Yesterday afternoon, Dan and I walked down the street to the new establishment in our neighborhood, Bier Station. It is unbelievable to me that this multi-occupied location, is now what probably can be described as Dan’s vision of heaven. When we first moved into our house almost 25 years ago, this same location housed a Circle K convenience store. We would walk down there with the kids to get Icees. Ali used to tell us that when she grew up, she and Sam would live in the house next door and we would still walk down to the Circle K together. At this point, I am thinking that what Bier Station is selling would probably make that proposition kind of attractive again.
I too am happy about the arrival of the new place. The fact that Dan and I can walk a couple blocks and be amongst some first class beers and people who love them is something I celebrate too. This morning I put some thought into my own evolution as a beer lover.
Phase 1 – The Early Years – Western New York was Genesee Beer country. Those times in high school when I would have beer (and I am here to tell you that it did not happen very often), the beverage of the age was Genny Cream Ale. Turns out that Genny Cream and I were both born in the same year.
Phase 2 – The College Years – When I think of college beer, it is in a pitcher. Union College in Schenectady, New York was its own little world plopped down in the middle of a very working class town. With a student body of about 2000, the college had two bars. There was the Skellar in the basement of the Old Chapel – a charmingly dark, dank atmosphere that had changed little from when my dad hung out there in the 1950s. There was also the Pub – a more genteel establishment that I became student manager of during my last years at the college. Between those two places and our favorite townie bars that were within walking distance of the campus, a poor college student could always find a pitcher and a stack of plastic cups for about $2.
Phase 3 – The Law School Years – If we were poor in college, we were super poor while Dan was in law school. We somehow thought we were old enough to get married and be on our own. It worked, but dear god! We moved to Columbia, Missouri with the remaining dollars from our college jobs, and no job for me. When I did get a job, I made little over minimum wage. Our beer of choice during this phase was a case of 9-0-5 long necks that we could get for a very reasonable price and Dan would carry from the store several blocks away to our apartment.
Phase 4 – The Raising Kids Years – I think what may have happened in this phase is that we started to at least have a steady, better income. With that came more sophisticated choices as well as an expansion of choices. The beer world was starting to change.
Phase 5 – The Homebrewing Years – This phase started several years ago when Dan brewed his first batch of beer. This is the phase that really changed my own paradigm. Brewing beer started like a science experiment, but transformed into a craft and passion. Dan’s learning about beer styles and techniques got shared with me. His desire to taste different kinds of beers allowed my own palate to be expanded. We have travelled to the National Homebrewing Conference, the Great American Beer Festival, and some delightful brew pubs and breweries during this phase. We host beer tastings for Dan’s Rotary group that introduce styles and varieties. We have a number of gatherings at our house throughout the year because when you do brew beer, you can’t drink it all yourself. Dan’s beer has gone to support causes of others, and celebrations of friends.
Because of Phase 5 I now know that I love the porters and I also am fond of a hoppy beer. I like the Saisons, I can find a place in my taste library for some sours, and pretty much anything that was put in a barrel that previously held a brown liquor is going to win me over.
Yesterday at Bier Station, we met up with four adult friends and one charming baby friend. I had a Goose Island Big John Imperial Stout. It was rich, kind of chocolatey and a perfect cold January afternoon sipper. We walked home, happy that this phase of our life continues to offer us such delights.
We talk and dream about a Phase 6. Between Dan’s brewing smart and Sam’s restaurant smarts … we shall see.