Keeping in touch with past beer relationships

Check in with some beers from your past and you may be surprised at what you find. Photo:

…But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity…

Two weeks ago while attending to three sets of viewing and funerals, many songs and lyrics repeated through car speakers and my head as I took a sentimental trip down memory lane. Finding the right words to say when going through a funeral’s receiving line can be quite difficult.

Since then, as I’ve struggled to put some words together to share with you, the lyrics above from Simon and Garfunkel’s song, Homeward Bound, continued to resonate.

Being with family and friends during these sad times reminded me of something that I’m sure many of you also experience as you age: Lost connections and relationships with family and friends.

How many times have you found yourself asking family and friends from across the years: “Why don’t we get together more often? This has been so much fun, we should do this again soon.”?

It’s a sad reality that as more responsibilities, priorities, and distractions fill our lives, things and people from our past get pushed out of the picture. It’s reality and often it’s unavoidable.

(At this point, you may be wondering how I’ll bridge the gap over into a beer conversation but, hold on, here goes…)

Driving home from my uncle’s funeral, I was near our local Wegmans grocery store and thought of past “relationships” with beer. What did I drink in my early formative years of beer-drinking? What did I like? What did I drink just for a buzz? What did I think tasted good…tasted interesting…tasted different?

If you’ve been drinking beer for more than a few years, you likely have gone through this evolution as well.

So, in I went to the grocery store to see what I could find that I typically overlook in search of something new, different, and/or interesting.

I picked up nine beers that have played some part in the early years of my beer drinking and appreciation. Other than being beers that I don’t typically drink anymore, there was not much rhyme or reason to selecting these beers other than they were available for sale as single units on the retailer’s shelf on this particular evening.

I list them out here for you below with some brief notes. The only order, by the way, that they are in is alphabetical. Please visit The Brew Lounge for a more detailed review and picture of each beer.

Amstel Light- This was the thinnest, most water-like, beer on the table. It had an unfortunate slight metallic taste to it. At 95 calories, it at least has that going for it for those concerned with calorie-counting. On the other hand, I’ll be looking forward to drinking some fresh Amstel (not Light) on its home turf next month.

Bass- After all of these years, this is still a pleasant drinking English Ale, if not a tad too sweet for my liking. That reminds me I’d like to track down John Courage and see what I would think almost twenty years later.

Guinness Draught and Extra Stout- The “meal in a glass” thing? At 125 calories, the Guinness Draught is not nearly as filling as many believe it to be. With the widget in the bottle, it certainly does deliver the creamy softness as when served on nitrogen draft. The Extra Stout version does weigh in a bit beefier at 176 calories and carries just a tinge more hoppiness. In both cases, this has always been, and continues to be, a very easy-drinking roasty stout.

Molson Canadian- Put it up there, I suppose, with the Mooseheads and Becks of the world that I used to think were important to have in my fridge. Tasting this nowadays, I can’t imagine why I ever liked this beer. It had the ever-so-tiniest hint of noticeable malt, but not much else.

Pilsner Urquell- To begin with I might note that a true Czech Pilsener can only originate from the town of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. All others are referred to as Pilsner-style; notice the subtle spelling difference. This beer ranked surprisingly as one of my favorites on the table during this sampling session. It smelled and tasted like I just walked into a brewpub and the brewers were beginning their brew day with grains in the brew kettle. It definitely had a bigger hop presence than I recall in my early days of drinking this beer. But, then again, it’s been so long since I’ve ordered and drank this beer that I probably don’t accurately recall much about this beer. This has definitely moved up my list of beers to try again soon.

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale- I can’t recall whether the traditionally clear bottles from this English brewery ever resulted in a skunked beer for me. Between the clear bottle and the lengthy trip from brewery to U.S. retail shelves, it would not be unexpected. Fortunately, the Nut Brown Ale that I sampled for this column presented itself in a brown bottle and unscathed. How did it stack up? It’s still as roasty and pleasant of a brown ale as I recall and would gladly have another.

Yuengling Lager and Lord Chesterfield Ale - Here in Pennsylvania we’ve been the envy of the beer drinking world ever since Yuengling took on an almost cult-like status fifteen, or so, years ago. Was it the unique name? I’m not quite sure, but I never took much of a liking to the flagship beer, simply called Lager. And that opinion still holds today. All I wrote on my tasting notes was simply “Nothing”. As in, I got absolutely nothing from this beer. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised by this reaction as I certainly did not expect such a vapid beer. Lord Chesterfield, however, was a totally different story. This beer, the Porter, and the Black ‘n’ Tan from Yuengling were three of my early favorites from this Pottsville-based brewery. This particular tasting I did was from a can and it served up a real pleasantly balanced beer with just a little extra kick of hops to keep things interesting.

As you continue to search out ever-newer and ever-more-different beers, I recommend not losing touch with some of the beers that helped to shape the basis of what you know today about beer. You may be surprised, as was I, when revisiting these beers that it more often has been we that have changed, not the beer.

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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar


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