Admittedly, it’s not always easy thinking up themes for my Beer Traveler column in All About Beer. But even at the beginning of the year I knew that with the Totality streaking across the entire USA, there’d be enough breweries submerged in darkness to squeeze a handful into a travel story. Featured herein are breweries from Pacific City, OR where the Path of Totality first hits land, through Salem (also in OR), Lincoln, NE, St. Louis, Paducah, KY (probably the first time Paducah has appeared in any beer-related travel story), Nashville, and Greenville, SC (from the comments, boy are folks in nearby Columbus and Charleston, SC upset about their omission through my lack of ability to include every single brewery that’s going to experience mid-morning nighttime.) Anyway, feast your eyes on these (you don’t even need those special glasses to view it.)
Drinking a maß of Märzen or sipping a stange of Kölsch is okay as far as trying to celebrate the Reinheitsgebot and Germany’s 500-year-old beer purity law, but when I was invited to head to the land of lagers and weisses to see how this tradition is holding up, I found two things: braumeisters who are, admittedly, a bit jealous of the creativity that modern craft (or privatebraueries) allow, but also people who take great pride in making the beers that their customers love and feel very passion about as being real bier! Southern Germany is postcard picture beautiful at nearly every turn. Prost!
Growing up in Southern California, and even becoming a burgeoning beer geek down there, I didn’t have much opportunity to become exposed to a real beer culture. Sure it’s booming all over the Southland now, but it was late to the table. Real estate is too expensive for manufacturing. Beer wasn’t seen as stylish as wine and cocktails. Beer has calories and the camera adds ten pints. But before San Diego changed all that, there was beer in Temecula, courtesy of one Vinnie Cilurzo now of Russian River fame! And today, the bedroom community that services both LA and SD is home to nearly a dozen breweries.
What is barely touched on in this story is that I wanted to write this story as a way to kind of illustrate to my dad what I do for a living. He wasn’t much of a craft beer drinker. He is an avid golfer. Temecula is home to some great golf courses, which he’s been playing since I was a little kid and got to drive the golf cart. So I pitched both him, and my editor at All About Beer, this story where he and I would hit the links by day and the myriad breweries by night. (I’m scarcely better at golf now, but my dad has since developed a passion for Berliner Weisse and even barrel-aged sour beers including Russian River Consecration!!)
Beer magazines are really good at making sure that they cover more than just beer; they shine a spotlight on the men and women who actually make it. Y’know, the hands in the whole “hand-crafted” thing. I got to do a li’l spotlighting of my own on Allagash’s Jason Perkins (who makes some of my favorite sour cherry beers) in Portland, ME, Duck Rabbit’s Paul Philippon (who keeps the light shining on dark beers) in Farmville, NC, & Carton’s Pete Dickson (who, sorry, prefers to be out of the spotlight) in Atlantic Highlands
Move over hops?
Yes, there are oddball adjuncts appearing in beers today—Stilton cheese culture and beard cultures, civet poop coffee and elephant poop coffee, bull testicles and dung-smoked whale testicles—but as much as cucumbers seem weird to throw in a beer, once shock wears off, deft and delicious beer remains.
I’m not sure which is more astonishing: that there are several beers made with this vegetable or the fact that cucumbers aren’t veggies at all.
The inspiration behind this story was actually heading home for the holidays and having my cousin pour me some geeky, ultra-unobtainable bottles
. I definitely enjoyed getting to drink some of these beers, but wondered how it was that those were the types of beers he typically drinks instead of, like me, on special occasions.
Some beers get fussed over. Some are downright coveted. Rarely are such specimens found perched on the shelf of your local grocer or even in the chiller at your nearest bottle shop. It wasn’t terribly long ago that interesting beer was hard to find on supermarket shelves. Now, the more rare the beer, the faster it disappears from said real estate. Increasingly, smaller breweries are turning to pricey memberships to get their most artful expressions straight to the mouths of devout fans.
Sometimes I give myself little challenges. Sneak a certain impertinent word into a story. Sneak it into three stories. Spin gravitas out of pop culture. Or give myself the task of writing a travel story about hitting all the breweries in an entire country. In a weekend. I ruled out Liechtenstein because it doesn’t have breweries. It has A brewery. But, since I was already living in Amsterdam at the time being, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg made perfect sense. And I know just a few basic phrases in French and German to have gotten me around the Luxembourgish countryside that led to this story in All About Beer.