To think that Ungstrup only weaned off Tuborg when, as he recalled, “one of my best friends, who was studying pharmacy, told me about the processes around brewing.” A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
“A one week beer trip to Belgium and later in the summer a four-week trip of the east coast of the U.S. made me start to forget the middle-of-the-road beers. I started my own little database to register the beers in.” That’s when he stumbled upon RateBeer and found it easier to simply sign up.
His fellow Dane, Henrik Papsø, posting 12,655 reviews as “Papsoe,” started collecting beer bottles as a teenager. He launched his beer drinking career when he found the full bottles too tempting. He didn’t start actually keeping notes until a trip to Newcastle, Australia, in 1988 where, he demurred, “girl had gotten my further travels delayed for several weeks.” It began with note-taking on Aussie beers. His newfound passion became irrevocable a few years later when a Belgian moved into his university dorm. At present, he keeps separate notebooks for each country he visits.
Third on RateBeer’s top users list is Per “Omhper” Forsgren from Sweden. His personal journey to beer geekdom, according to his site, Ohhh.MyHead.org, may never have set sail were it not for a fateful ski trip in 1993. His group of friends stood dumbstruck in a liquor store, unable to select which pack of beer to buy. Someone said, “Let’s buy all beer in this store and find out which one is the best.”
After trying roughly 100 different beers, Forsgren and his pals picked a winner, but what if there were better beers out there?
Middle of the Road They Ain’t
What makes these beer geeks tick is that they not only catch the fever, they embrace it, they offer their livers and their souls over to it as willing hosts. Ask yourself, how much are you willing to sacrifice?
Back in 1973, Papazian began teaching a class on brewing in Boulder. His students were so enthusiastic, he soon helped form the American Homebrewers Association. By 1982, he’d co-organized the inaugural Great American Beer Festival. The 20 breweries that appeared―only three of which were micros―are a far cry from the near-500 (one-third of all American breweries) that pour at GABF today.
One common though not constant thread among those who exceeded mere beer interest is delving into homebrewing. Learning how to brew adds a deeper awareness of the science and artistry that goes into craft beer. From the United States to Denmark to points around the globe, it’s no wonder today’s brewers are far from jobbers, they are passionate artisans. And you can’t have beer geeks without beer geek brewers.
Peter Zien, owner and brewmaster at AleSmith in San Diego, has earned over 400 brewing awards, not the least of which is Small Brewing Company of the Year and Brewer of the Year at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival. Zien’s secret, or one of them, is hiring local homebrewers who approach brewing with the same wide-eyed devotion.