As a twentysomething parent, I find it difficult to invest a lot in a hobby.
Sure, I like to read and be on the computer, blogging is enjoyable. But those are more just activities I do, not hobbies I want to experience and grow.
I’ve written a number of posts about beer. My experience with beer started after I turned 21 (yes, I did not drink for the first time until I was 21). Obviously the first beers I was introduced to were American adjunct lagers such as Budweiser, Coors, etc. I didn’t really have the taste for beer then, but like so many others before me, it became and acquired taste. I drank the AALs because they were readily available, cheap, and it’s what everyone else drank in college.
In the following year, I was introduced to what people called “dark beers”–i.e. a rudimentary way of describing any beer darker than the pale lagerness of America’s adjunct lagers and pilsners. Even so, these beers were still brewed by America’s macrobrewies. Beers like Killian’s (brewed by Coors) and Amber Bock (brewed by Anheuser Busch’s Michelob brand) became standard to me, I enjoyed what I consider to be “full” beers, with malt profiles that resembled caramel and chocolate rather than corn and rice.
In the fall of 2007, I was introduced to Samuel Adams Winter Lager and a love affair with craft beer began. It was a process that grew very slowly for me. I didn’t depart from Sam Adams often, perhaps here and there to Saranac, Newcastle, or Guinness. I went to BeerAdvocate for the first time back in early 2009 and didn’t think too much of it. I went to the Top Beers and saw the names of 100 beers I’d never heard of in my life, so with Sam Adams and some other regional beers I stuck, even venturing back to the world of Coors or A-B here and there for a Blue Moon or another Killians.
But last fall, I decided to “up the ante” so to say. On a trip to Michigan, I decided to try some beers I’d never had before and were on that top 100 list. Two I tried were Founders Breakfast Stout and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and I was hooked. I started searching out other craft beers at the supermarket, and then expanded to small carryouts or stores that specialized in craft beer. As 2011 began, I decided that I would pursue craft beer with more vigor, actively searching for new beers, the best beers.
To many, it would seem, a vice is a weird hobby. Perhaps on par with gambling as a hobby or something. But beer, for me, has not been like that since I got into craft. Craft beer is about quality, instead of volume. It’s about pushing the boundaries of what is beer, using fresh and quality ingredients, while also trying to make a beer that is unique and delicious. It’s less “mass-oriented” and more catered to the individual drinker. Craft beer isn’t about using the drink to become intoxicated, it’s about enjoy a beverage that isn’t easily duplicated. As I’ve learned, in any single sitting, two beers is my limit.
But isn’t craft beer as a hobby expensive? Not at all. Sure, craft is easily more expensive than a sixer of Bud Light, and you’re surely not going to find a 30-pack of Founders for $15. But volume isn’t the goal, craft beer can be fully enjoyed on a macrobeer budget.
Craft beer as a hobby may certainly sound odd, but it’s not that different from wine tasting, or being a foodie, or even collecting stamps. It’s growing in popularity and changing daily as brewers perfect the beers they’ve been brewing for decades but also challenge themselves and each other to make the next great beer, the one that gets hyped for weeks before the release and is nearly impossible to find on store shelves. It’s a hobby which I’m glad to have taken up.