Doo-DOO-Doo-Doo Doo-DOO-Doo-Doo

Meet Jane Citizen. A typical American planning to stop by her favorite restaurant on the way home from work. But something’s different this evening, she got off the bus at the first stop in the twilight zone. Da da da da da duhhh.

As Jane enters the restaurant and takes her usual seat at the counter, she notices the menu looks curiously different than before. Gone are the soups, salads, appetizers, mains and desserts, replaced by a single category, FOOD. The listed choices are all eerily similar, toasted white bread with melted American cheese. Variation comes in the form of presentation. Small grilled cheese on a saucer, medium grilled cheese on a plate, large grilled cheese on a platter, grilled cheese cut in half, grilled cheese cut into quarters… 

Ok, ok, I know that sounds ridiculous and you’re probably thinking “I thought this was supposed to be a blog about beer.” Well it is, and I thank you for indulging my attempt at humor to illustrate a point. If you were a beer consumer in most of the United States prior to the early 1990’s your choices were quite similar to that twilight zone menu. Sure, there were different brands available, heck even imports, but the flavors of most of those choices were all quite similar. A narrow band of subtle differences that depended more on marketing and packaging to develop consumer loyalty. Beer tasted like “beer,” end of story. 

Then things started to change. Americans regained the right to brew their own beer at home in 1979, and brew they did. In fact, a few took the hobby so seriously that they began to launch their own commercial breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, Boulder Beer or Redhook Ales. What made these and other breweries stand out from the “grilled cheese” readily available on the shelf or on tap was diversity of flavor. These brewers began to use larger quantities and different types of malt, larger quantities and different types of hops and different types of yeast. They looked to Europe for inspiration and then created American versions of long forgotten classic styles. Fast forward to today and we have grown from eight craft breweries in 1980 to more than 6,000, each brewing a combination of classic styles from around the world as well as creating their own new combinations of tastes and aromas to achieve their unique flavors. In major metropolitan areas like Chicago, we have a diversity of beer flavors readily available to us that is unmatched in history.  

It’s an exciting time and I love sharing my enthusiasm with both grizzled beer veterans and folks just beginning their own personal exploration of the flavors of beer. My goal with this blog will be to provide some insights, share a little history and hopefully entertain in a way that can help you discover the rich and deep satisfaction of enjoying the right beer at the right moment, what or whenever that might be. 



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