Craft Experts Tell Us The One Beer That Got Them Interested in Brewing

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Not everyone who drinks beer has a life-changing epiphany. Some of us just drink a delicious, crisp, well-made beer and think about ordering another. But there are those select few who decide — after a truly special brew — to learn not only how to make said beer but to perfect it and even (dare to dream!) improve it. Or at least brew their own version of it.

Dan Lipke, head brewer at Clown Shoes Brewing in Boston had his big moment when he realized that beer could have complex, nuanced aromas and flavors and didn’t have to just be cheap, flavorless, fizzy water.

“We had been drinking beer without thinking much about the flavor, more for the price point, when we decided to make our own in part, I admit, to cut costs,” he says. “But when we tried the IPA that we made from a kit with toasted oak chips and all, we were amazed that a beer could actually taste so complex and delicious. The idea that we could create our own beer recipes was mind-blowing and what hooked me into wanting to brew as a career. I can still taste that IPA out of a frosted mug on a summer day.”

Other brewers tasted specific well-known beers that made them want to get into brewing. Since we find this concept of a single sip completely changing the course of someone’s life fascinating, we decided to ask some well-known craft beer experts, brewers, and beer professionals to tell us the one beer that did it for them. Keep scrolling to see them all.

Maybe you’ll try one or more and decide to quit your job and open a microbrewery in your garage, too!

Port City Porter

Port City Porter
Port City

Mike Kelly, senior brewer at Harpoon Brewery in Boston

ABV: 7.2%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Port City Porter – This was one of the first craft porters I ever had and was blown away by the caramel and toffee malt sweetness with a huge chocolate nose and a hint of roasted coffee. This is one of the first beers that really sparked my imagination about how these beers are made, and if I could ever replicate it.

Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale

Bell's Two-Hearted Ale
Bell

Thomas Reese, brewer at Ghost Harbor Brewing Co. in Elizabeth City, North Carolina

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. What flavors made it so great and memorable? I loved this beer so much that I decided to brew a clone of it at home. I was obsessed with the grapefruit and pine flavor of the beer. I brewed countless batches as a homebrewer trying to replicate the flavor and balance of Two Hearted. Although IPA flavor trends have changed over the years this is still one of my favorites.

Unertl Original Weissbier

Unertl Original Weissbier
Unertl Original Weissbier

David Ringler, director of happiness at Cedar Springs Brewing Company in Cedar Springs, Michigan

ABV: 4.8%

Average Price: Limited Availability

Why This Beer?

Unertl Original Weissbier is a 4th generation family-owned wheat beer brewery, located just east of Munich that has a cult-like following and was an instant ‘Wow!’ experience in my youth. This is the beer that inspired me to brew professionally. It has the classic cove and banana flavors weissbier fans crave.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head

Eric Martens, founder and owner at Border Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri

ABV: 9%

Average Price: $9.50 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

The beer that most impacted my brewing style and made me want to get into beer is Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. The thing I like about it so much is its balance. The balance between malt and hop flavor, a balance between sweet and bitter, a balance between that alcoholic ‘burn’ and malt sweetness. In a world of IPAs that can be perceived as too bitter (often West Coast IPAs) or too sweet/filling (often hazy/milkshake/etc. IPAs), this one just hits the nail on the head for me in many ways.

3 Floyds Gumballhead

3 Floyds Gumballhead
3 Floyds

Kevin Smolar, production and quality lab manager at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis

ABV: 5.6%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

3 Floyds Gumballhead. I grew up near the 3 Floyds brewery when it was in Hammond, Indiana, and their beer was some of the first craft beer I was exposed to. Gumballhead is a hoppy American wheat beer that appeals to new and seasoned beer drinkers alike. There’s a beautiful balance between the sweet wheat and citrusy hops that made me question everything I knew about beer the first time I tried it. I was curious how something like that was created and it led me down the rabbit hole of brewing.

To this day, it is still one of my favorite beers.

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous
Stone

Charles McManus, head brewer at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado

ABV: 8.7%

Average Price: $17.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone Brewing made a big impact on me back in my homebrewing days. I loved how the roasted malt character and grapefruit hop character worked together in what was then a strange concept: Black IPA. I spent a lot of time trying to clone this beer at home and still pick up a bottle or six-pack if I see this in the local liquor stores.

Victory Hop Devil

Victory Hop Devil
Victory

Kyle Park, director of marketing at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. in Croydon, Pennsylvania

ABV: 6.7%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

It’s a fairly common answer around here, but Victory Hop Devil seems to have jump-started an entire generation of craft beer folks. The bitterness was really what made it stand out from the rest of the swill I was drinking in college and made me curious about what actually went into the beer and what other styles were out there.

Luckily, we were spoiled in the Philadelphia area even back then, so I had plenty of options to dive into.

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
Samuel Smith

Chris Elliott, chief brewing officer at Wild Leap Brew Co. in LaGrange, Georgia

ABV: 6%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

The beer that started it all for me was Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome. I would wait for it to come out every year and buy cases of it, and I would slowly ration it because it was pretty expensive (for a college kid). When I received a homebrew kit as a gift, I walked into my local homebrew shop and asked if I could make a “clone” of the beer. The owner told me I can make any beer I could think of, and I was instantly a brewer. I think my first 5-10 homebrews were all variations of Winter Welcome until I perfected my recipe, and I became obsessed with cloning all of my favorite beers. In no time I was making more beer than I could ever drink alone, and I became the homebrewing weirdo that showed up at parties with cases of beer that I brewed.

Gordon Biersch Märzen

Gordon Biersch Märzen
Gordon Biersch

Douglas Hasker, head brewer at Puesto Cerveceria in San Diego

ABV: 5.7%

Average Price: $10.50 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Märzen, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. This copper-colored German-style Lager was the first choice for many beer lovers in the early ’90s. It is considered an original Oktoberfest bier with noble hops and five different specialty malts which are made for a rich, and slightly caramel-tasting lager. It is a smooth and very drinkable beer today, though since then, I’ve graduated to the lighter style lagers as I get older.

Anchor Steam Ale

Anchor Steam Ale
Anchor

Marshall Hendrickson co-founder and head of operations at Veza Sur Brewing Co. in Miami

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Anchor Brewing Co. Anchor Steam. Growing up in San Francisco, my parents always had the fridge stocked with Anchor Steam. It was one of the first beers I ever tried, and to this day tastes like home! I’ll always have a place in my heart for Anchor Steam. It, with its mix of toasty, caramel malts, and floral hops, was the reason I got into brewing in the first place.

Sprecher Abbey Triple

Sprecher Abbey Triple
Sprecher

Chris Wittemann, area sales at Sprecher Brewing in Glendale, Wisconsin

ABV: 8.4%

Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Sprecher Abbey Triple. I started in the beer industry when I was seventeen working at the Miller Distributor in Milwaukee. The very first craft beer I ever tried was Sprecher Abbey Triple when I was in college and never looked back. It was so complex compared to anything I had ever tried before. The aroma, the barley, and the notes of banana/clove were all things I was unfamiliar with at the time. I became an instant Belgian fan. Fast forward to where I am at today, I love and appreciate all styles of beer. I tend to drink more on the hoppy/bitter side but have a special place in my heart for German-style Lagers which is what makes working at Sprecher so much more rewarding.

Source: https://uproxx.com/life/craft-experts-tell-us-the-one-beer-that-got-them-interested-in-brewing/