I was having this conversation with a couple of customers at my bar the other night and figured it would be a good topic here. What are those “cornerstone” beers you drank at one point in your life that made you really wonder where beer can take you and really made you explore your taste buds and expand your palette even more? I’m sure the answer will be different for many people depending on how old you are or when you started drinking but we all got to this point one way or the other, right? 1) Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This wasn’t the first pale ale or ipa, even, that I ever drank but I’ll always remember the first time I had it. I was either 18 or 19 and it was ‘96 and...I hated it. It felt like I was drinking a Christmas tree. Just so much pine. I had never tasted anything like it before. I sense a lot of people would pick this one, and as you might guess, I grew to love it. My “gateway” beer of some sorts. 2) Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen. I’ll never forget the first time I smelled this beer. I was in my early 20s when a buddy who worked at a shop with an extensive imported selection insisted I drink this. It smelled like a campfire, baked beans, smoked sausage. I was like “what the fuck is this?” Now, I was already familiar with hefes, dopplebocks, and dunkels but I figure, no way am I gonna like this. Well...I freaking loved it from the first sip. It really made me wonder what else, beer wise, I could possibly like. 3) Founders Breakfast Stout. Now, I could easily pick Brooklyn Chocolate Stout or Sammy Smith Oatmeal Stout (hell, I could pick any Sam Smith beer as a beer influence in my life) as the stout that made expand from the Guinness’ and Murphy’s of the world but FBS is the one that really did me in. It literally tasted like a chocolate covered oatmeal cookie dipped in coffee. It had such richness and complexity to it. The coffee bitterness rounded out the flavors so much. I wanted to bathe in it. It’s still one of my favorites. It pretty much introduced me to the world of adjuncts and all the stouts I drink now. A legend of a beer imho. 4) Maine Lunch. This is the ipa that truly fucked me up. I couldn’t believe that flavor I got the first times I drank it. That citrusy dank that really tastes so fucking good. And, not only that, but it was soft, it still had just the right bitterness. Still enough pine to keep you happy. It was the first ipa I had that if I scored beers here, I would have given it all 5s. It’s kinda sad now because unless I find it on tap (rare), I don’t quite seem to adore it the way I used to (thank you hazy NEIPAs) but this beer was my precursor to all the Other Half, Grimm, Sand City I drink now. The other thing Lunch did to me was convince me $7 or $8 wasn’t too much money for 1 beer. I literally couldn’t have enough of this beer back 5 years ago. I definitely have other beers that have wowed me or influenced me but these are my 4. I’ve also had plenty of crappy beer and liquor too but that’s for another conversation. What say you, BA?