My name is Rich Spoehr, I live in Providence, Rhode Island, and I am the Brew Recruiter. I am a bartender at a local craft beer bar, an avid homebrewer, and I am currently studying to be a Cicerone (think of a Sommelier, but for beer). I always have a soft spot for IPA’s (including the currently-trendy “New England Style” IPA’s), but my favorite beers tend to be Belgian style beers. Some might call me a beer nerd (and they’re right) or a beer snob (debatable). Here’s a brief insight into my craft beer experience:
Like many, my plunge into craft beer began in college. Unhappy with the selection of macro-swill lagers, I was convinced that I simply did not like beer. It was not until a friend gave me a sip from his bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager that I learned that beer could be more flavorful than what was normally available at a college party. When I went for a second sip, my friend panicked, suddenly worried that I might be sick, and tried to grab the bottle out of my hand. He ended up smashing the bottle into my front teeth, resulting in a trip to the dentist for me with a broken tooth.
This minor incident did not deter me, however. With the seed of more flavorful beer planted in my brain, I began exploring more beers and more styles. This trend continued following college graduation. In August of 2013, I made a trip up to Burlington, Vermont, and one of my best friends told me I needed to go to Waterbury to pick up some Heady Topper from The Alchemist Brewery (Highly rated IPA- beer nerds tend to drool at the name). “Is it that big of a deal?” I asked. “Yeah! It’s rated as the best beer in the entire world on Beer Advocate!” He said. What the hell, it’s worth a shot! Beer snobs and long lines be damned!
Let me tell you- Heady Topper changed my life. I didn’t know beer could taste like this. The body was thick and creamy; the flavor was dank, piny, and grapefruity. “DRINK FROM THE CAN!” is written on the outside of the can. There are some who will argue that beer tastes better from the can (it doesn’t); I think the real reason is because the appearance of the beer resembles murky orange juice. But all arguments aside, the beer is phenomenal, and resulted in me diving ever-further into the craft beer world.
In January of 2014, I began homebrewing with the help of the same friend who introduced me to Heady Topper. This triggered what would become the downward spiral out of the normal life I had planned with my Criminal Justice Degree, and into an exciting career in craft beer. Most people who start homebrewing, at some point or another, dream of opening their own brewery…I have not ruled this out for myself, however I am exploring other avenues first. In the meantime, however, homebrewing has inspired me to explore more beer styles through the art of brewing and, let’s face it, drinking a lot of beer to help me decide what to brew next.
Today, I always get a goofy smirk on my face whenever somebody tells me that they don’t like beer. My answer to them is “Yes you do, you just haven’t found the right one yet.” As a bartender, my favorite part of the job is when I find the beer that eliminates the phrase “I don’t like beer” from a person’s vocabulary. For instance, I know that my mother-in-law enjoys a beer when she says “Oh! This doesn’t taste like beer!” Beer to her tastes like what her father drank when she was a child- Budweiser. Truth be told, I have no problem with people who enjoy a Bud- every person has their own preferences, and nobody’s palate is wrong. Taste is purely subjective.
My goal for starting this blog is to help you to train your palate and broaden your beer horizons. I want you to discover your inner beer taster and develop a deeper appreciation for this age-old drink, which has existed since the dawn of civilization. I also want to train my own palate in part by gauging everyone else’s palate- from the novices to the beer-geeks. Every person’s palate is unique, and we have a lot to teach each other. Together we will spread beer knowledge and appreciation!