Evolution Of The Beer Curious And The Hunt For Good Beer

There seems to be a natural evolution for craft beer enthusiasts, or the “beer curious”, as I like to call them.  It starts with that all important first purchase of “better beer”, or what some call a “gateway” beer.  Fueled by curiosity – “what are those other beers in that other cooler over there, and why do they have such odd names?? – and paired up with the fact that each beer curious person has a moment when they’re “ready” for something better, I think every craft beer lover remembers the first beer they tried which they truly loved the taste of.  This is the moment which moves the beer curious beyond their taste for their usual mega brewery, available on every corner beer, and the accompanying knee jerk, beer purchasing habits and into something, well, simply – better.  It’s the moment that you realize that beer doesn’t have to be just your regular adult beverage ordered without much thought or interest involved – it can just taste so much better too.  And yes, it goes down in one’s personal better beer tasting history as the moment a light went on, a true “aha” moment.  You know that classic timeline of the evolution of man that you’ve seen a billion times?  Imagine a timeline for the beer curious man (or woman).  I’d like to think these “aha” moments as the moment midway or more through that timeline, where the beer curious man finally stands up straight (and starts to think for himself).  Look closely, what’s he holding?  Ok, ok, yes, a hunting spear.  No, I meant the other hand – isn’t that a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottle?

But once a beer curious person really starts to develop their tastes and move from curiosity towards passion for good beer – somewhat of a snag is usually reached.  It’s the actual “hunt” for the stuff.  Remember our timeline?  Think about our beer curious man’s hunting spear, I guess, if it could be used to take down an ornery, robust chocolate stout you might have read about.  To put it simply, sure, a lot of large grocery stores do carry some selection from the bigger players in the craft beer market.  But there is just so much out there.  The variety of styles is absolutely dizzying – and each brewery has its own distinct take on each style.  Not to worry.  This is actually a benefit for the beer curious – more to try!  (Or for the beer blogger, more “research” to do, as I like to affectionately call it.)  However, the vast variety of beer also means that finding it isn’t as easy as you’d like.  Most mid-sized and smaller craft breweries have only regional distribution levels.  Many times, that is by choice, a choice that may make it hard to find a beer you’ve read about, but one you learn to respect anyway.  Shorter travel time for the beer means that whoever tasting it is simply getting a fresher product.   It’s part of the charm of craft beer.

It simply means that you have to lean on new resources in order to find the variety.  Many large cities have stores that specialize in carrying craft beer.  We’re lucky in Roanoke to have the Wine Gourmet down on Franklin Road.  The selection is good, it’s constantly updated, and the folks there will go out of their way to make suggestions or get in something you’ve heard about.  But still, there is so much out there, right?  Again, that’s part of the charm of craft beer – finding it can be fun, and it makes taking a trip to a different city or region that much more interesting.  A couple months ago, I took my first trip to Charleston, SC.  Sure, I loved the history, the beauty of the historic district, the food – but the beer curious in me was speaking out.  I knew there were probably really good things nearby for me to hunt down.

Did I remember to pack my beer hunting spear?  Ah, I mean, do my research?  You bet I did.  One of the resources that I came across nearly blew my mind, as in “holy cow, this is amazing”.  It’s called The Beer Mapping Project, a website that uses Google Maps technology to map out breweries, beer pubs, bars, and even homebrewing stores in various large cities around the country.  Want to find the closest brewery to where you’re staying in Washington, DC?  The Beer Mapping Project can show you.  Keep in mind this also blew my girlfriend’s mind too, but in a totally different way, as in “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  (She’s not much of a beer curious person.)

I’m going to be hopefully posting a few more thoughts on what it means to be “beer curious” in the coming days, because quite simply, that’s what this blog is all about.  But should you find yourself becoming beer curious and in another city, checking out The Beer Mapping Project will do wonders for you.  And even if you’re not travelling soon, check it out anyway – you’ll wish you came up with the idea.

Other resources are out there too – beeradvocate.com, a great site for beer info in general, has a useful beer finder section.


~ by thebeerroad on July 3, 2010.

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