I am a beer snob. I pretty much always have been. Actually, I used to think I just didn’t like beer, but really I just hadn’t discovered good beer. In college, I rarely drank at parties because, aside from the fact that getting sloppy drunk has never been my style, kegs of the cheapest beer available was just didn’t appeal to me. To this day I still choose not drinking over drinking crappy beer. Then one day I was introduced to Leinenkugel’s Berryweiss and then Lambics and then Blue Moon and a few other wheat beers and eventually I got on board the cider wagon too. The more I tried, the more I realized what I liked, and I was able to find other beers I like.
In the last couple years, I’ve actually learned to not just like beer but love it. And along with loving beers, I’ve come to really enjoy trying new beers. I’ve learned what I really like in a beer (fruity, light, wheat) and what I don’t like much (hoppy), and I can find other beers I’ll probably like based on other beers I enjoy. Actually in the last year or so a love of beer snobbery has been something that Nik and I have in common.
So back in August I saw an ad for the ZooBrew event at Brookfield Zoo in my weekly Yelp email, and I knew I had to buy tickets for Nik’s birthday. I mean c’mon beer AND the zoo; how could I say no! (Plus visit the zoo has been on my Bucket List for years now!) The cost of the ticket ($45) included parking, all day admission to the zoo, 20 tasting tickets, a tasting glass, and a bag of pretzels. It was a smaller tasting even with about 20 different breweries represented, but it was a good mix and I felt it was the perfect number for this particular event. Plus they really ran the gamut from small craft brewers like Hopothesis to larger more popular brewers like Sam Adams and Blue Moon. There were also some local breweries like Wild Onion and Argus. Plus Woodchuck Cider and Crispin/ Fox Barrell Cider were there!
Unfortunately for us the weather was pretty horrible that day, and it poured during most of the event. This meant we were soaking wet most of the night, and the pavilions were extra crowded with people trying to stay dry. The lines were long, but they moved pretty quickly. We were given 20 tasting tickets, but many of the vendors didn’t even bother collecting them. I came home with half my tickets in hand! Regardless of the weather we had a really great time and even made some new friends!
A few weeks later, I got the opportunity to attend the VIP Beer Session at Chuck’s Fest thanks to free tickets I won from the Yelp Elite Squad. Chuck’s is a local BBQ restaurant and one of my favorite places to go for both tasty BBQ and craft beer. Anyway, the VIP Beer session at Chuck’s Fest gave you free reign on the absurd number of beers available or tasting. Nik was busy so I brought my friend Colleen with me, and between the two of us, we tasted almost 25 different beers.
Since this was part of their annual fest, there was also a cooking demo and talk from the owner Chuck. We got to watch him demo salsa and beer steamed mussels. He also talked about how the restaurant recently bought a small farm in the area to start growing produce. This was one of the more exciting things. They hired students from a local agricultural high school to work on the farm, and their goal is for the farm to be self-sustaining in the near future. It was really cool to hear about these efforts.
One of the things I love about tasting events (or tasting flights) is that I can try stuff I don’t really think I’ll like without the commitment of an entire pint or more. I don’t generally like hoppy beers, but with only a 2 oz commitment, I was willing to try some of the hoppier options, and I actually came across one I like! Despite being an IPA, which I don’t typically like, I found out I like the Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel, and I’ve even had it again.
I’m looking forward to both of these events again next year, but in the meantime, I’m been creating a to do list of breweries to tour and places to drink more good beer. Oh, and to top it all off, I can cross one of my 28 While 28 goals off the list because I’ve definitely tried 12 new beers.
The funny thing is that when I set this goal, I pretty much imagined it as me expanding my horizons and trying a new beer every once in a while. I never really thought it would be the result of beer tasting events and a growing obsession with craft beers.