Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Moment of Enlightenment

We all have those moments in life when your outlook or perception on a specific item or subject changes forever. In the beer community, the first moment of enlightenment is when non-beer-drinkers take the plunge into a new world they never knew existed. And it usually starts with a single beer or an experience that will open your eyes to this amazing product. The vast majority of us out there went through a moment like this because we were unaware of the wonderful variations in flavors, aromatics, and experiences beer had to offer. Those moments are worth sharing, talking about, hearing about, and writing about.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. A copper colored beer, a smell that I never knew could come out of a beer, and a thick head that did not fade away as quickly as I was used to. Then, I took a sip and the epiphany was complete. "Wow!" I said. I didn't know what I was drinking or even if I liked it. But I kept drinking it because it was so different from the usual "beer" I had grown accustomed to.

My eye-opening brew was Samuel Adams Boston Lager. From there, I used all the Samuel Adams beer verities available at the time as a stepping stone. I was so impressed with Boston Lager that I told myself to make it a mission to try all of the styles Sam Adams had to offer. Once I was introduced to their other styles available though verity packs and seasonal releases, the groundwork was set. I used those as stepping-stones as I ventured off to authentic, flavorful beers from the small craft-brewing community and from around the world. Although The Boston Beer Company receives a lot of negativity because of their interpretation or twists they place on some of their products, I hold them dear to my heart. It was because of The Boston Beer Company and that European Amber Lager called Sam Adams Boston Lager that led me to become an enthusiast, then a nerd, then a geek, and eventually a Certified Cicerone®. I now always have a few bottles of it in my fridge at all times; it is my go-to beer.

While tasting so many beers and learning everything I can from every new beer I experienced, I was inundated with information overload. Yet, I wanted to keep learning, tasting, experiencing, and sharing. I was so moved by my life-changing experiences with full-flavored beers that I felt a duty to share what I have learned. I knew that I had to let everyone else know what real beer was. Problem was I didn't know how.

The opportunity arose when a friend of mine that I have known since kindergarten wanted to have get-together at her home. Nothing but lots of food, drinks, and video games! (Just like old times.) Her husband was entrusting me to bring some good brews. (I was already establishing myself as the go-to guy for beer recommendations amongst my friends). I arrived with a case of easy drinking beer for the masses and two costume six-packs from my local bottle shop for those that wanted to explore. It was a small group so only six different beers (two bottles each) I thought would be enough.

After some good homemade delicious food and pot luck style stuff, we all began to loosen up and play some games. It was time for me to start opening some bottles. Everyone was eager to try the first offering. There were fewer participants on the second beer and fewer still by the third. By the fourth beer I popped open, only one guy that recently turned 21 years of age kept coming back. The last three beers I had were split between this curious fellow and me. I will never forget the look on his face when he tried the last beer I offered. (It was an American Imperial IPA.) He takes a sip, looked at his glass, then looked at me with a face of awe. His simple question assured me that he experienced something magical. He asked, "Is this how beer is supposed to taste like!?" I smiled and proudly said, "My job here is done." I raised my glass and we toasted.

That single moment changed my personality and character. That was not this first time nor has it been the last. My brother-in-law was your typical beer drinker that only had one perception of what beer tasted like. I did not have to do much work with him when he came to me for guidance. He already found the light with Bavarian Hefewiezen’s. I simply introduced him to other styles that he might enjoy. Now, he is always excited to show off about all the new beers he had and loved. I would be lying if I said that it does not bring as smile to my face listening to him brag. Even more recently, a good friend of mine admitted that she was introduced to the wonders of beer though my willingness to share my knowledge (and my beers). It was second nature for me to share my thoughts as we had some tasters at the brewery we were at, and the end result was she was enlightened. I though I was being a good friend and showing hospitality, but I guess my instinct of beer-teacher took over. The rest is history and she is slowly, but surely, becoming a knowledgeable beer enthusiast. And I could not be more proud of her.

If I can change only one person's perception of beer, it is all worth it. All the negativity from those that are close minded becomes obsolete in that moment and makes it all worth it. Samuel Adams Boston Lager opened the doors for me. I find it only fair to return the favor by sharing my experiences and knowledge. My moment of enlightenment lead me to help others see the light and feel what I feel with every sip I take. I hope sharing my experience here will incite others in the beer community to do the same.


Gilbert C. Perez, Certified Cicerone®