RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Features
A Beer Virgin No More
ONE GAL’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF BEER KARMA
April 2, 2009
As I sit here amongst my moving boxes, having just wrapped over 300 bottles of beer in prep for another move, it suddenly occurred to me how very different my life has become in the last few years.
My journey into craft beer officially started two and a half years ago. That is when Ratebeer was suggested to me. I logged on, checked it out, and quickly lost interest.
A website? About beer? Big deal…Where are the shoes? The shopping? The make up? Where are the ladies? Men and beer? Who cares?
Several weeks later I heard with enthusiasm about these things called “Tastings” and I was incredibly and irrevocably intrigued. Now this…this was interesting to me.
“How do I get invited to one of these here tastings?” the young novice asked.
“You just join Ratebeer, introduce yourself to the locals, and there you go!” the seasoned mentor replied.
So back to Ratebeer I went…One month later I attended my first official beer tasting with the wonderful and generous, Columbus Crew. Ohiodad. Moejuck. Sliffy. Puddintane. Leopoldstoch. Nolankowal. Say hello to my first Ratebeerians! (Try explaining THOSE cell phone contacts to non Ratebeerians!)
I was so nervous that night! I was actually sick to my stomach before I walked in. I had never met ANY of these young men. And I was one of only two women there that night. And I had no good beer to bring. And I hate crowds. And I had no idea what a Barley Wine was. Or an IPA. And I had just recently thought Miller Light was the best beer around. And I didn’t have my own beer glass. And. And. And.
I think you understand now.
This tasting changed my life. Honestly. And opened doors I never knew were closed or existed!
Since that tasting I have had the honor and the pleasure of meeting over 60 “Ratebeerians” including 6 other beer gals, legitimate beer gals, and a whole host of wives and girlfriends of Ratebeerians. Women who like good beer DO exist!!
Additionally, I have communicated with so many more that I hope to some day meet.
I have traveled to numerous states just for beer or to meet beer people. I have attended numerous tastings in numerous cities. I have met members of the Cleveland Crew, The Tampa Crew, The Orlando Crew, and an awesome member of the San Francisco Crew. It’s easy to forget, but I am very lucky to have met so many wonderful people.
I have paid small fortunes to ship beer home, or load beer in my luggage when traveling. I know, it’s not that big of deal to some of you but to me it was huge.
Two years ago, it would never have occurred to me to go beer shopping when traveling.
I have tried more top beers than I have any right to, based on the generosity of fellow Ratebeerians. I map out every trip now by researching how many beer stops I can make along the way.
I carted a keg of Great Lakes Christmas Ale from Ohio to Orlando just so I could share this beer, on tap, with some fellow Ratebeerians.
I have brought my budding love of craft beer back to my non-beer friends and family, and made a little bit of progress. They still think I am nuts, but that’s okay. They still go with me to brewpubs and more than one of them has said “Hey, can I try that?”
So as previously mentioned my official beer journey started over two years ago, or did it????
If I flash back a little further, it seems beer karma has kind of always been around me, I just chose to ignore it.
When I was a child, my father owned a beverage drive-through in my hometown. I spent many a day frolicking in the empty beer and wine cases above his beer coolers. Seriously, my sister and I played for hours with old beer boxes.
I spent so much time playing amongst the alcohol. It never occurred to me that most children did not do this. How many children have a picture of themselves sitting on Santa’s lap in front of beer and wine bottles? Yes, apparently Santa likes to swing through beer drive-throughs too!
My father’s nickname was the Beer Baron. He passed away in 2003, long before I christened myself the Beer Virgin. I wonder what he would think of all that?
I recently found an old invoice list of his from that time frame. Circa 1978. I got a chuckle from reading the “Import” list. Molson. Guinness. You get the picture. They were divided into two groups: 6% alcohol and 3.4% alcohol.
As I was traveling down memory lane, I came upon a picture dad took of me at age three. I was drinking, and apparently enjoying, a Little Kings.
I grew up with a signed autograph picture of the Hamm’s man with his bear hanging on my living room wall. Yet, remarkably, neither of my parents were drinkers.
Beer karma…I hear you calling…but it will still be a while before I answer you.
Flash forward to adult hood. Marriage. As karma would have it, I married a beer guy. From day one I knew he looked down on all Budweiser products and I was subjected to lecture after lecture about the decline of beer in America and the evil that was Anheuser-Busch. I smiled and let him rant as any wonderful wife would. For holidays and birthdays I did what any good wife would do. I bought him lots of beer!
I had no clue what I was doing, of course, but I made the attempt. I went to stores that sold singles and would pick out beers based on the label. Egads!
I liked the shiny pretty labels the best!
The first beer I remember buying was Skull Splitter. I just loved the red foiled top and the Viking. I was pleased to find out the husband actually liked the beer a lot!
To his credit, he often tried to get me to join him in his pursuit of better beer, but I had little interest. I traveled to brewpubs with him, but that was about it. He gave me my first sip of Guinness and laughed when my face scrunched up into a ball. Bitter beer face number one.
“Who in the hell drinks this stuff and WHY?” is what I thought to myself.
Beer served only one purpose. To get me drunk while I was canoeing down a river or dancing in a club. Period.
Ahhh. So naïve she was.
Fast forward many years…
In the fall of 2006, shortly before joining Ratebeer, I took the trip of a lifetime to Ireland. I toured the whole island and saw beauty I didn’t know existed. One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to St. James Gate. I learned about the process of beer and the history of Guinness. Personal opinions aside about the decline of Guinness, this place was a blast to someone like myself. It was like a giant playground for me. My mind was suddenly opened. This was fascinating to me. I loved learning about the process. This barley becomes beer? What?
I wanted to soak up more and more knowledge. But, alas…I still didn’t like drinking it!
Three months after that trip I was sitting in a living room in Columbus, Ohio, at my first beer tasting.
Beer karma, here I am!
Just two and a half years later and I sit here wrapping bottles. From my cellar. I have a cellar!!! Who would have thought it?
And the cherry on top of this little beer journey of mine?
This weekend I got to be a small part of something I may never get to see again. I got to attend the launch party of a start up brewery, Cigar City Brewery, in Tampa. How awesome to be a part of something like that. It was like standing hand and hand with my beer karma. I could just feel it all around me. I was literally taking part in someone else’s dream.
The joy radiating from Joey and Wayne was so evident. They are doing want they love. And I got to witness a small part of beer history. It was awesome and I doubt I will forget the experience any time soon.
I still have so much to learn.
As a female rater I have faced more than one challenge. Being taken seriously in the testosterone laden beer world being challenge number one but there are definitely others.
My palate is not nearly as advanced as it should be or as I would like it to be. I can tell you what styles I like and don’t like, but I still can’t tell you what hop was used in the beer. Or identify all the flavors that others seem to identify. I still don’t like IPAs or hops all that well, and I still make the occasional bitter beer face. I have no idea why sours are considered beer and why so many of my fellow Ratebeerians love them so much. I have chosen to forgive most of them for that. For now.
I wish I had answered my beer karma call much earlier. Man. I have lost so much time ignoring that call. It has been so much fun. I look up to many of the beer gals on this site. The ones who REALLY know their beer. The Marias, the Hotstuffs, the Beershines of the world. These are the gals I admire. These ladies KNOW their beer.
I WANT to sit down and tell you what hop was used in a certain beer. I WANT to like the IPAs and the sours of the world. So I keep trying them in hopes that some day that beer karma will kick in and enlighten me to these marvels.
I want to discuss with you at great lengths my travels across the world to all the little beer places I discovered. I want you to tell me why I should or shouldn’t like a certain beer or a brewer and then I want to argue with you about that. All over a great beer, of course!
So I may not be where I want to be yet. And admittedly I have much more to see, do, learn, and taste. I estimate I still have roughly 160, 000 more Ratebeerians to meet and probably a half million more beers to try.
But I think it’s safe to say that I have come far from that scared beer virgin entering her first tasting over two years ago. Sometimes I think I should change my moniker to something a bit less “newbie”-like because I truly am not a beer virgin anymore. Maybe Beergal or Beer Virgin No More, or hey, how about Learning2LuvSours?
But then I remember that all of life is a journey, and there is so much more for me to learn in this beer world. So because of that I have decided it still remains a valid title. It continues to be relevant for me.
For each time I enter a new bar, a new brewpub, or sip a new beer, I am indeed, as always, a true Beer Virgin experiencing something for the very first time. And, well, I don’t want to ever lose that feeling of newness, wonder, and discovery.
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