The problem was, I still knew nothing about beer. I'd managed, over the course of more than three decades, to find a whopping three beers that I liked. Hmmmm, they were all brown. Perhaps that was the secret.
I looked at the people around me, at what they were drinking.
Black, oily-looking beer. Fizzy pale beer in foofoo glasses. Piss-colored yellow lagers.
And one guy, one guy was drinking a brownish beer. Copper-colored actually. A lot like my beloved Alaskan Amber.
"Excuse me," I said to the guy. "But what is that beer you're drinking?"
"It's called Cone Smoker," the guy replied. "They make it here. It's pretty good."
I thought it was a stupid name for a beer, but I asked the bartender - I think it was FutureDude - for a glass of this Cone Smoker stuff. He gave me a dubious look. I was, after all, That Guy That Only Likes Newcastle. I don't blame him for doubting me.
"Have you ever had a smoked beer before?" he asked.
"What's a smoked beer?" I answered with a question of my own.
"You should just try a small sample first." He handed me an overgrown shot glass with about an inch of beer in it.
I picked up the glass, and held it up to my nose, and I smelled the beer. That's the way I'd seen the PBDs do it. Then I tasted it.
It was yummy. Yummy and completely different than anything I'd ever had before.
Back in part one of this entry I wrote that my discovery of Pete's Wicked Ale hadn't been very dramatic. I wrote that I'd liked to have compared it to having a blindfold finally removed.
Well, I couldn't say it when I discovered Pete's, but sure as fuck could say it when I discovered Cone Smoker.
And it wasn't because the Cone Smoker was that great. It was great, but that wasn't the point. That wasn't the light that I'd finally seen. Nope, what made my discovery of Cone Smoker so important to me was that I'd never known that a beer could taste so different and still taste good.
That got me to theorizing that maybe, just maybe there were other beers out there, each different in its own way, but each also good in its own way.
I went, quite suddenly, from being a guy stuck in a world of piss and swill, a guy who had occasionally lucked into finding something drinkable, to a guy in a world of different beers with different tastes and smells. A world of good, maybe even great beers.
The piss and the swill hadn't been the world. It had only been a very small part of it.
A part that I was quite happy to leave forever.
It wasn't beer that I didn't like. It was lagers.
Now when I made that realization, that was a dramatic moment. From that moment on, I didn't see Rich O's beer menu as a haystack of swill in which I'd be lucky to find a tasty needle. From that moment on I saw that menu as a list of possibilities. A constant reminder of just how many beers were available to try. I knew that there'd still be some that I wouldn't care for. But that was okay, because there'd always be something else to try. And there'd be some that I would like, and there'd even be some that I'd love.
Since then I've probably tried 300 different beers. I've sought out brewpubs and beer bars in Las Vegas. I've flown to Portland Maine because there was a bar I wanted to check out. I've found that, besides lagers, I don't care for IPAs either. Or anything too hoppy. I've discovered the wonderful beers of Belgium, and the dark and mysterious imperial stouts. Hefeweizens and Winter brews. My God, the Winter brews.
I've turned into a beer connoisseur. A beer snob. A beer nut.
And it all started, really started I mean, with that small sample of New Albanian Cone Smoker, way back when.
Anyway, the reason I started writing this entry is because Cone Smoker (1580) is finally back on tap at Rich O's. It came back on Monday. I had a glass after work, and I bought myself a growler, and I'm having a glass right now.