One night when I was a teenager, I was hanging out with some friends in a cabin on a lake in Labrador, in eastern Canada.
It was the middle of winter, nearing thirty below outside, and we were out of beer.
The local drinking age was 19 and none of us were that.
But as I was a newly arrived Australian in a place entirely devoid of foreigners, it was decided that I could use my accent to confuse the liquor store clerk of the small town and score some booze.
So I began wrapping myself in the ludicrous number of layers and jackets required for such an excursion, and my new friends huddled around the cabin’s stove and began to sing “b-double-e-double-r-u-n… beerrun!” in a kind of Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues type harmony.
At 17-years-old, I knew nothing about the beer I liked to drink or even why beer was so popular.
It all tasted the same to me, regardless of the brands or even whether it was Canadian, Australian or Belgian.
The beer was merely a conduit to a conversation; something to try not to spill while I gesticulated wildly while lying to my new Canadian friends about how well I knew Steve Irwin.
It wasn’t the impetus for the stories, but it became a part of them. A necessary prop for the burgeoning relationships between myself and a group of teenagers whose lives, while vastly different to mine, were still relatable.
And while that anecdote will raise many questions about the nature of romanticising drinking, and particularly underage drinking, it is simply an early memory I have of sharing a beer with mates.
And those memories are at the centre of many movies, novels, and the marketing campaigns brands attempt to mimic.
Given beer’s precarious relationship with the general public and alcohol’s addictive properties I want to make it clear from the outset, that this is not marketing.
This is not a paid advertisement, this is just the story of my relationship with a thing that has been a part of many of the significant events in my life.
It has simply been a part of many great stories, and those stories are often worth telling, and in this case, collating over a unifying theme.
The first time I was told a story about beer, over beer, was after my first shift in a craft brewery in 2013.
I had just finished a year as a cadet journalist in rural Western Australia, and fled to the coast in search of a better work/life balance.
I landed in Colonial Brewing Company, Margaret River, and venue manager Richard Moroney sat me down and told me the story of the India Pale Ale.
It’s a beer any modern craft beer nerd will be familiar with, but five years ago I was a rookie with little knowledge of beer and an underdeveloped palate.
To the average beer drinker, familiar with domestic lagers and pilsners, an IPA tastes like bitter garbage.
In the same way wild game will offend a beef-eater, and dark chocolate will confuse a lover of Cadbury Dairy Milk, india pale ale’s are intensely strong beers with little in common to the casual consumer.
And that’s not to say one is right or wrong!
All beer is good and if you love a $5 end-of-shift can of cascade you are no worse off than the aficionado yearning for the Tasmanian take on a sour.
But the india pale ale has been the flagship beer for the 21st century craft beer renaissance, and there are few beers with such a storied history, particularly in Tasmania.
Because, as the name would suggest, it was originally brewed for transport to India during Britain’s colonial rule and required a high alcohol percentage to act as a preservative – hence the overwhelming usage of hops.
And it was, according to a few local sources, named as the India Pale Ale in the early 20th century by a certain industrious local as pioneers and settlers arrived in Hobart enroute from all points north – though that point is up for debate.
But it’s resurgence a century later certainly isn’t – and every independent brewer between Hobart and Helsinki will have a version of it which is bitter, with hints of fruit and something close to double the alcohol percentage your typical domestic brew contains.
And since that first story, being sat down after a shift in craft brewery which has now expanded across the country, to learn about the history of the IPA, I’ve learned that independent beer is not a new concept.
It’s just one that is currently profitable, for reasons I won’t attempt to explain now.
But it is a profitability based on experimentation, enthusiasm and the ability to turn history into marketability.
Because just as the the IPA wouldn’t exist without it’s history, neither would the kolsch – which is essentially a lager, but brewed with the methods of an ale, or the gose – which is a sour beer typified by flavours of coriander and salt.
All of which require an intimate knowledge of the craft of brewing beer and it’s science and history, which brings with it dense and illustrious tales.
I drank my first beer with my Dad when I was a teenager.
It was a Blue Tongue bitter and it was cold and it was crisp and I hated the taste; but the experience is one I’ve savoured because I shared it with my Dad.
And that is what craft beer has been to me as I’ve experienced it in various parts of the world.
From learning the history of IPAs in south-western Australia, to picking hops in exchange for a pint on Vancouver Island, and watching Vulcan de Acatenango explode from the patio of a brewery in Guatemala, my enjoyment of craft beer has been vastly enhanced by the experiences that have gone along with it.
And I hope yours will be, too.