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The first time I realized what beer could be

By August 8, 2011

Before we get into that, I need to tell you that this is part of the August blog chain. What's a blog chain? Well, I'm glad you asked. It's when a bunch of bloggers get together and write about the same topic, that's all; just a little something to mix things up.

The topic for this month's chain is "My first time." To see what other About.com bloggers have to say about their first time, check out the links at the bottom of this post.

Now, on to the beer. The first time I drank beer was in Germany. I spent a few months living near Frankfurt when I was nineteen and I drank a whole lot of Henninger Pilsner and Paulaner wheat. When I came back to the US, I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the world of beer had to offer. There were the fizzy German lagers, their weaker cousins, the US pale lagers, the murky Hefeweizens and dark, mysterious Guinness. That was about it, right?

Since I'd returned in '93, I'd been searching for Henninger because I'd let myself believe that it was the best beer in the world. (Years later I found a can of it at a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Louis and wondered how I ever thought that.) So, in '96 or so, when a specialty wine and beer shop opened up in the town where I was attending college, I dashed in to see if they carried Henninger. No luck. But they did have an impressive selection of beer for the time and they sold it by the bottle.

I tried some other Pilsners but none measured up to my memory of the elusive Henninger. I also picked up a bottle of Fuller's ESB. This beer was a revelation. Nothing I'd tasted before prepared me for the breadth and depth of flavor I found in that bottle. I can still remember that first glass. Suddenly, I understood that there was so much more to beer than I'd ever imagined.

I headed back to the shop and said, more like that, please. You might remember this was a great time for the growing craft beer industry in the US, although we were calling them microbrews back then. I tried everything made by Samuel Smith. Fat Tire had just arrived in Missouri and I had great fun getting lost in a six pack of that. Pete's Wicked Ale had also just arrived and that was another great beer to get to know.

These days, all of those brands seem kind of tame to me but they'll always have a place in my heart as the beers that showed me what beer could be.

More "My First Time" blog posts:
- The First Time I Had Bulgarian Rakia - Barbara Rolek, Guide to Eastern European Food
- My First Time...Taking a Class as an Adult - Deb Peterson, Guide to Continuing Education
- My First Time in a Pub - Ferne Arfin, Guide to GoUK
- My First Day of Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis - Marcia Purse, Guide to Bipolar Disorder
- My First Time - Jennifer Kyrnin, Guide to Web Design / HTML
- My First Time Recalling a Past Life - Phylameana lila Desy, Guide to Holistic Healing
- My First Time - How About Yours? - Wendy Bumgardner, Guide to Walking
- My First Date - Bonny Albo, Guide to Dating
- My First Time . . . Attending a Christmas Convention - Barbara Crews, Guide to Collectibles
- Memorable Firsts in HR - Susan M. Heathfield, Guide to Human Resources
- My First Time Visiting an Ancient Asian Historical Site - Kallie Szczepanski, Guide to Asian History
- My First Visit to Mexico - Suzanne Barbezat, Guide to Mexico Travel

Comments

August 9, 2011 at 7:22 am
(1) Eva Facebook says:

Beautiful narration. I am not personally a beer drinker but just the way you wrote your piece made me wanna pick a lager myself! Keep ‘em coming dude!

August 9, 2011 at 7:49 am
(2) Deb says:

I have a friend with a gigantic beer can collection. This makes me wonder if he knows which can was his first!

Corona girl here.

August 9, 2011 at 8:51 am
(3) Wendy B says:

Bryce, it’s a miracle you ever drank beer in the US if you started in Germany, LOL! My Mom drank Olympia beer back in the day and she’d let us have a sip, which tasted pretty nasty. But by the time I was legal drinking age, brewpubs were legal in Oregon and I was able to enjoy delicious local beer. My first trip to Germany in 1986 included Oktoberfest in Munich, and that has to be the ultimate of delicious beer. I’ve been back twice more. Today, I love the huge variety of craft beer that every supermarket has in the Northwest. Even your corner “stop and rob” convenience store has a nice selection. Ah, the joys of living in “Beervana.”

August 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm
(4) Phylameana says:

My first beer was on a bus ride on the way to dinner. I had been invited as a tag-a-long with a group of friends for a night of fun to dine at an all-you-can-eat chicken joint which was only ten miles outside of town. Inside the bus were several coolers filled with ice and beer. I was a beer-snob back in the day, I would only drink wine or mixed cocktails. I was offered a brewsky out of one of the coolers but I politely refused saying I would wait until we got to the restaurant. What I didn’t realize is that there were no plans to go directly to the place, the bus driver took us on a long scenic drive around the countryside. We didn’t arrive to the place for over three hours. I eventually caved and gratefully downed a can of Miller Lite. I was 26. The first time I drank an alcoholic beverage (a screwdriver) I was 21. These days I stick to wine or beer, and an occasional glass of champagne on birthdays/holidays.

August 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm
(5) Ray R says:

I really enjoy your column. I am 65, born in ’46. Grew up on mostly Rheingold, Pabst etc. Later I went to German beers , looking for more flavor. In 1975 I went to Ca. with my best buddy and while in San Francisco, we had ANCHOR STEAM beer……booiiinnggg!! That did it . Now I really enjoy craft beers,lagers, ales etc. German beers,,good,, but not so good as our American craft beer brewers. This is definetely a great time to be alive, and living in America! Thanks,,,Ray

August 14, 2011 at 7:18 am
(6) Celeste Goff says:

Ray, I LOVE Anchor Steam! Your introduction into the world of craft beer was a good one!

August 14, 2011 at 9:59 am
(7) Bryce says:

Thanks, Ray. Good call on the Anchor Steam, that is definitely one of the classic greats of American beer!

August 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm
(8) Jonp says:

I had Aviator Brewings take on a “california common” beer “Steamhead” which reminded me how good Anchor Steam is. A very nice session beer.

August 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm
(9) jonp says:

My first beer was a Narragansett sneaked out of the fridge at a bbq when I was 10 or 12. I remember running into the woods with it and taking a taste and thinking “yuch, whats the big deal?” Many years and many Gennesee’s, Old Milwakee’s and Black Labels not to mention Bud later I had my first “real” beer in Heineken and it tasted much like a Labatts or Moosehead. I didn’t care for it. It took a Guiness Stout for the lightbulb to pop for me in realizing that there were many other types of beer out there with real taste and I haven’t looked back since.

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