Trying New Things
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my family, it’s that I should always try new things. When I was 8 years old, my beloved grandmother told of her aunt convincing her to eat olives for the first time. After the first one, my grandmother spit it out. Her aunt told her to eat two more and only then would my grandmother know if she actually disliked them or not. After trying the third olive, my grandmother loved them for the rest of her life. She tried the same experiment with me after telling the story. I still hated them after the third one (until recently at least—turns out they’re much better with gin), but she was glad that I gave them a chance.
Most folks I’ve talked to about Budweiser’s newly released macro American Ale have insulted it for one reason or another. Frankly, I think it’s fantastic. Mind you, I haven’t tried it yet, but will make sure to if someone brings it over. What’s important to me as a brewer and advocate of beer is that the American Ale will be on tap all over the place, including many restaurants where the owners and customers aren’t yet into what their local breweries are serving up. Trying it probably won’t convince anyone to immediately stop shaving and quit their jobs to work on a bottling line. At the very least, it will help some people realize that beer is more complex and interesting than the “lite” lagers they’re used to, just as that first taste of Yuengling Porter did for me years ago.
Changing people’s minds about beer is one of my favorite parts of the job, whether they’re not yet beer drinkers or only stick to the light lagers—which we don’t serve at the pub. The fun isn’t in simply selling more beer. If that’s all I wanted to do, I could brew some super-light ale with phony fruit flavoring, but that kind of “soda” isn’t going to inspire much further interest in other styles (and I’m not going to waste a tap line on it). Instead I make sure to have a beer on tap that makes a good introduction. Of the 40 or so different styles I’m brewing this year, two of the best “intro beers” have been the Saison and Schwarzbier. These beers don’t taste like many newcomers anticipate, especially the latter, which, based on the color, some expect to be heavy and bitter. Having a new customer be at first hesitant to try something, and then smile and ask for a pint, is such a simple way to get them interested in a whole new territory of styles and flavors.
Of course, if you’re reading this magazine, you’ve probably figured it out—keep trying new things. The customers at The TAP, along with the supportive ownership, have essentially told me, “Go have fun, let us know what you come up with.” We tore through the Old Ale, finished off the Saison in half the time I anticipated, and happily drank Coffee Stout in the middle of summer. As a result, I get to keep creating new brews. I currently have a Belgian IPA fermenting next to the oak whiskey barrels of Joshua Norton Imperial Stout, but I always make sure to keep a good introduction beer on tap, because everybody should be having this much fun trying new things. ■