My interest in craft beer was a gradual one. Originally, I actually was hugely into red wine (I have my Dad to thank for that). I fell in love with the whole process of pouring the wine into the right glass, admiring its color, taking in its aroma, and finally enjoying how it tasted. It fascinated me how the same style of wine could taste different depending on where the grapes were grown, what year (or vintage) it was, and how old it has been aged for. What really stuck with me was the idea that wine in the bottle is a living thing; if I opened it on this day, it would taste completely different than if I had opened it on any other day. All of the above reasons why I loved wine so much is very much the same exact reasons why beer fascinates me so much to this day. So really, my love and appreciation of craft beer came very easily to me because most of the reasons why I initially fell in love with wine, were easily transferable to beer itself.
Like I said, my interest in craft beer was a gradual one. Like most beginnings, I drank Miller High Life, MGD, and the occasional Lienenkugel and Sprecher having grown up in the Milwaukee, WI area. I never thought much of them because this is what I thought beer was and I accepted that. Going into college, I still had my love of wine but was unable to partake as often due to the cost and truthfully, it was a special thing my Dad and I shared when we were together. I went to parties and drank massive amounts of beer and liquor and through that, found another interest in Scotch Whiskey (which I still to this day enjoy a snifter of Scotch with a fine cigar every now and again).
What really finally clicked for me in my memory towards craft beer was the year after I graduated college in 2008. I was roommates with Andy and we decided to start hosting monthly events at our apartment. Each month, everyone invited would bring a six pack of a beer they have never had before to share it with everyone else. That fabled first month (January 2009) was my first taste of real craft brewing. I vividly still remember my first taste of year old Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (2008 Vintage), year old Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (2008 Vintage), Victory Storm King, and Bells Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout. After that, the rest is history.
To this day, those beers still have a special place in my heart and memory as the breaking point into my love of real beer. I remember saying (out loud) when I first tasted Founders KBS (perhaps my most beloved of everything I have had to date), “What is this?!” I still enjoy a great bottle of wine here and there, but nothing really compares to that perfect glass of brewed goodness in my mind.
Sweem’s Review Process
My reviews are purely a reference tool for my own personal use. There will be (and already has been) a time when I forget how much I really liked or hated a particular beer. I do not get hugely technical about the chemical breakdown of a beer but, rather, take each one as-is and try to discern what the beer is like according to BeerAdvocates rating system; it’s appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall. The only rule I really try to stick to is carefully consider the actual style the beer in question is classified under and review accordingly.