Like most, my foray into beer began when I was 21. I was in the Army and had just transferred to Ft. Bragg. Being 21, I had no real concept of anything beyond the American ‘pale light lager’ as it was really the only thing found on the majority of liquor store shelves. In 1994 I was transferred to Mannheim, Germany for a three year tour, thus beginning what has grown into a passion for great beer. My exposure to the different german styles was both welcome and… intense! So much so that after returning from Germany, I had lost my ‘enthusiasm’ for what was generally being offered. I left the Army in 1996 thinking the only way I would be able to find good beer again, would be to travel back to Germany.
I was introduced to craft beer about a year later. I was living in Indianapolis at the time and my roommate had taken a road trip to New York. He brought back a case of raspberry wheat and a six pack of homebrewed beer he received from a friend. It only took us a couple of days to go through the case of raspberry wheat. The homebrew however, sat in the fridge for a few more days as we debated back and forth as to just how sick homemade beer might make us. Obviously, we had no idea what we were talking about and when we finally got around to drinking it, we were both surprised that somebody could turn out beer that good in their kitchen! The seed was planted. I knew, at some point before I died, that I absolutely had to find a way to make my own beer.
It wasn’t until 2001, after I moved back to Kansas City that I got around to buying a homebrew kit. Somebody at work mentioned he was a homebrewer. I had to know more and soon found myself at one of the only three homebrew shops in the area. I picked up all of the equipment I needed and a hefeweisen kit. I left the homebrew shop excited about the prospect of finally being able to brew my own beer. A month or so later, I poured my first homebrew into a glass. I really had no idea what to expect. It looked like a hefe! It smelled like a hefe! Was it going to be good? Was I going to die? Did I just brew a great big batch of lethal chemicals?! “Bottoms up!”
My mind went immediately back to Germany. Late summer, sitting outside with my friends and some of the locals at the little bar just off post. The lot of us, talking politics and the state of affairs between Germany and the U.S. and just how we would change things if any one of us were ever in charge. The smell of banana and clove and the anticipation that knowing another round was waiting for you as soon as you finished the one you were drinking. Whose round? Who cares. The only thing missing was the slice of lemon that accompanied the beer when you ordered it. I was hooked! Not only did my first homebrew not kill me but, it had exceeded any expectation I had for it! I. Made. Beer!
15 years and countless batches later, I still get excited at the prospect of being able to make my own beer. Every batch has the ability to be whatever you can imagine it to be. My viewpoint on the American beer market has changed to align with the landscape of what we have to offer. I feel that the American beer offerings, anymore, rival anything offered in Germany, or any where else for that matter! I am excited to be part of that movement and look forward to brewing beer for years to come! Go Beer!