Gary, would you like to talk to your father?”
An eternal moment passes as my father takes the phone to hear my voice for the first time.
“How are ya, man?”
“Good, Ed. How are you?”
“Good. It’s nice to meet you.”
Excruciatingly awkward pause.
Finally, my father asks me, “So, Gary … do you like beer?”
“Ed, it’s funny you should ask.”
I was raised in a household that didn’t drink. It wasn’t taboo; it just wasn’t something that Momma and Poppa Rosen, my adoptive parents, generally did. So I never quite understood where I acquired my obsession with all things beer. I collected bottles, crowns and anything else that a youngster could get his hands on. When my high school friends slapped down ten-spots for a case of what was on sale, I used my money to buy a 12 of German imports.
By the time I turned 21, I wanted to find new beers almost as much as I wanted to find my biological parents. I was raised in a wonderful, loving environment, but I always knew I was adopted and often felt different. So a lot of things started to make sense when I met my biological parents. Through them and with them my passion for beer has grown and never abated.
I was 29 when I first met Ed and Lee. They had had me young but stayed together and gave birth to my sister 10 years later. The night after our initial phone conversation, they came to my house, and I answered the door to find a couple I had never seen but immediately recognized. My haircut mirrored Ed’s (read lack of hair) and we wore the same earring. He held a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.
“I thought this was appropriate,” he said.
Sierra Nevada is among my favorite breweries, and I can’t think of any beer that’s ever tasted better than those we drank that night.
I brewed my first homebrew with Ed and Lee. I joined my first homebrew club with them, and the three of us felt our love for this incredible art and industry grow and grow. Not long after, we attended our first beer festival as a family—TAP New York. We sought out different styles but had similar takes on “best in show” and our likes and dislikes. Since that weekend almost 10 years ago, we’ve gone to countless festivals in countless states, including the Great American Beer Festival.
One afternoon a few months after we met, Ed asked me if I wanted to go a local brewery with him. It was the first time he and I “hung out” alone. I quickly became a regular at that brewery, and when life later threw me a curveball or three, I gave up my profession as a therapist and college professor and went to work there. After working several positions in the brewhouse, the owners called on my knowledge of beer and psychology and promoted me to New Jersey sales rep.
Two years later, I moved over to Shore Point Distributors and am currently the craft beer specialist in eight Central New Jersey counties. I find it interesting that the people who are responsible for giving me life are also fairly responsible for starting my life in the craft beer profession.
Even though Momma and Poppa Rosen didn’t drink often, they have one rock-solid tradition: On every one of their wedding anniversaries, they share a glass of wine from the chalice they used at their wedding. Because of this, I’ve always associated alcohol with celebration, joy, love and family. I just had no idea how true that feeling would prove to be.
I recently read a quote from Renee DeLuca, who discovered around the same time I found my parents that she’s the biological daughter of Jack McAuliffe, who founded America’s first modern microbrewery. She said, “I knew I had beer in my blood.” I can’t recall ever feeling closer to words. Brewers are artists who share their soul in their beers. And through beer my soul’s biggest question has been answered.