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The first beer I ever sneaked a sip of? Budweiser. I was something like two years old, and since then, my tastes have gone nowhere but up.
I proclaimed myself a beer snob well before I was legally allowed to drink in the United States. (Hey, come on. I spent a semester in England when I was twenty. And even then I preferred Nelson's Revenge to the nationally distributed Carling.) But I didn't know the first thing about beer, or the process of making it, or the meanings behind all these different varieties. I just knew what I liked, and what I sort of liked, and what I didn't like. And really, still, that's all that matters.
But I'm seldom satisfied sticking with a "just because" type of answer when it relates to something I'm passionate about. And I am passionate about beer. I've begun attempting to pair brews with meals, with seasons, with memories. I compulsively check the label on the neck of each brown bottle I hold. And yet, I developed these habits without knowing precisely what makes a pilsner different than a blonde, or what Centennial hops even means.
This book helped me decode all those aspects of beer. Am I now an expert? Heck no. But I probably know more than three quarters of my fellow patrons in each bar I enter. And I have to be clear: that doesn't make me more passionate about beer than they are, and it doesn't make me any better a beer drinker. We all still know what we like, and what we don't like. But now I know, for my own self-gratification, much more about the nuances involved in the brewing process--ingredients, temperatures, types of yeast, regional specialties--than I ever could have guessed.
For me, that makes beer drinking even more fun. And that's saying something.