Back when I was young, shortly after the glaciers retreated, I would drink whatever I could get my hands on.
For a long time, whatever I could get my hands on was Jack. My friend Eddie's dad owned a liquor store in Louisville, and we could get all the Jack we wanted. It was weird. Eddie's dad knew that we were going to steal something from the store, and he told us to just stick to Jack and to never, never take any beer. I never did figure out what that was all about.
So anyway, we drank Jack and we drove around in Eddie's van with all of our friends and generally amazed ourselves that we never got arrested or worse. We didn't drink Jack because we particularly liked the stuff, but because like I said - we could get all we wanted.
Which was a lot.
After Eddie joined the Army and disappeared from the face of the Earth, I switched to beer. Swill, actually. Whatever I could get my hands on. Whatever was available. Budweiser at a friends apartment. Little King's down by the river. It didn't matter what it was, I didn't like any of it. But at that age I already knew that beggars could not be choosers.
And so it began.
Eventually, my taste buds having been completely pussified by swill, I actually convinced myself that there was nothing wrong with what I was drinking. That there was something wrong with me. That for some reason I didn't like beer, but that I could at least tolerate it when necessary. To keep up appearances. Or whatever.
Well beyond my 21st birthday, I still drank Bud Light. Or Coors Light. I actually thought that there was a difference between the two, but I can't for the life of me imagine what that difference might have been.
Beer was just something that I didn't like. And forget about anything stronger than beer. I've always been a lightweight, and once I finally realized it, after rolling Eddie's van into the Ohio River, I never drank the strong stuff again.
Except for shots. With Holly. But that's only for special occasions. Like when I'm with Holly.
I miss Holly.
Anyway, when I lived in Omaha, I'd often go for months at a time without a drop of alcohol. Not because I'd become a Jesus freak or anything, just because I never liked the stuff and I didn't see the point of drinking something that I didn't like. Plus I had this crazy idea that it might affect my pool game.
When I moved to Seattle, I ran a pool league for a while. It was called The Bud Light Pool League. So, guess what beer I drank? Bud Fucking Light of course. Gallons of it over the course of a year or two. I still didn't like it, but I drank it out of loyalty or some bullshit like that.
And then, in 1994 or so, everything changed.
I was shooting pool at my regular bar in Kent Washington and this chick came in. A hot chick. I say that now but I really couldn't even begin to describe what she actually looked like. I just know that she must have been hot. She must have been hot because she offered me a weird beer, and I tried it.
I tried it, and I liked it.
Me. The guy that had never had a sip of beer that he liked in his entire life. The guy that only drank because everyone else was doing it. The genetic freak who lacked the ability to enjoy beer at all. That guy had a glass of beer, and actually enjoyed every bit of it.
Then that guy had another.
That beer was Pete's Wicked Ale.
My first non-lager.
I'd like to say that it was like being blindfolded for my entire life and then suddenly being given the gift of sight. I'd like to say that, but it wasn't nearly as dramatic.
I'd simply found a beer that I liked. So I drank it. And nothing else.
There was no need for anything else. The way I saw it, I'd disliked 99% of all of the beers I'd ever tried, and I'd finally found something that I enjoyed. So why tempt fate by trying anything else?
There was no reason that I could think of, but eventually fate came up with a reason that I couldn't ignore.
I was in Juneau Alaska, and none of the bars had Pete's.
I asked one of the bartenders at one of those bars for a recommendation, and he poured me a pint of some stuff I'd never heard of.
Alaskan Amber. "Brewed right here in Juneau," the bartender told me. Like I was going to be impressed or something.
I don't think that I really cared too much for Alaskan Amber when I first tried it. I certainly didn't start seeking it out once I moved back to Washington. What I did was I went back to Pete's Wicked Ale until that fateful day when the owner of my favorite bar told me that they'd stopped carrying it forever. Apparently I was the only one drinking it, plus the entire Pete's operation had been sold to some outfit back East.
When you're in Western Washington, just about everywhere is back East.
So, desperate to find something, anything to drink besides Bud Fucking Light, I looked at the taps along the bar. I mean, for the first time I really looked at them.
Red Hook? I'd tried it once and it was swill.
Sierra Nevada? Give me a break. Everything I'd hated about beer for years, condensed and magnified.
Henry Weinhard's Hefeweizen? At least it wasn't a lager, but my friend John already drank that, and I didn't want to simply copy him. Plus the citrus wedge it was always served with seemed a little gay.
And, of course, there were all the obligatory taps for, as Roger calls them, mass-produced industrial swill. I didn't even consider those.
Then I saw a tap that caught my eye.
(to be continued)