Monday, September 28, 2009

In search of Odysseus

Odysseus set out from his home on the island of Ithaca to fight in a battle he wanted no part in. After living through the ten years of the Trojan War, his journey home takes much longer than he had bargained for and his adventures are influenced by the gods themselves. I won't try to compare myself to Odysseus but merely to take heart in the spirit of adventure as my own journey abroad really begins.

I lived in North Carolina for six years as a graduate student. I was married there and met more people in that period than anywhere else in my life. A key aspect to my life in North Carolina was how I became tied in with a very special group of craftsmen. Beer-brewers are part craftsman, part scientist, part artist and always ready for a party. If one manages to find one's way out of the doldrums of mass-produced American beers such as Miller or Budweisser, one finds a whole world of brews with a wide range of rich flavors. I had found my way into that community through a friend who brews beers that can often be tasted after volunteering at a scene shop in a certain community theater. I spent a couple of Saturdays as an aide while he brewed beer and I started my education on good and great brews. I picked up home-brewing as a hobby and I made some good quality ales. I became connected with the local beer stores and furthered my education of barley based melange.

Really, North Carolina is something of a Mecca for brewers in the United States. There are numerous successful microbreweries throughout the state with perhaps the best being in Asheville. This was to come to and end, however, when I finsihed my PhD. You see, I had lined up a job in Germany. This sudden move around the world completely disconnected myself and my wife from the rich lives we had led before. Germany is perhaps the best known country for beer. One might think I had landed in the holy land of hops-infused concoctions. While it is true that German beer is uniformly well-made and cheap, variety can be difficult to come by. One has to tend to smaller differences in flavors to distinguish between beers. In the east, where I am located, Pilsners are the beer of the day largely due to the proximity to the Czech Republic, the birthplace of Pilsners. Rather than a wealth of different beers brought to me from around the world, there is a small variety of similar beers to chose from locally.

Not to be discouraged, however, I have decided to make the best of being here. My wife and I will be travelling through Europe and I want to make the best of it - beerwise. This blog will be dedicated to the results of my findings. Each post will focus on a certain beer. I will provide the context on the beer: the style, where it's made, the name of the brewery and so forth. I will then describe it's characteristics and give my own impressions. This will be accompanied by photos to show the label and the color of the beer in a glass. Hopefully, by the time I return to the United States, I will have grown a whole new appreciation for beer in it's many varieties. Perhaps some readers might hear of a beer they want to try. Perhaps that will lead to a vacation to Europe or a new import to the US. Perhaps not. Either way, it should be an adventure so I will set forth on my own beer odyssey.


  1. I guess this means you've arrived safely and begun to settle. Here's an article about some more unusual kinds of German beer that might offer some inspiration (see also the references at the end): Helen and I can recommend the Gose!



  2. Thanks Maurits. I'll be sure to check the article out. The first entry will be on Bitburger. I thought I'd start with a common one.