<P>I cannot remember the first time I tasted beer, but thanks to Ratebeer the last time is meticulously recorded and posted for all to see on the web. It may seem geeky and anal, but for me it was a natural progression.
<P>My first job, straight out of college, was serving in a dockside bar. During the day the place was full of dockers swilling gallons of Bass Mild in between jobs. Night time brought the ships crews in search of beer and cheap hookers. Explaining the difference between Worthington E and Guinness to confused Filipinos became second nature.
<P>The first real holiday I had away from my parents was spent traveling around Scotland with a mate who was mad about good beer. Most of the trip passed in an alcoholic blur but the one thing that I recall was that he was insistent that I should go with him to Germany the following year to try smoked beer in Bamberg. He painted such an idyllic picture of the place that six months of anticipation only increased the sheer pleasure of finally getting there. The town should be on every beer lover’s itinerary, with 9 breweries producing a fine range of Bavarian style beers in surroundings that don’t seem to have changed for centuries. This moment of enlightenment led me to the books of Michael Jackson who made me realize that there was a wealth of quality beer and brewing heritage almost on my doorstep.
<P>Bar wages weren’t enough to support the level of drinking I had now come to expect so I had moved to more financially rewarding jobs one of which led to a chance meeting with a man who unwittingly changed the course of my life. He was a project manager at a local oil refinery I walked past his office most days and paid little attention to him. One day though his door was slightly open and through the crack I could see a Belgian beer poster on the wall. I opened the door and most of the room was covered in beer memorabilia and books. After an hour of swapping beer stories I left with his phone number and one of his posters, which still has pride of place on my wall. A few months later he contacted me with the news that he was organizing a trip around Belgian breweries, and asked if I wanted to book a place. I think he already knew the answer. We visited De Dolle Brouwers, Rodenbach and Brugge the first year and have since been to Cantillon, Frank Boon, Orval, Abbaye des Rocs, Antwerp and Amsterdam beer festivals, Cologne, Düsseldorf and of course Bamberg. He still organizes tours and has an excellent <a hrefhttp://www.whitebeertravels.com target=window>website with a wealth of information on the best places to drink in Northern Europe.
<P>As I spent most of my time working to pay for my trips that it seemed inevitable that when a local farming family announced they were to open a brewery, I was first on the phone to see if they needed any staff. Thankfully the boss offered me a job straight away. I started by racking up and delivering beer, but as the business expanded I became more involved in the production side and spent the next 6 years as the brewer. I moved into a house across the farmyard from the brewery to be nearer to work. I went across to the brewery at midnight to check fermentations. My life revolved around the life cycle of yeast. Unfortunately a bad accident whilst brewing 18 months ago left me in hospital for seven weeks, and I am still unable to do my old job. (Anyone want to compare scars from brewing accidents?) Not that digging out a mash tun was fun, but I wish I could still do it. I am now the head brewer, overseeing the day-to-day operations, and keep a close eye on quality control, sampling all the beers we produce to ensure consistency. At least that’s what it says on my job description.
<P>Time away from the mash tun meant I had more time to surf the net and inevitably I found Ratebeer.com. The realization that I was indeed a beer geek came as no surprise to myself nor to my friends but now I could share my geekiness with like minded people. Any one who tells you that you’re wasting your time drinking all these different beers is wrong. It is our job to convert the Bud drinkers of the world to the delights of lambics and Trappist beers, imperial stouts and rauchbiers, and if we don’t manage it, at least we are having a hell of a party trying.