato), I wasn't about to complain. On the side I had a pile of fried beans, and rice. It had everything.  Each bite was a perfect measure of meaty and vegetably goodness.

Best part? I couldn't even finish the damn thing. It was as big as my head, and for a little over $11, I was ecstatic with the replay value on this particular burrito later that night.

So with all that said, I am excited about the future of this particular series. It speaks to my SOUL! And now I pass the mic back to Doug.

I think it's pretty clear that Bald and Beerded of the group were quite pleased with their burritos. As for my smooth faced wife, she went with the Burrito Deluxe option and also left a stuffed and happy camper. The Burrito Deluxe is essentially two smaller burritos, one with chicken/beans and one with beef, both topped with all of the same items as the Burro Grande. So as you can see, if you're looking for a burrito La Tolteca has an option for almost everyone.

And what did two beer bloggers think of the beer selection? Was their anything to be "fussed" over? Not really. The options consisted mostly of American Lite Lagers and a selection of Mexican Cerveza , but that didn't derail our lunch at all. In fact, when you're eating something with the bold spices of a burrito, a Tecate with a lime shoved inside is just the ticket to cleanse your palate and have you ready for the next bite.

All in all, the Bald, Beerded, and Burrito'd Tour got off to a stellar start with our visit to La Tolteca. Is it the best burrito around? Only time will tell, but I'll guarantee you (and Jake will back me up on this) if you give them a shot you're going to be one happy, stuffed, burrito eating fool.

La Tolteca on Urbanspoon


Enjoyment of Burritos and Beer is best experienced accompanied by male pattern baldness and a bearded face. However, this is not a requirement. Please consult your doctor before growing a beard and eating burritos to ensure your safety.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

My Role in The Beer Scene as a Beer Blogger

Earlier this week I discussed a bit about how my relationship with beer has been affected by blogging. Today, I'm going to take the topic a little bit further and focus on where I see my blog fitting within the greater world of beer.

Baltimore Bistros & Beer didn't initially start off with a heavy focus on beer. I knew I wanted to work in that direction over time, but I wasn't quite sure how I should position myself as beer blogger. When I did start writing about beer I decided I wanted to use this space as a way to learn more about what was going on locally. If there was something going on with beer around Baltimore, I wanted to talk about it here. That was the only role I was looking for initially, mainly because it felt manageable.

But like most beer drinkers I drink a lot more than just local beer and found myself wanting to talk about beer made both far and wide. Opening my blog up like that led to me looking at not just beer the drink, but beer the industry and I started noticing a lot of things that grated on my nerves. And I wrote about those topics. I didn't want to be a cheerleader blogger, the kind that only says nice things so they can get retweets from the breweries they're glowing about. I wanted to use my voice to say "Hey, I see a problem. Let's fix that". I felt good about doing that and I thought that was going to be my role in beer as blogger going forward.

But you know what? That role wore me down. I started to see myself becoming very cynical about the beer scene and noticed that my eagerness to run to the keyboard to write was happening less and less. It even got to the point where I wondered if I should even blog about beer anymore. Why focus on something that annoys me to much?

The reason I continued writing about beer was the same reason that got me started. I really do love beer. I love talking, thinking, and drinking beer. Most of all, I appreciate the relationships beer and this blog has fostered over the past 2+ years. So where does that leave my role in blogging now and moving forward?

This blog exists for me. Blogs are meant to be personal. You can talk about other subjects, but if you're not exposing a little of your soul while you're writing then I don't want to read that. I'm not writing to better beer. I'm not writing to call out breweries for throwing candy into casks. I don't care about the incorrect labeling of beer styles. I want to talk about me, the beer, and the fun I've had drinking it along the way.

This post was put together for The Session. A once a month gathering of beer bloggers across the world discussing a common theme. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beer Blogging and My Relationship With Beer

Over the past few months when I haven't been blogging about beer, I have been thinking about blogging and beer. Specifically, I've been contemplating how the former affects my relationship with the latter. Is my relationship with beer better, worse, perhaps even unchanged now that I've been writing about lagers and ales these many months now? That's the question I've been toiling with. As with most questions, I've been looking for one easy to understand answer. And as with most questions (any question worth asking that is) I can only conclude multiple answers.

Blogging about beer has augmented my relationship with beer because how could it not? How could you not come to a better understanding of what beer is and what it means to you when you're spending most of your free time consumed by that very subject. And I don't simply mean that I can sniff out hops or taste different features of malt when I'm drinking a beer. That stuff is cool, but it's something I would have come around to learn with or without a blog. What I'm talking about is that mystical element of beer nobody can quite put their thumb on. At the most basic level beer is just a drink. But beyond the base I find a drink that eases my soul and takes me to places in my mind I might not have otherwise visited had it not been for the time I set aside to slow down, sip a beer, and breath in the world. And were I not a blogger looking to log my beery experiences for all the world to see, many of those introspective moments might have been lost forever

But blogging about beer has affected my relationship with beer in ways that aren't as positive. In fact, you might say blogging has ruffled my relationship with beer. There are a lot of things about this community that I find to be flat out irritating. Hive mind on the internet has nothing on certain niches of the craft community. If you don't hate what they hate or love what they love prepare to be berated. And details, you better know them all or you don't really love beer. Oh, you think you're into craft beer? Not if you can't walk into a courtroom and argue BJCP Guidelines with the same authority a lawyer argues tax law. These aren't the type of people I typically meet face to face, but if you've spent any amount of time reading about beer on the internet, as a blogger tends to do, it's easy to start questioning what type of scene you're actually apart of. With all of that in mind, I've decided to take what I see as a negative and go the opposite direction when it comes to the words I put out in the ether. The last thing I want is to serve as a source of annoyance for fans of craft beer and so you can expect my writing to shift towards the things I love about beer and less of me focusing on the little irritants that can wear me down by letting myself be overwhelmed.

On the whole, blogging has helped focus my relationship beer. When I got into this thing I inundated myself with as much information as possible. At one point I was checking somewhere between 20-30 websites a day hoping to pick up any new information I could about what was going on in the beer world. And it worked. I learned things about beer past, present and future and really got a feel for the nuts and bolts of the industry and the hops and malt of beer. Simply put, I became better informed and that was always the goal. But I also grew to appreciate the saying "ignorance is bliss" after questionable business practices within the industry started affecting how I thought about breweries and whether or not I could support them in the future. To put it in terms of a baseball fan, I couldn't go to the ballpark and enjoy the simple delights of witnessing a homerun because I was too worried about whether or not the players salary was reasonable. I got away from the game that I loved. But now, thanks to blogging, I know exactly which facets of the beer world I love and want to spend my time with. You won't find me lost in the the numbers and details of the craft beer industry anymore. Look for me in a bar hovering on a laugh shared between two friends over a beer.

This post is part of multiple essays from Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers focusing on how we feel blogging has impacted our relationship with beer. Make sure to check out these posts, too:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank you. Come again!

The rules are simple.  In ten minutes put together a list detailing as many things as can think of that you'd like to show thanks for. It sounds simple but when the pressure is on it’s harder than you’d imagine to come up with a list. So, without any further adieu, here are the beer and blogging related odds and ends I’m thankful for.

  • My wife for trekking around with me from brewery to brewery always being willing to try something new.
  • Belgium for creating some of the worlds most creative and tasty beers all inside one tiny little country.
  • Germany for sticking to the Reinheitsgebot and making this Helles lover happy.
  • Friends and Family who encourage me to write.
  • Maryland breweries all too happy to welcome tiny bloggers inside their business for a closer look.
  • Beers brewed to style.
  • Brewers that say style be damned.
  • CCMABBD (Continental Congress of Mid-Atlantic Beer Blogger Doctors) for being a great group of trusted beer bloggers and friends
  • Oliver Gray for being a level headed thinker and wizards of words.
  • Bryan Roth for looking to data to backup andecdotal claims and being the first blogger I noticed doing this thankful game.
  • Jake Scholan aka Hipster Brewfus for being funny as hell and having the courage of his convictions.
  • My brother Matt for brewing beer with me despite major shortcomings in my brew game. 
  • My readers.  Because everyone likes an audience.
  • Generous restaurants and breweries who help make doing a blog like this a little extra rewarding
  • Union Craft Brewing Old Pro Gose
  • Cask Ale without cookies
What are you thankful for? Your

For more giving of the thanks check out these blogs:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Little Havana

You may have noticed that restaurant reviews have been popping up less and less on Baltimore Bistros and Beer.  As recently as a few weeks ago, I actually stated out loud to my wife that I thought I was done writing about food. It’s not that I don’t like writing about restaurants, but taking pictures and notes in the middle of nearly every meal has become something I look less and less forward to each time we go out.  I didn’t want to put anymore conversations on hold while I did my blogger due diligence, because quite frankly, it’s not an ideal way to enjoy dinner. I’ve got this thing where I like to be in the moment as much as possible and while I’m definitely at one with the food, I’d rather be focusing on the people sitting across from me at the dinner table. 

And then we ate at Little Havana and tried Ropa Vieja. It was fantastic. In fact, it was so tasty that in the middle of eating their Ropa Vieja I decided to compromise with myself. If I went to dinner and had a truly exceptional experience or tasted something that really went above and beyond the norm, I came to the conclusion that it’s only right that information finds its way on to my blog. The whole point of this blog (from a food/restaurant POV) is to help give people an idea of what’s good around Baltimore and have them try new things and so that's what exactly I'm going to continue to do (just maybe in a slightly different format).

Little Havana’s Ropa Vieja is one of those food items that deserves your special attention. But does that surprise you? Slow cooked meat is a gift from the gods. If it has to sit around cooking for hours on end before it’s ready to eat you know it’s going to be good.  This version of Ropa Vieja lives up to those expectations.  The tender strands of meat are flavored with tomato and cumin and come across as an alternate to texas style chili with a heavier focus on the tomato flavor and less on the spices. But what really sets this Ropa Vieja apart is the yuca it’s nestled all over. I’m not sure if I've had yuca before, but I loved it on this night. The texture of the melt in your mouth meat and firm but creamy yucca was something to write home about (or blog about).  When the last bite was consumed, sadness poured down over me. 

But the sadness was short lived. After the Ropa Vieja was gone and my carne tacos were inhaled a piece of key lime pie magically appeared in front of me. That pie was some of the best pie I've come across in a restaurant setting. The pie itself had a uniquely creamy texture that can’t be found just anywhere and that alone had me going in for bite after bite despite the fact that I was already stuffed to the gills. And the crust was equally fantastic and almost as half as thick as the pie itself.  Creamy pie, crunchy buttery crust.  It’s not a sentence, but that says it all. Or maybe it doesn't? The flavor of the pie was also stellar. It was tart but not too tart and sweetened just the right amount creating a happy balance between the two dissonant featured flavors.

As the days get colder I can think of few things more ideal to warm me up than a plate of Little Havana’s delicious Ropa Vieja . And if it’s exceptionally cold their Key Lime Pie and the fantasy of eating it on the beach will surely do the trick. Get there soon. Little Havana awaits.

Little Havana Restaurante Y Cantina Cubana on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beer is the Gateway, Not the Destination.

One thing I've learned about beer over the past few years is that beer is the gateway not a destination. When I first started getting into this beer thing I used to travel to breweries just to say I've been there. Tasting the beer wasn't good enough for me, I wanted to be able to say "Yeah, I've been to XXX Brewery. You should get there if you have the chance." I found myself victim of the weird competitive pissing contest that develops within certain hobbies. It was never anything I took too seriously, but I'd be lying if I didn't get some sort of satisfaction when I could point out that I had been somewhere that someone hadn't.

And then I learned that beer is beer, stainless steel is stainless steel, and tours of breweries almost always seem to bleed together (a few shining exceptions exist, of course). I wouldn't say they were boring or not worth the trip, but they weren't necessarily making my beer taste any more enjoyable simply because I was drinking them on site.

The reason I travel for beer is because it opens up a gateway to experience everything else. Recently, I took my honeymoon to France and Belgium. Beer is precisely the reason Belgium made it on our itinerary, but it's not the main reason I fell in love with the country. The people, the art, the architecture, the landscape, the brought me there, everything else will bring me back. That's why I travel for beer.

This post was inspired by The Session. The Session takes place on the first Friday of every month with bloggers from all across the world getting together to discuss a single topic. This month's Session was hosted by The Roaming Pint.

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Word of Advice for the Craft Beer Newbie

It's Monday morning, the weekend has plans for the next 5 days, and you're coming down from the high of your first trip to a good beer bar. Sure, there is work to be done, but you can't get the thought of tropical fruit flavored IPA's, tart Berliner Weiss, and Peanut Butter Porters out of your mind. The boss is asking for that report you said you'd have ready for his Monday morning meeting, but you know nothing will get done until you Google "Advice for the Craft Beer Newbie" to learn more about all of the fantastically flavored drinks that rocked your world only two night ago. As fate would have it, you find yourself on this very blog and I'm offering one word of advice to you as you begin your journey into the vast world of beer.

And what is that one word advice I have for you, the craft beer newbie? Well....Craft. But this isn't a word or idea I want you to focus on. Craft is a word you should forget. Craft, in relation to beer, has meant a great many things to a great many people. It could mean a brewery that makes less than 2 million barrels per year (excuse me, 6 million), has recipes that don't include corn (scratch that, corn is just fine), and may or may not be part of a revolution depending on how righteous you want to feel whenever you reach for a beer. It's a word that has meant anything and everything and when that happens you're essentially left with nothing. 

Love beer. Forget the craft. If you really love beer and you plan on making this fermented liquid a part of your life you need to love beer for beer. You should find joy in the history, ingredients, processes, and people that are the world of beer. Or you won't and that's fine as well because it really doesn't matter. Maybe you won't give a damn what Mosiac hops provide in the way of flavor and aroma. And maybe you'll hate sour beers or IPA's and find you're only interested in coffee flavored stouts. That's cool. The point is that beer, boiled down to the basics, is simply an optional drink and you can like as much or as little of that world as you'd like.

Beer is a lot of things but it doesn't (and shouldn't) need to be serious. Don't feel intimated by some silly term like craft that only serves to confuse what really matters. If you're reading this because you're looking to take part in a revolution, looking for an identity, or to be a part of a scene then it's best you just move along. Beer was here long before "craft" and it's going to be here long after the trendy appeal dies down. If you really love this stuff and plan to make it a part of your life, then love beer because it's awesome and forget the fluff that is craft.  

This post is the first part of what will be multiple essays from a variety of Mid-Atlantic bloggers looking to offer one word of advice for those of us who might be new to "craft" beer. Check in with Hipster Brewfus tomorrow to see what he thinks. 

Day 2 - Hipster Brewfus on Patience
Day 3 - Oliver from Literature and Libation with Reciprocate
Day 4 - Andrew of Das Ale Haus says Drink
Day 5 - Bryan from This is Why I'm Drunk on Live.
Day 6 - Josh of Short on Beer wants to take you on a Journey.
Day 7 - Liz from Naptown Pint suggest you Relax.
Day 9 - Brewkeep Radio wants you to focus on you.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Session #90: Beer Fight Club

It’s Session Time and many a Session has passed since I last participated, but with local blogger Jake from Hipster Brewfus throwing down a challenge like the one detailed below I feel a duty to jump back into the Beer Blogging Friday ring.

Have you ever drank a beer that became a battle, more than an enjoyable experience? Maybe a beer that was far bigger than you had anticipated? Something you felt determined to drink, just so you can say you conquered that son of a bitch, and you are all that is powerful. Or perhaps it is something that is just so bad, all you want to do is slap it around a bit. Or maybe you were on the verge of passing out, but you just wanted that one last beer, and the valiant struggle between taste bud fulfillment and the velvety embrace of sleep that ensued.

Three years ago today my emotional pint glass was filled to the brim as I walked into local landmark Max’s on Broadway full of excitement to try a few unknown beers at their Rare & Obscure Event. Not only was I going to be drinking good beer, but I’d be doing so while rooting the US Men’s National Team on to victory as they took on our rivals from Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. Typically, I steer clear of big weekend crowds at the bar, but the chance to witness Rare US soccer achievements and taste Obscure beer was simply too much for even the most dedicated of hermits to ignore.

At the kickoff I decided to order a De Halve Maan Brugse Zot. It was going to be a long 90 minutes and much like the US team, I wanted to pace myself and make sure I had the energy to go the distance.  Smart decisions are essential both on the pitch and at the bar and early on those decisions were paying off. The US team put the ball in the back net twice and I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a well-made Belgian Golden Ale.

But then something happened. Riding high from the early goal two lead and coming to the end of my first beer I got a little over confident with my second beer order. “I’ll have the Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus”. I had never heard of it, couldn’t pronounce it, and quite honestly had no idea that sour beer was even a thing. Side stepping the crowd I gingerly made my way back to our table and sat down just as Mexico cut into the lead by taking advantage of some poor US defense. “Oh well”, I thought to myself and reached to take my first taste of the Rose de Gambrinus.

“Holy god, that’s terrible”, I said.

“They’re still winning 2-1”, Deana my girlfriend at the time replied, assuming I was talking about the game.

“No, taste this” I responded, eager to spread the evil that had just entered my mouth.  Deana took a sip scrunched her face in sour horror and silently handed the glass back shaking her head violently back and forth to let me know she would be have having no more of this Rare & Obscure freak beer.

A little time passed and I went back in for a second taste hoping that my palate might have adjusted enough to make the rest of this beer somewhat enjoyable. But it wasn’t meant to be. Rose de Gambrinus caused shivers, pain face, and much sadness at $12 misspent. This was a sour of proportions I’d never known before and I simply was not worthy. And as fate would have it, neither was the US team as they conceded an equalizer only 5 minutes after the first.

The rest of the night I sat with my glass of Rose de Gambrinus in dismay. Why did a beer like this exist? Why did I, with a list of beers 100 bottles deep, have to stumble across this one? And why was it so off putting to me? Sure, I’ve experienced beers I hadn’t liked before, but none kicked me in the balls like this one had.  I sat there, a beaten man, feeling like a failure for not “getting” what many would consider a gem of a beer. And the US team, well, they provided no solace and took their own beating as they lost a chance at a trophy with a 4-2 loss.

A few weeks later I found myself at another establishment and they just so happened to have a sour beer on tap. A glutton for punishment, I ordered it. Deana sat across from me shocked I’d be willing to put myself through this kind of punishment once again, but I didn’t want my previous experience with sour beer to be my last. The beer was set at our table and I took a sip. “That’s actually not bad”, I said with relief.  By the end of the pint, I found myself actively enjoying a sour beer.

As we drove home that night it hit me that my enjoyment of the second sour beer would never have been possible if I had never experienced my excruciating beer battle with Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus. It made me stronger and took my palate to such an extreme place that almost any sour beer I’ve come in contact with since has paled in comparison. Believe it or not sour beers have become one of the styles I crave the most and every time I take a sip of a sour beer I take a second to both think about Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, the beer I’ve hated more than any other, and say thank you for making it possible for me to enjoy a myriad of other beer I may never have tried if it weren’t for the ass whipping of a lifetime it gave me three years ago.