The Session #15: How it all started

The SessionFirst Friday of the month means it’s time for The Session! That’s when (beer) bloggers across the web all write about a selected theme having to do with beer.

This month’s topic comes to us from London-based Boak and Bailey: How did it all start for you?

Continuing the “Beervangelism” theme, we’d like you to write about the moment when you saw the light. At what point did you realise you were a beer lover / geek / enthusiast? What beer(s) triggered the conversion? Did someone help you along your way, or did you come to it yourself?

In short; how did you get into good beer?

I have two answers, and I can’t say for sure which came first because the mists of time have worked their magic on my memory and my chronology is a bit mixed up. Both answers related to things happening within a fairly short period of each other which is why I can’t quite remember… it’s a bit of a "chicken and egg" problem in that sense, I guess.

It was the mid nineties, we were living in Spokane, and—being in my early twenties and going to school—the cheaper the beer I could get, the better. Sadly, I was a big drinker of Keystone Light, mostly because it was available at Costco for $7.99 per case. But I wasn’t overly particular; sometimes I’d "splurge" and pick up Miller Genuine Draft—in bottles!—and at some point I graduated to Molson Ice. (Had the higher alcohol content, natch.)

I was certainly aware of the existence of craft beers; Deschutes was a big thing in my home town of Bend, and I’d probably tried various micros from time to time. But—well, it’s a familiar story, so I won’t bore you any more with it.

One of the first things to raise my beer awareness and start me down the path was my friend Geoff insisting I try some microbrewed beer one night while we were at Ichabod’s North, and he bought a pitcher of Widmer Hefeweizen. The beer was orange and cloudy and smelled like fresh bread. My first impressions: thick, yeasty, bready, crisp, bracing, and the most delicious beer to pass my lips ever, at that point. Seriously, it was that good, and it really opened my eyes to what was happening with craft beer.

The other thing that happened was my introduction to homebrew. This was around the same time, and my friend Justin—who was also getting into good beer—brought over some homebrewed beer that a friend of his had made. It was Toad Spit Stout, the Irish stout recipe from Charlie Papazian’s New Complete Joy of Homebrewing. (Yes, I intentionally linked to the second-edition version knowing perfectly well there’s been a revised edition released.)

That Stout was far better than I frankly expected it to be, and opened my eyes to homebrewing the same way that Widmer’s Hefeweizen opened my eyes to microbrew. I was hooked. I bought Papazian’s book and it became my bible. I started homebrewing—clumsily at first, naturally—and explored Spokane’s tiny craft beer scene.

(A big help in this was Jim’s Homebrew—the best beer and homebrewing store in Spokane. Not only a homebrewing store, they had (have) several big refrigerator cases filled with craft and import beers—so I got to try a lot more beer than I would have otherwise (there were no other stores in Spokane at that time offering a variety even remotely like Jim’s).)

After that, I had the bug. Ever since I’m always looking to try new beers, new breweries, and learn something new. Back in 2004, I went online and "officially" launched The Brew Site… and the rest, as they say, is history.


  1. Great read. It brought back memories from my college days of spending many nights at the Tav on the Ave in Mankato, MN with my roommate. They had a deal where if someone had one of each of their 100 international and small craft beers, you would get a t-shirt. We worked hard for our shirt, but I don’t think we ever got there. We got too busy having to re-try certain favorites 🙂 That’s what opened my eyes to the difference between the regular mass-produced stuff and the good stuff.

  2. Thanks Michael! I like the t-shirt idea, I haven’t run across that before. Though if they expect you to drink at least 100 beers, I’d like a bit more than a shirt. 🙂

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