Today, in all its falling leafy glory, marks the fifth anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe that 1825 days have waxed and waned since I first plugged “Literature and Libation” into WordPress, thinking I was very clever for such thematically appropriate alliteration.
Nostalgia is equal parts funny and sad. I remember my first stabs at beer writing; terrible reviews of Bud Light Platinum and Newcastle Founders Ale written mainly at the urging of my sister. I’m not sure if she actually believed in my ability or just wanted something to break the boredom of her workday, but I have to indirectly thank her for setting me down this wet and wild hopped road.
My timing in starting the blog coincided (perhaps serendipitously) with a change in my life, a time when I started to realize I was no longer that “college kid,” that my view and opinions were changing, moving, realigning with my more adult understanding of the world. It also just so happened to line up – like the planets slipping silently into perfect linear arrangement – with the period I started drinking better beer.
I’ve tried many, many beers in these five years; probably more than I had in the five previous to these, combined. At the behest of my friendly neighborhood brewing wizards this blog forced me out of the quiet simplicity of my Shire, taking me on adventures I’d never expected, showing me a world full of hoppy wonder and malty marvel. But in all those beers I sampled and sipped, I always returned to a some staples, stalwarts, those faithful, consistent few. These beers are more than my comfort falls backs, more than the fermented pajamas I slip into after a long and arduous day, they were my training wheels, my guides, my glass-clad sherpas up the mountains of good beer.
So on this anniversary, I salute them. And their brewers. And all the staff that helped bring them to me, and me to this world I love so much.
1. Dogfish Head 60 Minutes IPA
First came Sam’s flagship, the first “craft” beer I can remember my parents ever having in stock. My first reactions to IPA flirted dangerously close to “bitter beer face” but as my taste buds shed their nascent skin, I grew to appreciate how much was going on in a bottle of 60, and how easily accessible (if a tad pricey) such a different beer had become. I always come back to 60 minute as a reference point, some grounding, a reminder of where my taste for hops came form, and where beer was five, six, or seven years ago. When I first started this blog, I had no idea why it was even called 60 minute, assuming it was named such because it would take someone an hour just to finish one bottle.
2. Flying Dog Doggie Style (now Pale Ale)
A part of my beer-drinking self always latched itself to no-frills pale ales, either out of irrational loyalty to what my father taught me to love, or out of safety, comfort, the beauty of repeatable simplicity. Whatever fueled it, it manifested in Flying Dogs award winning pale; there’s nothing particularly wild about it, but there it is, balanced, refreshing, happy to be the middle child between weird exotic yeasts and tired pale lagers. From this safe base of pale malt I felt confident to branch out into pretty much any style: I always had a big soft pint of pale to fall back into if things got a little too freaky and yeasty.
The pirate in me gives me orders, his drunken swaggering the impetus for a lot of my rambling of the same. It’s no surprise I took to Heavy Seas; they’re local, they’re good, they’re unabashedly pirate themed. While I enjoy quite a few of their beers, Loose Cannon sidled up to me early, mug of grog in hand, sly whispers of, “you like 60 minute? Well you’ll love me.”
And I did. And do. And probably always will. It’s my quintessential Maryland beer, and that’s saying a lot (sorry Natty Boh).
A cliche? Perhaps. A mistake? Never. All recent commercials aside, Sam Adams Boston Lager is a pretty fantastic gateway beer. It has everything you could want without being offensive about it. There’s also something to respect about the market positioning Sam Adams set the rest of the industry up for, and sometimes I buy their beer simply out of beer guy respect. Are there better options? Sometimes. But you’ll almost never have a friend turn down a Boston Lager, even if their normal drinking typically falls much much further in BMC territory.
I just can’t quit the old girl from Pottsville. I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried. In my early years of being a mindless craft crusaders, I swore off “junk” beer like Yuengling, feigning some kind of pretentious elitism that somehow, despite everything Yuengling had done for me, made me better than the beer. Well I’m not. I’m not better than any beer. The pedigree behind even the lowest rated and much maligned beers still outweighs mine a thousand fold. I’m especially not better than the good ole girl from Pottsville.
So to celebrate my perfuntory triumph of managing not to burn out too badly or quit in a huff of public, Twitter glory, I’m not going to reach into the back of the fridge for some rare beer. I’m not going to chuck harpoons looking for whales. I’m definitely not going to forget where I came from, how I got here, and which beers were integral to keeping me on track.
Here’s to the standbys, the go-tos, to old friends. But more importantly, here’s to all you readers and all your support. If I had the time and money to buy you all a beer, I most certainly would.
Here’s to beer. Here’s to writing. Here’s to five more years.