When we agreed to do our five favorite beers of all time, I thought that this could be really hard or really easy. Who is going to challenge me if I just list five obscure beers and provide some boilerplate descriptions? Really, at a minimum I come off as pretentious and at a maximum I might even become insightful and illuminating. Is it honest or ethical? No and I would be losing the trust of my buds on this blog and that would SUCK.
So now we are back to being honest about it. But five all time favorite beers? Frankly, my beer memory doesn’t go back much further than a couple of weeks. Perhaps I am drinking less than memorable beer? Perhaps I am doing my drinking in the moment? I have a feeling it is somewhere in between.
Now as a child of the late 60’s and 70’s, I was being reared squarely in a time of beer paucity. In some ways, beer was more about the emotional attachment to the moments that surrounded its consumption than the consumption itself. So the first of my all-time favorites is Olympia. A mouthful of cold Oly with my Dad in our yard is a favored memory and thus a favored beer. A close second is what became my Dad’s signature beer when he upgraded his own beer game – Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve. It doesn’t make my list, but opened the door to experimenting beyond the light pilsners of the day.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the second beer on my list. The 60’s and 70’s may have had a dearth of quality beer, but that situation began to change for me in the late 1980’s when I came of age. To facilitate that transformation, we head to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA (Go Bears!) and Raleigh’s with their Beers of the World promotion. Get your card on your first visit and when you completed getting all of the beers on the list stamped, you got the free t-shirt. (Always amazed me how a university education was powered by beer, pizza and t-shirts.) The first beer on my list – taken in the company of my good friends – was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I still have the glass.
My next beer on the favorites list is Spendrup’s. It’s a Swedish beer, the kind of beer that compliments a long refreshing sauna or ordered in a pub with friends on a Friday after work. Simple, tasty, a pilsner with a high sociability factor. Good times, good beer.
Now Yuengling is our regular household beer, something that we buy in cases from Costco. A nice everyday beer, OK when a bit warm, better as it cools and best when it is cold. You would think that this would make it automatically on the list, but this is one time when familiarity breeds contempt. Great for everyday, but it just doesn’t stand out on its own. I’ll be drinking it for a long time, but not an all timer.
In 1996, I took a business trip to US European Command in Stuttgart. After a great dinner out, we retreated to the hotel bar for a final beer before heading for bed. We had been at a brewery and sausage palace with several excellent beers. However, the one beer that stood out for me was my first hefeweizen or weissbier. I don’t remember the brewer, but it was full bodied, filling and satisfying. Truly bread in a glass, served a 0.4l at a time. It ranks as an all time favorite.
Now for the final beer on the list. One that I thought was going to be more of a novelty when I got a hold of it, but found that it had a hook that was refreshing and satisfying. It’s a chocolate stout. Thick, full-bodied, chocolate like flavors coming from the roasted malts rather than chocolate itself. Chocolate may be a misnomer, but it’s a great description of the flavor bouquet. Bought my first at Total Wine and plan to go back for more.
Ask me again next month, you may get a different list, but it will be an honest answer to the question.