My first conscious craft beer purchase was a bottle of La Fin Du Monde on my 19th birthday in 1996 (yeah, I’m old) that I picked out because it was large, had a fancy-looking cork and was 9% ABV. For perspective on my drinking habits at the time, I probably spent the rest of my budget on some 32 oz bottles of Schlitz or some 6 packs of Laker.
My friends and I were confounded by the sediment and I literally said “WTF is this shit?” when I poured it into whatever clean glasses and mugs we had in our apartment. After tasting it (and feeling the effects of such a strong beer) however, I knew this was something special.
A couple years later I moved to Ottawa. The import market was really taking off and Hoegaarden was my staple drink at the local pub many still refer to as the “Dirty Oak”. I didn’t know anything about the beer business at that point, I just knew that the beer was better than whatever swill was in cheap pitchers on any given night.
I started to become adventurous during my beer store visits while living in Centretown. There weren’t exactly a ton of non-Brick craft options, but I gravitated towards a brand called Gritstone, an earthy English pale ale that was made by the now-defunct Niagara Falls Brewing Company.
I lived in the Glebe for a while and the LCBO there carried the two Heritage Brewing Company brands. Those stubby 6 packs started to pile up in our kitchen along side the James Ready and Molson Canadian bottles of my roommates.
I basically quit drinking beer for a few years while I dealt with some serious health issues and was on a pretty powerful, sleep inducing medication. When I did drink, I’d just pick up a four pack of something familiar like Guinness or Kilkenny.
Once that was sorted out, my wife and I moved to a building Britannia area (where I still live today) that several of our friends happened to live in. We played a lot of SingStar and Rock Band and the burgeoning OCB section at the local LCBO was well-represented in my apartment with brands like 10w30 and Devil’s Pale Ale being personal favourites to drink on those raucous evenings.
It was in 2009 however that I felt the need to become part of the craft beer scene. My wife and I were in Toronto to see a few Blue Jays games and I found a six pack of Brooklyn Lager in a small and sweaty LCBO in Union Station. That night as I was drinking it from a hotel glass and having my mind blown by the fact I was drinking a great beer from the USA (the middle of New York City even!), I decided I needed to tell the world that there was all this great beer out there and started to write reviews at Beer Advocate.
Once I started to learn how to describe beer, learn about style and most importantly the business, I was hooked. I published my first review in May of 2010 and in hindsight, it was terrible and I knew next to nothing compared to now.
I’m still learning about beer every day, took up homebrewing in 2013 and have been blessed to be introduced to a great group of like-minded beer fans here in Ottawa that I’m happy to call friends.