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Readers Share Their First Loves

03.14.2013 13:49 PM

Part II

Sometimes we get tired of the ho-hum reviews on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. We want to read REAL reviews written by REAL people! We want to know which beers awakened people’s senses and really rocked their worlds. We want to get to the bottom of this quandary: What makes a truly remarkable beer? Here are a few more stories from our readers sharing their unique experiences…

SaveOnBrew Wants To Know: What Was Your “Gateway” Beer?

“I’m not sure if I’ve had my gateway beer yet. It’s not for lack of trying...

Our beer fridge has two sides. The center, larger part is “beer we like” and the shelves on the right door are “beer we try to push on our visitors” aka “beers we don’t like.”

I’m a big boy and willing to take the hit that, well, for some people, they’re just fine with their macro swill. Put your hand up if that’s you! Oh, look, quite a few. Trust me, friends, the numbers support you. For every beer snob with Gluten-Free Deep Earth Doublebock Trippel Filtered Wheat Hefe in the 4-pack of 22 ounce bottles, hand numbered, corked, and NEVER placed on its side, there’s that OTHER part of the ‘fridge stuffed with your ole college buddy, Mickey’s Big Mouth (or some equivalent swill).

I don’t judge you! More power to you! Rock on with your bad Mickey-swilling-self.

It could be, because of what we do, that we’re exposed to far more beers than the average bear. While some folks seem to revel in this (Jennn, for instance) I take a sip of some of those and think you’ve got to be kidding me!  Seriously. Someone down at the brewery is NOT asking “is this drinkable?” which – to me – should be question #1: Could we sit down, play cards, and effortlessly get through a sixer (or more)?

If I want hints of cinnamon with a coffee back-bite, I’ll bake a cake.

Beer is my friend. My buddy. He’s been by my side for 30 years. THIRTY YEARS. Our budget has a line-item for beer. It shouldn’t be a struggle to drink a beer. It shouldn’t be “let me just see if I can get through this.” No way. Life’s too short.  Put something in my hand that’s drinkable. In near-mass quantity.

All of that aside, I’ve recently been drinking more and more of Southern Star’s Bombshell Blonde which I think is a GREAT beer. Very drinkable. A distinctive taste. Something I can have a relationship with. It’s also available locally and won’t break the bank.

I also spent several hours drinking Boulevard Wheat from their 16 ounce aluminum pint. Same idea. VERY drinkable, something I would seek out. The bottle really felt good in my hand and kept the beer cold.”

-          Mark Davidson, CEO

“Like any good Texan in the 90s, my gateway beer in the world of craft brew was Shiner Bock. I do remember trying it for the first time: I was a freshman in college; it was 1998. It was so full and sweet compared to the warm, skunky pisswater beers I had previously.

Since then, my palate has changed - I prefer more complex rye beers, saisons, sours and IPAs. I'll still knock back the occasional Shiner now and again if that's all that's available, but they've changed a lot too since then. We've gone our separate ways.” 

-          Nicole Buergers, a 32-year-old Full Time Internet Marketer /

Part Time Cheesemonger from Houston, TX 

“Mine was Real Ale Fireman’s #4. I came up to Austin to apply interview for a server job at Jazz on 6th in 2005. After the interview, the General Manager bought a friend and I a round of Fireman 4. I liked it and was lucky enough to get the job. While working there, I started trying all sorts of new beer. My palate has changed quite a bit over the years. Initially I started with lighter craft beers. I mostly stuck to wheat beers and blondes… then transitioned into red and brown ales… then to Belgian trappist ales… and then to stouts and porters. For years, I didn't like IPA's, pale ales, or any other really hoppy beer. Learning to like these beers for me was almost like learning to drink beer for the first time again. I didn't really like it at first, but I acquired the taste. Now the hoppier, the better! I can rarely find a beer that is hoppy enough and the sweet flavors I used to like in the brown ales and wheat beers no longer satisfy me.” 

- Brett Vance, 28, co-owner of HandleBar in Austin, TX 


“My movement toward craft beers was probably a slow transition from mainstream. I started first with smaller big brands like Sam Adams and Blue Moon.

From there, the local Michigan beers were my next adventure - Bell's Oberon and Atwater Brewery were the firsts from Michigan.

Now, I enjoy trying all the unique brews I can find on the shelves.  I’m  always looking for cool packaging designs. I create jewelry and accessories from beer and wine artifacts (bottle caps, labels, glass, etc.). So, my adventuresome streak in the craft beer space comes from my desire to learn more about the stories behind the brands.”

-          Lori Sullivan, Designer for Drinks To Design 

“The first time I drank a craft brew was a Stone IPA. Typically a fuzzy yellow beer drinker and straight out of college, I loved the likes of Coors Light, for example. To be honest, the first time I had Stone, it was a bit abrasive to my palate. The hoppy-citrus flavor was much more over-the-top than anything I had tasted before. I was intrigued by the full-bodied complexity of the beer itself -- something you don't characteristically get from a 'light' beer.

I started drinking Stone IPAs regularly to the point at which I craved them at times. This led me to pursue a very wide variety of single, double, and even triple IPAs. Once I broke into the IPA world, it was the beginning of what was a mass exploration of tastes. I often talk about how much my palate has changed with my friends. Going from strictly Coors Light to enjoying even Imperial Stouts and Strong Ales to ESB's and Brown Ales, I was fixated on the bitter tastes and complexities that many other beers offered.

I can honestly say that I my palate has progressed very far from where it once was. Sometimes, regular IPA's just don't pack enough punch for me of late, and I have resorted to a diet of Double IPA's. I also enjoy seasonal brews much more than I ever had before because I am able to identify specific flavors and hops in beers more than I ever could before. I have often ordered beers from distributors that have beers that I would never be able to enjoy -- because of their lack of distribution.

My friends and I give beer as gifts and enjoy sharing them together. I can't remember the last time I drank beer out of a bottle! I have several different glasses depending on the style of beer I am planning on drinking. This year, I even brewed my first batch of beer! The wonderful world of BEER! I can't wait to see where I am at in a couple years because, if you would have asked me 3 years ago what beer I would be drinking today, I guarantee none of the beers I drink would have been on that list.”

-          Nicholas Santoro, a 26-year-old Law Firm Marketing Coordinator from Burbank, CA  

Like this style of review? You can read Part I here.

Also, please email with the subject line "Gateway Beer" if you have a story you'd like to share for one of our upcoming articles.

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