I poured samples of black lager with barrel-aged sumatra beans, a honey and citrus accented weissbier, and a tropical DIPA into the glasses of 850+ patrons. Our table at this year’s Brew Woo stood alongside the reps of 80 other local craft breweries. With heaps of attendees, each table had just moments to “woo” them before they resumed their sample-binge. After my team served the masses, we each stole away to participate in our own tastings. Attending Worcester’s beer fest was strategic– I was traveling to Crescent City, Florida the following day, a sleepy town with sparse brewery options, each requiring a 20+ mile drive. My family trips are almost nefariously centered around craft beer-deserts like this one. While I’m no stranger to a limited beer selection, I’ve become spoiled by New England’s offerings. I reflected on this privilege while descending into an objectively barren land.
In my formative beer-drinking days, I sipped from light-damaged bottles and lugged a dripping cooler down the path of a pristine beach, a scene equivalent to the framework of a Corona commercial. The U.S. Virgin Islands, with its drool-worthy views and salty provisions, initially missed the boat on quality imports (trigger-warning: more wordplay ahead). Island brew culture is growing, but the majority of menus are grounded in domestics from Anheuser-Busch and its rival giants. My inaugural pick was Coors Light, for hydration purposes. My town’s sole taproom later offered me a rudimentary lesson on approachable German styles. From there- I was hooked on wheats (alternatively, ‘I was ridin’ with Weizens!’). I felt cultured, but still hadn’t grasped the global significance of beer- An accidental birth that sparked revolution: from survival to ritual, medieval hobby to a global artform. I certainly didn’t understand the bitter assault of hops or the purpose of a full-bodied beer.
To no one’s surprise, my palate convulsed with culture-shock upon voyage to NEIPA country. I was a light-wheat-drinking-light-weight, hoisted into a region famed for its generously hopped brews. Luckily, I found my taste buds in the care of the Deadhorse Hill crew during development of the late, great, Simjang. They nursed my fledgling buds, pairing craft cocktails and local beer to creative dishes from the kitchen. New England IPAs still hadn’t won me over, but a brewery tour in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania challenged that. My friend brought me to Bonn Place Brewing Co. where I scanned the board before sampling his take on a New England IPA “Skootch”. It blew. my. socks. off. Did my palate finally come around, or was the ‘cover song’ better than the original? Get those pitchforks ready, Yankees.
New IPA obsession ignited, I set out on a year’s long IPA affair before joining the ranks at Redemption Rock Brewing Co. in 2021.This role has been a hands-on education in the true craft of brewing and the multiple hats required to make it all click. I’ve garnered the skills to empower the craft-beer curious and grapple with beer snobs alike. Through fests, courses, and hard-earned lessons (a face sprayed with beer from faulty keg changes) I’ve fallen deep into the craft beer cult. As my trip down South comes to an end, I’m happy to report that a local packie offered some of the great craft that Florida has to offer- J. Wakefield, Invasive Species, and Funky Buddha. Until I return to New England’s treasures, I’ll settle into this Spanish-moss shaded porch, with a fruity wheat in hand.
Join me for the next craft-culture adventure. Cheers!