Confessions of a Beer Novice: 3 Steps Forward, 1 (Large) Step Back

March 26, 2008 at 7:11 pm (Beer) (, )

Two questions I have:

1) Can one appreciate beer without being a “beer drinker”?

2) Could I be allergic to beer?

So. I was optimistic. Three good run-ins with beer:

 First, I had a taste of Founder’s Blushing Monk at a party. A Belgian-style ale, fermented with loads of raspberries. It weighs in at a whopping 12.3% alcohol, though it doesn’t seem like it. This beer could really sneak up on you — so delicious and not heavy at all. A perfect combination of sweet and tart, with lively bubbles and an underlying graininess that supported the raspberries quite nicely. Great, wonderful, bring on more beer.

Founder’s Rubaeus was the natural next step. The Blushing Monk has been described as the “Imperial Rubaeus” — the former is fermented with four times the amount of raspberries and is about double in alcohol. The Rubaeus was lighter in color, with not quite the intensity of raspberry flavor that the Blushing Monk has. I brought this to a BYOB dinner with some friends. J. drank most of this, and I just had a taste. It’s good, I thought. I could drink a whole bottle of that. But, of course, I opted for a glass of wine (the new Colterenzio Gewurztraminer from northern Italy — SO GOOD).  

And then, at a tasting at LUSH, I tried the Brasserie Lebbe L’Amalthée (meaning “the malted”). It’s a French Farmhouse-style Ale — quite hoppy, but so fun and lively I could hardly complain. Lemon, honey, herbs — and a good story: Pierre Lebbe mainly produces goat cheese (thus the huge goat on the label), but due to his Belgian roots, he has tinkered around with beer from time to time. All of it is organic and bio-dynamic. The only things that don’t come from his farm are the hops and the yeast, and the grains that can’t be used in the beer are recycled to be goat feed. I’m a sucker for a good story, so I was quite endeared to this beer. And, again, I actually did appreciate the taste.

I was feeling good. Three for three.

Then, one night after work, Erin, Kelly and I went to the Twisted Spoke. “I’ll have the Robert the Bruce on draft,” I said, trying to act like it wasn’t — oh, maybe — the third time in my life I’d ordered a beer. Erin almost had an aneurysm. “You’re having a beer!?” “Yes,” I said, “I really want to be able to appreciate beer. So, gotta do it.”

Three Floyds Robert the Bruce is a Scottish-style Ale. Malty, sort of sweet, pretty pleasant actually. Great, I thought upon taking the first sip. I can definitely drink a pint of this.

But, no. I absolutely could not. I watched the beer level in Erin and Kelly’s glasses get lower and lower as mine barely crept down. I felt sort of ill. I finally stopped tormenting myself and passed my glass (quite shamefacedly) to Erin.

 Okay, so back to my questions. 

1) I really didn’t mind the taste of Robert the Bruce. In terms of beers, it was actually one of the nicer. But, I just could not drink a full glass of it. I could TASTE, but could not DRINK. Do I have to be a “beer drinker” to be able to appreciate the taste of beer? If I just have sips at tastings or from obliging friends, will I be able to judge and describe a beer with authority? Or am I condemned to being a beer novice forever? I guess my ultimate question is: can one be a beer connoisseur without being a beer drinker? Or is the enjoyment inherent in drinking part of connoisseurship?

2) Beer allergies? Is it possible, given the fact that I can drink wine and spirits no problem, that I am allergic to beer? What can explain my beer aversion: is it physiological, psychological, or ultimately, just a matter of taste?

 Posted by Jane



  1. Lance said,

    Starting with the Belgians is a good philosophy, I like that line of thinking. I recommend some of the Helio-Centric or Blanche de Namur next; those will have you polishing off bombers in no time.

  2. erin said,

    I think God has given you this reaction to beer so that I might always have a reliable source for half-finished pints, and the sense that I am rescuing a damsel in hops-induced distress.

    Kidding! We’ll find you the right beer, don’t worry.

  3. Rachel said,

    Good try, kid. The key is to keep drinking and don’t let one mis-step get you down. Hands-on practice is the best solution…I’ll help! And, ironically, I would suggest avoiding ‘extreme’ brews…despite Lush’s affinity for them, they are not always friendly to novice beer drinkers.


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