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.