It seems like everyone has a “Best of” list these days. VH1 has the top 100 celebrity scandals. People magazine has the 25 most beautiful people. And All About Beer recently listed the top 125 beer places to go before you die. To me, these lists invoke fervent disagreement, as well as bewilderment about inclusions on the list, exclusions from the list, and the order in which things are ranked. Chris, however, believes that these lists spur lively discussion and healthy debate. Jumping on the keg wagon, we decided that we should create thebeergeek.com’s Top 10 Beer Experiences. However, that was much easier said than done.
Judging by our own attempt to develop a list, I think we were both right. First, the disagreements. We could not decide on whether the list would involve places, events, or activities. Chris felt that they could not be mixed. To him, it’s like mixing hefeweizens and stouts. I disagreed and cited a black and tan as a way to combine differing things into one great whole.
Disagreement number two, should the list be personal beer experiences or ones that other people could recreate. Chris fell on the side of creating a list of experiences that other people could do themselves. I opted for events that meant something to me in terms of my own growth as a craft beer appreciator.
Our not yet developed list did create lively discussion and healthy debate about our favorite places, our most memorable events, and the beer activities we enjoy most. In the end, however, we could not decide on the criteria for one list, so we decided to each have our own. Look for Chris to post his list soon.
So here are my Top 10 Beer Experiences:
10. Oregon Brewer’s Festival – Each of the 8 times we have attended, something fun has happened. Whether it was going on a Rogue cruise, being part of the kazoo parade, or meeting new friends. It has never disappointed.
9. The Black Rose in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day – There is nothing like getting there early in the day and staying on into the night. It’s festive, you never get bored, and unless you are more of a wallflower than we used to be, you can’t help but meet someone new.
8. Oktoberfest – I know that this is probably blasphemy, since Oktoberfest is #1 for most people. Don’t get me wrong, Oktoberfest is a must see, but it just feels a little touristy to me. Having said that, I will say that walking into our first tent within the first few hours of the festival on the first day of our first ever visit as a guy was being wheeled out on a gurney is pretty darn close to a #1 beer experience.
7. Weisses Brauhaus in Munich – Now this is a true German beer experience. It’s busy and the matronly waitresses are very sassy and somewhat intimidating. I love it! Well, after multiple trips, I now love it. I used to dread ordering a beer, but I get less and less afraid of the waitresses each time I go.
6. The Bergkirchweih – This is the “real” Bavarian beer festival in my book. It has a true neighborhood feel and few tourists. Plus, it is just as festive, but much more manageable than Oktoberfest.
5. Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland during the Gaelic Athletic Association finals 2002- This was being in the right place at the right time. County Clare was in the finals and the atmosphere was lively. We met cool people, learned about the sport of hurling, and danced a few jigs (me, not Chris).
4. Brauerei Ayinger Aying, Germany- Meeting members of the family really brought the Bavarian brewing tradition home to me. We see several hundred year old breweries frequently and hear about how they have been run by the same family for all that time. But here I got to actually meet the family and hear their history. For the first time, I truly understood the meaning of brewing pride and tradition.
3. La Baladin, Piozzo, Italy – Finding this brewery is one of my favorite tales of beer travel. Winding through the narrow stereotypically Italian streets and coming out onto the town piazza was a very cool experience. When we arrived, there were few people, but in no time it seemed like the whole town was there.
2. Ferme Brasserie la Chapelle in La Chapelle St. Ouen, France- This is another great beer travel experience for me. We weren’t sure we would be able to find it and if we did, would it even be open for tasting. We did find it and we arrived a mere 1/2 hour late for the one day a week that they offer tours and tasting. The tour was in French, a language we don’t understand, and I think we were the butt of some friendly joking about our complete lack of understanding of what was being said. That made it all the more fun.
1. Alpine hiking – This, in my opinion, is the best experience I have ever had in my life. The Alps are flippin’ incredible and I am in complete awe every time I see them. Then to actually hike the mountains is a labor of love in heaven. To top it off, there are huts that serve beer and food. Alpine hiking combines all the best things in life and I highly recommend it to anyone.
So that’s my list and I’m stickin’ to it. It was a difficult list to compile and ranking them was even harder. There are some of you out there who will disagree with my choices, but Chris will be posting his soon and I’m sure that between the two lists, there will be something to satisfy everyone.