November 6, 2013
It was all about the wine!
Wait, what?! Isn’t this a beer blog? Yes it is, but I have wine to thank for my love affair with beer. I attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California which is in the mountains of Napa Valley. PUC is a Seventh Day Adventist college. Adventists are staunchly opposed to alcohol consumption. So naturally they put a couple thousand kids in a world famous wine region. Good idea.
While in school, the best job I had was working for a winery in Rutherford called St.Supery. The winery is right in the center of Napa Valley. I worked in the sales room and conducted facility tours. Best college job ever! One of the perks of working in a winery, (besides the fairly constant buzz), is the inter-winery discount. Not only did I get my employee discount at St. Supery, but other wineries in the Valley extend an industry discount and free tasting. I was able to afford to try all the fantastic wine in Napa Valley on a very humble budget. In addition, I regularly traded wine at other wineries. The variety of wine available to me was fantastic. So what happened? Well unfortunately, I moved on to a “better” job that was not related to wine. With the change of the job also went the aforementioned discounts. I was immediately faced with the prospect of paying $30 to $100 for the delicious Napa Valley wines I had previously enjoyed on the cheap. Lets be honest, good wine is cost prohibitive for most people. Yes people spring for $50 + wines occasionally (myself included). However if you are an everyday wine drinker, I suspect that unless you do pretty well financially (well done and good for you), or are in the industry (again well done and good for you), you are not buying a $50 wine for a Tuesday night pizza dinner.
While working at St. Supery we had a holiday party. A co-worker brought a magnum of a beer called “Fred” from Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon. I was intrigued by the fact that a beer was in such a large format bottle. Upon reading the label I also found it odd that the beer contained 10% alcohol by volume. What kind of beer was this? When I tried it I couldn’t believe it was beer. It was yellow but nothing like the yellow fizzy beers I had at college parties. It was rich and sweet but very drinkable. It was so complex I couldn’t describe it. I kept going back to sample the beer in light of the fact that there was an array of old library wines available for tasting.
For me, “Fred” was the launch pad for my craft beer expedition. It was that beer I recalled when staring at the wines at Sunshine Foods in St. Helena, California (a fantastic grocery store and deli with an exceptional wine and beer selection). I stood there dismayed by the prices of some of my favorite wines. I just didn’t want to part with that much of my hard earned cash. Then I turned around to see the beer selection. They didn’t have “Fred” but there were various interesting bottles. Some were capped, others had corks. Some were from far away with names like Chimay and Omergang. There were also local beers from places like Bear Republic and Lagunitas. I realized that due to the economy of wine, I could not afford best wines in the world, but I could certainly access the best that the beer world had to offer. From then on I was hooked on beer (figuratively speaking, not in the passed out in an alley sense).
I still really like wine and will drink it on occasion but I find that the vast flavors and styles of beer offer a broader spectrum from which to choose. Styles ranging from pale golden lagers to black stouts, made in places like Belgium or the U.S and everything in between, beer offers something for everyone. The fact that I can leave price almost entirely out of the equation isn’t bad either.