(If you’re underage, substitute the word ‘soda’ for ‘beer’…or just get a fake i.d. already. What are you waiting for, kid?)
What’s your favorite type of beer? You might even be naive enough to think you have one. Maybe it’s the only beer you drink, ever.
I’m here to tell you that you’re life so far has been one big dramatic lie. You may think you’re in love with your particular brand of beer. But you are wrong. How do I know this? Because once upon a time, I thought I’d had a favorite beer as well.
It was freshman year. My first craft brew, “Fat Tire” by New Belgium. At the time, it swept away the flat taste of the mundane Midwest swill that had lauded itself as “beer” up to that point in my life. In short, I thought I was in love.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy Fat Tire. I like it a lot. I still buy it once in a while. But within unbridled commitment without exploration lies the danger of never discovering what it is you truly love.
So after dabbling with some “experiments” in the laboratory (local bars), I decided to do what I always do: engage in some stupid arbitrary contest with myself that produces some form of novelty in my life. “Over the course of this semester”, I tell all my friends, “I will try 100 different beers.”
If they still listened to my ridiculous ramblings and ideas, they might ask, “why?”
Because most people buy a car and keep it. Because most people are from a city and stay there. Because a lot of people think Busch Lite is actually beer.
Often times, early in life, sometimes before the law suggests, you discover beer. Perhaps your family introduces you, perhaps you met beer in the schoolyard, or it was one of your brother’s friends, whatever. The point is, you discovered beer. In school they taught you the facts, but never the feelings, so you had to find out on your own. Therefore, the first beer stands out as the best beer. I posit that this is because you never knew any better. What’s that saying about fish in the sea? I think it’s related to the amount of hops in a barrel. Either way, the lucky ones eventually discover there is more out there.
But it’s a fearful transition. You know the feeling. You’ve found something you like, that you enjoy, that you’ve grown content with. You’re comfortable with it, maybe even attached to it. It’s a scary world out there, so what’s the harm in relishing in something you know? You’re completely certain that your $15 will be well spent because you’ve tasted it before. But.
What’s in that black 6-pack over there? It’s wedged between a couple other things you’ve never heard of. Is that even beer? The bottles look different. Darker? Longer, maybe. So you get curious. You examine the room, make sure nobody’s watching as you take the forbidden walk to decadent and unknown savagery. After examining the label, you discover some words that you’ve seen before but never contemplated. Words like “hops”, “barley”, “malt”…chocolate? What is this world that you’ve willingly walked into?
But you’re feeling daring. You’re thinking outside the box. You want to make that goddamn leap. Hell, you’ve always wondered if, just maybe, there was something else out there for you. You’re comfortable with your beer now, but what if this new one is downright exhilarating?
Well, it might not be. It might make you uncomfortable. Or worse. You might hate that beer. It might be a waste of your time and money. But think of it another way, good sir/madame: it might be a learning experience. How are you to ever know what is the perfect beer for you unless you’ve lept outside of where you’re comfortable standing? You might realize you don’t like bitter hops, and that you prefer a smooth chocolate stout. Or maybe, those bitter hops will grow on your taste buds, and you’ll begin to take delight in a palate-busting double IPA.
So what are you going to do? I say, purchase the pack of the unknown. No, not next time. Now. If you’re feeling like trying something new, you’re probably ready for it. If you’re afraid of something new, you’re most certainly craving it. You can always go back to the old beer if you don’t like what else is out there. So take the leap. Wing it.
And in 20 years, you can successfully say that you’ve waded through the options, and came to a well educated conclusion. You did your research, and you have stories to tell. Your friends may all think they have a favorite beer, but you, my friend, will know.