Saturday, February 8, 2014

Session #84: An "Alternative" Beer Review

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

The topic of Session #84 is "Alternative" Reviews.  Oliver Gray, writer of Literature and Libation, has challenged beer bloggers to review a beer by not reviewing the beer.  He wants to get a feel for how you feel about a particular beer, without using the typical reviewing platform of appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, etc.  Let the fun begin!

There are some beers that stick with me no matter how old I get or how refined I "think" my palate is getting.  It doesn't really matter how popular these beers are or what kind of ratings they receive.  They stick with me because of history, experience and plain old good times.  Everyone has beers that fit these criteria, maybe even several of them.  Here is a short story of just one of mine.

Growing up, my family would always spend one week every summer in Maine.  We would spend a few days in Baxter State Park, under the shadow of Mount Katahdin, and then spend the rest of the trip in the comforts of Bar Harbor.  Our days in Bar Harbor consisted of hiking the trails of Acadia National Park, canoeing, boating and of course, eating lobster.  Souvenirs would consistently find their way back into the minivan for the ride back to New Jersey. 

I have memories of my dad bringing home a few six packs of local Maine microbrews for himself and for my brother (and of course some Maine-made root beer for my sister).  Even though I wasn't quite at drinking age yet, these beers always intrigued me.

Once I was of drinking age, I definitely partook in Maine's microbrew culture, enjoying the wares of such breweries as Shipyard and Bar Harbor Brewing.  It wasn't until a few years later, maybe when I was 23 or 24, when I went on my first tour of a brewery! 

It was an overcast day, threatening rain, so my family and I swung by Atlantic Brewing, located on the outskirts of Bar Harbor.  There were fermenters, kegs, bottles and a cat named Hops (who you can still see making guest appearances on their Facebook page).  I learned what wort was.  At the end of the tour, we tasted.  Real Ale.  Blueberry Ale.  Coal Porter.  Island Ginger.  After having the tour, I had a renewed appreciation of these beers and what it takes to brew them. 

But most of all, I shared the experience with family, making it more meaningful and unforgettable.  Now, when I see a Bar Harbor Real Ale or a Coal Porter on a liquor store shelf near me, or when I have the opportunity to drink one, I think back with fond memories.  Memories of the brewery, and of enjoying pints on the pier while admiring the sunset with my dad.

Last year, I was lucky to be able to expand on these memories.  My wife Kerry and I took a trip up to Maine with my mother and sister, and we shared with Kerry the many joys we had in Maine, including a visit to Atlantic Brewing.  Hops the cat was still there, as was the Real Ale. 

Isn't it crazy what a simple thing like beer can help you remember?

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